Notts County travel to Forest Green Rovers on Saturday looking to build on last weekend’s draw with table-topping Lincoln.
The Magpies fielded four of their deadline day signings as they put in a gritty display to earn a point against the Sky Bet League Two leaders.
A first win of 2019 still alludes them, though, and they will hope to put that right at The New Lawn when they face one of the division’s surprise packages.
Rovers occupy fourth spot in League Two, sitting three points off the automatic promotion places, which is quite a step-up from their finish of 21st last season.
In fact, they’ve already accumulated four more points than they did in the entirety of 2017-18 and have lost just five times all season – a tally bettered only by the top two, Lincoln and Mansfield.
Forest Green have the best away record in the division but have only won five of their 15 home games, with three of their defeats coming in front of their own fans.
Notts boss Neal Ardley says…
“Mark Cooper has them playing great football. They make it easy for themselves by pinning teams in and retaining possession.
“We’ll have to be very good without the ball whether we press or sit off because they’ll play through us if we get it wrong.
“We will set the team up tactically to make sure we’re not opened up easily but we have to go there to try and win the game and make sure our attacking threats shine through.
“We don’t want to come away feeling like we’ve been safe so we have to show them that if they turn the ball over they will have difficulty stopping us.”
Forest Green boss Mark Cooper says…
“Based on their side last week, Notts have a little bit of everything. They’ve got some good experience and characters in there mixed with young legs.
“They have Jon Stead who is a brilliant professional and Michael Doyle who is an outstanding player who gets promotions out of this league for fun.
“We fully respect their threats but have to do what we do and if we play well we have a chance to win.
“We’ve got to win our personal battles and fight and scrap but also be calm and get the ball down when the chance arises.”
All eight of Notts’ January signings featured in last week’s draw with Lincoln and Ardley has no fresh injury concerns.
Kane Hemmings came through unscathed against the Imps while Andy Kellett played an hour for the reserves in midweek and adds another option to the Magpies’ midfield.
Rovers’ goalkeeper James Montgomery is still missing with a facial injury, while the match comes too soon for Dayle Grubb who won’t be back in training until next week.
Shawn McCoulsky grabbed a hat-trick for Forest Green’s reserves on Tuesday and has given Cooper something to think about in attack.
Head to head
Notts were handed their only ever defeat to Forest Green in September despite Stead’s first league goal of the season as strikes from Liam Shepherd, Reuben Reid and Grubb earned Rovers the points.
The Magpies won 2-1 on their solitary trip to The New Lawn with Matt Tootle grabbing an 80th-minute winner after Liam Noble and Tahvon Campbell scored either side of half-time.
Elsewhere in League Two
Second-bottom Macclesfield host Crewe, who’ve won their last three to climb to 11th in the table, while Morecambe – who sit just outside the dropzone – host third-placed Bury.
19th visits 20th as Port Vale travel to Cambridge, where both sides will be hoping to put distance between themselves and the relegation zone with a win.
Yeovil will look to end a run of three straight defeats when they host Grimsby, while Cheltenham are looking to add to their back-to-back wins as they visit Colchester.
The afternoon’s officials
Referee: Neil Hair
Assistants: Matthew Lee and Andrew Hendley
Fourth official: Matthew Jones