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Ardley wins Manager of the Month

The story of how the award was won

11 January 2020

Our fantastic run of form to finish 2019 has been recognised by the Vanarama National League, who have named Neal Ardley December's Manager of the Month.

It’s the first time he's received the accolade during his time as our boss and the third in his managerial career.

Ardley claimed the Sky Bet League Two award in December 2014 and April 2016 during his time in charge of AFC Wimbledon – the latter as he led the Dons to promotion through the play-offs.

He’ll be hoping that’s a positive omen for this season!

We picked up 10 points from our four league games in December, recording the highest tally in the league as we returned to the top seven.

We earned impressive wins on the road against play-off rivals and a thumping victory at Meadow Lane as we made sure of a very merry Christmas, leaving Ardley as the obvious choice to scoop the prize.

He was quick to share the credit, though.

"It’s Team of the Month really," he suggested. "I’m looking at the effort of the players and the sacrifices the staff made, so I receive it on behalf of them.

"It’s always nice to get the recognition and it puts a smile on my face because it tells me that for the last month we’ve been the in-form team.

"Now the job is to keep it going and try to win another."

Let’s take a short trip down memory lane and relive a fantastic December…

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Notts County 1-1 Sutton United, Saturday 7 December 2019

December got off to a cagey start as we kicked the month off with a draw at home to Sutton.

Wes Thomas’ early goal set us on the way to ending our four-game winless run in the National League but we didn’t find the second during a tense afternoon at the Lane, where chances were at a premium.

And, with 14 minutes remaining, Harry Beautyman levelled for the visitors when we struggled to deal with a ball into our box.

We pressed to restore our advantage but it wasn’t to be and the run extended to five matches.

When meeting the media post-match, Ardley said we’d ‘become an average team’ and stated it was his job to find the answers.

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FC Halifax Town 2-4 Notts County, Saturday 21 December 2019

As we took a break from league action, a much-changed XI recorded a 1-0 win at Chesterfield in the Buildbase FA Trophy before we were tasked with a tough trip to Halifax, who were seventh in the division ahead of kick-off.

The boss had expressed the importance of a good Christmas period in the build-up to our visit to the Shay, but a huge stroke of misfortune saw us go behind shortly before half-time as a bobbling effort took a heavy deflection off Shawn McCoulsky on its way into the net.

What followed was one of the craziest 45 minutes you’re ever likely to see.

Kyle Wootton restored parity within minutes of the restart only for us to fall behind again just before the hour to a Jamie Allen goal.

On 60 minutes, a fine volley from Mitch Rose brought us level once again and he netted from the spot with nine left on the clock as we eventually took the lead we deserved on the balance of play.

Wootton then completed a brace against his former club in the eighth minute of stoppage time as we recorded our first league win since late October in serious style.

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Notts County 3-0 Maidenhead United, Thursday 26 December 2019

Next up was the side boasting the division’s third-best away record as Maidenhead made their first ever trip to Meadow Lane.

We picked up exactly where we left off in Halifax by serving up a festive feast of football on Boxing Day to put the game to bed within 45 minutes.

Wootton nodded home his 12th in all competitions before Sam Osborne rounded off a fine team move with his first senior goal at Meadow Lane.

A typical striker’s finish from Kristian Dennis meant we were three to the good before the break, taking us to seven goals in our last two halves of football.

Following the resumption, it was all about keeping a Maidenhead side playing for pride at bay, which we did professionally.

That made it maximum points over Christmas and seven from nine in December, taking us within two points of the play-offs.

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Solihull Moors 0-1 Notts County, Saturday 28 December 2019

To round off the month, year and decade, it was the trip supporters had been looking forward to all season, with the catchy chant entitled 'Solihull Away' belted out for 90 minutes at the SportNation.bet Stadium.

On paper, this was the toughest test we’d face in December – Solihull were fifth in the table and had won nine of their 11 home games in the league, including their last six consecutively.

The pre-match talk was centred around how we'd cope with Moors’ direct style of play – something many predicted would be our undoing. That was not the case at all.

We dominated possession and dictated the pace of the game, picking up every scrap and second ball when our hosts went long.

Solihull didn’t look threatening and, sensing the opportunity to earn a huge three points, Ardley went for it, sending Osborne and Enzio Boldewijn on to the field to add extra attacking impetus.

And our pressure told when Wootton pressed high up the field to win the ball before laying it on a plate for Thomas to add the telling touch inside the final 20 minutes.

That sparked Solihull into life and they had more purpose to their play for the remainder of the match, but Ardley's men put their bodies on the line to preserve a clean sheet.

Rose was a prime example of this, making a goal-line clearance which looked to have left him injured.

But the biggest moment of all was to come at the death when Sam Slocombe made a heroic save to make sure of the points, getting down low to his left to keep out Daniel Wright’s volley with a huge hand.

We’d dug in and produced a display assistant manager Neil Cox described as having everything you need in order to win games of football.

That took us to nine points from nine over Christmas and 10 for the month – an excellent return and one that saw us return to the play-off places.

The gaffer had found the answers – there’s no question about that.

To celebrate our scintilating recent form, we've launched our Run-In ticket bundle. Click here to find out more.


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