Notts County v Coventry City: Experience to win the day for Magpies

Notts County manager Kevin Nolan
Kevin Nolan should be the happier manager on Friday night
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Kevin Nolan's men should have the experience to overcome the Sky Blues in Friday's League Two playoff second leg, says Ian Lamont, who expects a low-scoring match...

"Notts County’s midfielder Jorge Grant, on loan from Nottingham Forest, admitted he had a two month patch earlier this year where he didn’t find top form, but it seems he is back to his best. Likewise, Jonathan Forte"

Notts County v Coventry City
Friday 18th May, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports

Home form and omens key for Notts County

Kevin Nolan feels his side were hard done by in the first leg when Coventry were awarded an 87th minute penalty, allowing them to equalise at 1-1. There's a bit of an edge to this tie now.

Notts County have a huge advantage at home, not just because of their big home support but because they have only lost twice at Meadow Lane all season - winning 14 with a +24 goal difference. If they score early on, they could bang in a few goals.

Here's a great Opta stat that can become an omen: this year is the fourth time in succession that Notts County have drawn the away leg of a playoff campaign - and they have gone on to reach the final on the previous three occasions.

Lack of shots on target a concern for Sky Blues

To me, the most shocking thing about Saturday's game was that Coventry, at home, only managed one shot on target - and that was Marc McNulty's equalising penalty.

Mark Robins might bemoan the ones off target (13) and the ball that hit the post, but he would have expected more clear cut chances, even on a tricky Ricoh Arena surface.

Defender Tom Davies is out suspended for the second leg, because of an alleged stamp on an opponent in Saturday's first game. Rod McDonald and Jordan Willis are on standby to replace him. Robins says he has four great centre-backs, so more than one change could occur.

Skipper Michael Doyle's experience will be central to Coventry's confidence as they try to overcome the Opta stat that says they haven't won any of their past eight away games against the Magpies (drawn two). Gordon Strachan believes in them, so will take strength from one of their club legends, too.

Attackers back in form for Magpies

Like Exeter's game with Lincoln, the Notts County v Coventry City">match odds are pretty even with layers giving the two sides pretty equal chance of winning at [2.8] or thereabouts. The draw is [3.6].

Is that a fair reflection? Up against Notts County's strong home form, Coventry might struggle to compete, as they have been beaten nine times and took nine wins and five draws on their travels.

County's midfielder Jorge Grant, on loan from Nottingham Forest, admitted he had a two month patch earlier this year where he didn't find top form, but it seems he is back to his best. Likewise, Jonathan Forte has struggled for opportunities, but seems to be in great shape now and has scored all three of County's goals against Coventry in all competitions this season.

There is also a sense of injustice from the Magpies' camp about the circumstances of the penalty award from the first leg, which should spur them.

While the Sky Blues have lost just once in seven away games in all competitions (winning four) that defeat was at Meadow Lane, Opta stress. That record has not been against the best sides, but they did throw in a notice-inducing 6-1 win at Cheltenham.

As a squad, they have less experience than their opponents and for that reason might lose out, despite McNulty's 23 goals this season.

Forte the value for first scorer

Marc McNulty at [4.0] is the obvious candidate to be first goalscorer as the best finisher on the pitch, despite Grant's return to form (he's [7.4])being supplemented by Forte at [6.4] and Jonathan Stead [7.0], who are both capable of barging their away into scoring first.

But is McNulty really the best candidate? (One way or another, he's unlikely to be playing in League Two next season.)

This game is likely to be another close tie, and favours the home side whose home record and goals record is strong and whose experience is greater, their squad older - and Coventry therefore lacking that bit of experience.

Stead scored twice in a recent 2-1 win for Nolan's side over the same opponents and it might just pay to back him for the first goal.

Back a slim win for the hosts

The Magpies are unbeaten in their last nine home games in all competitions, winning five and drawing four, state Opta. Two of those have been 0-0 draws, against Wycombe and Luton who both won promotion. Their wins have been against the lesser sides.

This leads me to conclude that, even if respective keepers Adam Collin and Lee Burge are in any way kept busy, they can more than stand up to their opponents' attacks. It's not a surprise that 1-0 and 1-1 are the shortest priced at [8.4] and [7.0]. But I'm going for a 2-0 home win in the correct score market at [14.5] and the Magpies to reach Wembley.

Ref Watch

Darren Drysdale has flicked between Leagues One and Two this season, issuing on average three yellows a game, but one red card every eight games. There were six yellows in the first match and this could become tetchy, too. So 45 points and over is in the section to watch in the bookings market, in-play.

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