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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Big Match Preview

League Two
Barnet vs. Notts County
Saturday August 29, 15:00, Underhill

Everyone, it seems, is talking about Notts County. Middle Eastern owners, big money being spent on big name signings being paid big wages, they're the closest thing League Two has to having a Manchester City.

The club that employ former England boss Sven Goran Eriksson as some kind of football director are currently riding high at the top of the basement division. However, County beware, a game against the men from Underhill has proved more than a banana skin for prospective League Two champions in the past.

Indeed, Barnet have had an encouraging start to the season themselves. After an opening day defeat to Lincoln, the Bees have collected seven points from their last three games, including successive 2-0 victories over Morecambe and Torquay.

Now under the guidance of popular former player Ian Hendon, the Hertfordshire club are targetting a place in the play-offs come May themselves. And with the goals of veteran Paul Furlong and the considerably younger but equally threatening John O'Flynn, scoring shouldn't be a problem.

They must almost be wishing this weekend's game was at Meadow Lane though. Since promotion back to the Football League, Barnet have beaten three of the four League Two champions on their own patch, and
last season were one of only two sides to win at champions Brentford.

As for the visitors, if new signing Sol Campbell didn't realise the level he's now playing at, a trip to Underhill should be good for concentrating the mind. With its infamous sloping pitch and antiquated feel, he'll be under no illusions that Notts are a long way from the Premier League dream they harbour.

Sol Campbell turned down offers from Premier League clubs to join Notts

However, barring a huge disaster, the squad assembled in the East Midlands should be more than good enough to secure the first of those three promotions come May. With the firepower of Lee Hughes, creativity of Ben Davies, Campbell at the back, and Kasper Schmeichel in goal, County have an embarrassment of riches.

Manager Ian McParland, who will undoubtedly be under huge pressure to deliver, needed a strong start and has got one. Three victories from their four games, including 5-0, 4-0, and 3-0 wins, see County at the League Two summit at this early stage.

However, you get the feeling if the side endure a bad run of form and look like wobbling, it won't be long before Sven finds himself in the dugout replacing the Scot. After all, it's hard to believe players like Campbell and Schmeichel signed for Notts because of their relationship with McParland.

Expectations are huge at Meadow Lane at the moment, and they will certainly be expecting to go to Barnet and win. However, the home side will always be competitive and will be full of confidence after their last couple of games.

This season won't be a procession for County, and although a win at Barnet could be an early marker that they have the steel needed to gain promotion, I think they may have to settle for just a point.

Nobes' Prediction: Barnet 1 Notts County 1

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