IT has been a turbulent last few years for Notts County, one of the oldest Football League clubs, with a succession of managers including former England boss Sven Goran Eriksson.
Martin ‘Mad Dog’ Allen was in charge the last time the Magpies played Rovers in last season’s FA Cup third round tie at the Keepmoat Stadium, which the Meadow Lane club won 2-0, but he was replaced by Keith Curle just over a month later.
Curle made an impressive start to life at Meadow Lane, the Magpies winning his first four games in charge and he steered them to seventh spot in the table.
The Magpies, who are unbeaten in their last 14 away games - a club record - have not enjoyed the same success in front of their own fans this season.
They go into tomorrow’s game holding down fifth place, one above Rovers having played a game more. They’ve lost at home in the league against Tranmere, Stevenage and Walsall.
They were on the end of a 4-1 drubbing against Sheffield United in their JP Trophy second round clash recently, though they weren’t at full strength on the night.
The Magpies were also held to a 3-3 inn midweek by visiting Bournemouth.
Goals by Jeff Hughes and Yoann Arquin secured them a 2-0 lead and they looked to be cruising to a vital three points. But they pressed the self-destruct button in the second half, conceding twice in nine minutes.
Winger Jamal Campbell-Ryce then scored from the penalty spot to put them 3-2 ahead in the closing minutes, but Bournemouth substitute Matt Tubbs grabbed a dramatic late leveller .
“I have no idea how we didn’t win that one,” said Jeff Hughes. We’re kicking ourselves with their goals, especially the third one. I don’t know how it got through three of our players and the goalkeeper. I don’t think their goal was a penalty either.
“Their player was laughing afterwards, saying he was outside the box. It was one of those nights, which we seem to have at home.
“We’re very disappointed. It’s not through a lack of effort; it just seems like it’s the way it’s going here at the minute. If you score three goals at home you should win.”
Lee Hughes, no relation, has often shown up well against Rovers at his various clubs, but he is again likely to have to settle for a place on the bench tomorrow due to the form of Frenchman Arquin.
Little was known about the striker, whose only previous experience in England was at Hereford last season. But Curle knew that he could do the Magpies a job and moved in quickly following their relegation from League Two.
He will go into the game against Rovers as the club’s leading scorer having netted five goals in 11 games and has quickly become a fans’ favourite. Fellow forward Campbell-Ryce also rates him highly.
“Every team wants a striker who can score 15 to 20 goals in a season and I think that we have that in Yoann,” he said this week.
“He has already proved that he can score goals at this level and I’ve told him he can play even higher because he’s a young boy and he’s only going to get better.”
“He’s definitely got all the attributes and ability.”