The Panel: 2017/18 predictions

We’re a day away from the League 2 campaign so to celebrate an end to the year’s most boring set of Saturdays, we asked our contributors a set of questions about Notts County’s upcoming campaign and League 2 as a whole.

Feel free to submit your own answers in the comments box below or by following @GerritForward on Twitter.

Which summer signing has impressed you most?

Rob Davies (@Robd97): Jorge Grant. Things were threatening to stagnate a little amidst Twitter in-fighting and only three new signings, but Grant’s return to Meadow Lane gave things the lift they needed and gave me the enthusiasm back to look forward to the new season. He proved last season that he is potentially one of the best players in the division, and he already knows the place and the manager so should hit the ground running. If he maintains his scoring record of last season over a full campaign, he’d be getting over 20 goals from midfield.

Dane Vincent (@upDV): Shaun Brisley, mainly because we’ve been calling out for a defender for so long now. I’ve heard good things about his time with Peterborough and I’m just hoping that he can sure up our backline, which has shipped far too many goals for too long.

Paul Smith (@psmithyjourno): I’m excited by Lewis Alessandra. He’s a player I’ve always watched with interest when against Notts and typically, he’s usually performed well against us. He is something completely different to anything we had last season in that his first thought is to run with the ball. He is very direct and, as simple as it sounds, his one thought always seems to be ‘how close can I get to the goal?’ He could be a matchwinner and gives us something different to what we had at out disposal last term.

Jake Gunton (@JaKeGuNtOn): Can’t really look much further than Grant here. Just adds so much to the side; flair, vision, goal threat, and real football intelligence, not to mention the lift he’s given us fans now we know we’ve got him till at least January. Potentially he could be the difference between languishing in mid-table and making a push for the play offs, all being well. Not been disappointed with any signing though really, I like both the wide men and Walker looks promising.

Jacob Daniel (@jacobncm): Jorge Grant, obviously. I was amazed that we got him back, particularly on a season long loan, and whilst Alan Hardy’s promise of ‘wow’ signings was unnecessary, I think that Grant really is one.


Where do you feel we still need to strengthen?

RD: Assuming Shaun Brisley is the defensive leader we’ve been crying out for two seasons, I’m content with the team in the shape it’s in. Goalkeeper would be the biggest question mark for me, but with Nolan’s faith going in Adam Collin I think it’s fair to give him a fresh slate and his career record up until last season suggests he’s more-than capable at this level. We also need a capable quick striker to compliment SAS, but Nolan already has that on the books in Jonathan Forte and I’d like to see him get more of a chance in his actual position this campaign.

DV: I still feel that we need another starting XI challenging centre back but we’re pretty light up front, as well. A quick striker would be a nice addition to give as another option, especially with Forte set to feature on the left (based on pre-season).

PS: Striker for sure. I’m pleased we retained the services of Shola Ameobi, in particular, and Jon Stead. But they are fairly similar and also are not going to be able to play two games a week, as the schedule will often demand. A striker with a poacher’s instinct and whose pace makes him a threat in behind would change things. Callum Saunders is understood to be of that ilk, but his inexperience isn’t what is required. It’s going to cost us, but someone closer to 27, with goals under his belt at this level, would really get me optimistic.

JG: We still need an extra striker. Stead and Shola are going to be a real handful, but they won’t play every game and we’re still crying out for that extra yard of pace up top. Forte is quick and I rate him, but has never been a really reliable goal source. Matt Godden would fit perfectly, has all the attributes needed, but that ship seems to have sailed; we aren’t even sure if he was on the radar or not! Another centre back would go down well too, even if its Bird as he’s done fairly well on trial supposedly, but ideally it would be another player with League 2 experience.

JD: Unless Callum Saunders is miraculously going to be better than all the evidence suggests or Nolan decides to utilise Forte properly, we’re short of a striker capable of running the channels and threatening on the break.


Game you’re most looking forward to?

RD: The first one! Failing that, Lincoln away should be a good one and holds good memories from our last spell in League Two.

DV: It would have been Mansfield Town away but I’m away on holiday, so I’ll have to go for Lincoln City away. A great local game and a great location for an away day.

PS: Grimsby Town away. Personally because I used to live there and have lots of mates who are Mariners fans. But also as it is the last away day, and by the beach in the sun, who knows how good a weekend that could end up being!?

JG: Forest Green Rovers at home, so we can show them that League 2 isn’t an easy league, as their chairman has previously claimed, and consequently wipe the smirk off Mark Cooper’s treacherous face. 4-0 would do just perfectly.

DV: Coventry away, where we can dream that all looks well and a promotion push is upon us.


Predicted Notts top scorer?

RD: Hard to look past the top scorer from the past two seasons, Jon Stead.

DV: I’d probably say Jonathan Forte if he was given a chance in his proper position up front. The likelihood is that it’s going to be Stead and Ameobi for the majority, so I’ll back Stead to take the golden boot. Hopefully we’ll be more creative this season and he’ll push towards 20 goals.

PS: I’m hoping they aren’t yet at the club. A big striker signing, someone to take this accolade, is most needed. If it doesn’t happen, Stead is most likely. But if he’s given an attacking, free role, it could well be Grant.

JG: This is obviously subject to who we are still to bring in up front, but for now I’m going for Grant. We know he can do it, that peach against Hartlepool really sticks in the mind and his others were real poachers goals; has the Lampard-esque knack of knowing where to be. Hopefully he’ll get around 15, Stead and Shola around 10, Hawkridge and Alessandra will get a few each and the striker we bring in pushing for 20. If that happens, we’ll be in the play offs guaranteed.

JD: Jorge Grant, by quite some distance too if he keeps going at the same rate as last season.


Who do you think will win League 2?

RD: It looks like a wide open division this year. I just can’t see Mansfield’s ‘buy a whole new team’ approach working to the extent the money spent means it should; they may be top 7 but I can’t see them winning the whole thing. I’ll go for Luton.

DV: I’ve gone for Luton Town. They have such a good strike force and have added quality to what was already a solid, promotion challenging side.

PS: Luton Town are my favourites. The firepower they have at this level in Danny Hylton, James Collins and Elliot Lee is to be feared.

JG: Contrary to some beliefs, I don’t think Mansfield will be anywhere near top spot, too many new faces and I don’t think they’ll be able to gel into a championship winning side. Play offs maybe, but not the title. Luton are strong, as are Coventry, but I wouldn’t cast aside Lincoln. Bostwick is much too good for this league, they’ve kept Woodyard who could probably go lower Championship according to reports, and if Matt Green gets back to where he was then they’ll definitely be one to watch out for. I’ll go for Luton but it could be one of a few. Hopefully Notts will be in the mix!

JD: Luton Town. Find out why in Part 4 of the Gerrit Forward BIG League 2 Season Preview (coming ahead of the first game).

Where will Notts finish?

RD: 10th – I don’t think we’re quite there for a promotion push yet, but it’d be nice to have a season where the terrifying prospect of losing our Football League status wasn’t a consideration.

DV: 10th – I’d like to say play-offs but having witnessed about four good seasons in over 20 years of supporting Notts, I tend not to get too optimistic. We’re definitely in better shape than last year so who knows?

PS: 8th – Agonisingly close.

JG: 6th – That’s if everything comes together, we gain some consistency and make ML a fortress from August through to May. Then there’s the lottery of the play-offs where literally anything can happen. If not, somewhere in mid-table. I can’t see us being anywhere near the bottom though, which is always positive as a Notts fan.

JD: 6th –  A genuine goalscoring midfielder in League Two is a very rare thing – there’s only really David Wheeler, Luke Berry and Brennan Dickenson that immediately come to mind – and Grant is more than capable of breaking the 15 goal barrier if his form continues in the same vein as last year.

For a breakdown of the division, check out Jacob Daniel’s Big Gerrit Forward League Two Preview by clicking here.

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