Notts County's new loan signings, Inih Effiong (L) and Calvin Miller (R). Photo credit: Notts County Football Club

Notts County fans had their first chance to appraise the Magpies’ two new loan signings in their 0 – 0 draw with league leaders Torquay United on Saturday. Michael Callander looks at how both new arrivals fared in one of Notts’ most difficult games of the season to date.

Arriving from Stevenage, Inih Effiong made his league debut for Notts on Saturday. At 6’4, starting alongside Wootton who is also the right side of 6’, Neal Ardley certainly has the option to switch things up tactically now.

Last season’s little-and-large combination of Wootton and Kristian Dennis paid dividends with 18 goals for Wootton and 15 for Dennis firing the Magpies to a playoff final at Wembley. Dennis departed north of the border for SPL side St Mirren in summer, but hasn’t enjoyed the same form in their black and white stripes. The 30-year-old has made three starts and eight appearances from the bench, but has only scored once for the Saints to date.

Neal Ardley does have other strikers to call upon should he need to though, with Mansfield’s Jimmy Knowles getting among the goals since joining in October. Also coming in at 6’0, he can certainly add an aerial threat from set-pieces and has a turn of pace to his play.

Notts were able to go back to a 4-4-2 on Saturday with Effiong operating more as the target man fans have seen in his previous trips to Meadow Lane with Dover and Barnet. He held it up well and showed some neat touches to bring others into play, which is as much a part of the target man’s role as goalscoring.

Effiong didn’t create any chances of his own, but Ardley won’t mind too much if that connection between him and Wootton can strengthen and begin to flourish. If he can use his physicality to win a few free-kicks in dangerous areas along the way, Notts could really have a gem on their hands with Rodrigues and Boldewijn’s ability to hit one from range.

He was replaced by fellow striker Elisha Sam up top on the hour mark, having given Notts fans a decent idea of what they can expect for the rest of the season. Neal Ardley certainly has a positive selection headache up top for the coming months; whoever he selects, Notts aren’t lacking in the height department.

Harrogate Town loanee Calvin Miller came on at right-back to replace Richard Brindley who took a Josh Umerah boot to the face late on. He also made his league debut for the Magpies, having come through Celtic’s academy until departing for Yorkshire and Simon Weaver’s side last summer.

The 23-year-old spent time on trial at Rangers before moving across town to Celtic’s Lennoxtown academy aged 12, but only made five senior appearances for the Bhoys before leaving in 2020.

Notts are the third club Miller has joined on loan, spending time at Dundee FC and Ayr United north of the border in 2018 and 2019 respectively, scoring a goal for each and making 29 cumulative league appearances.

He didn’t have a huge amount to do defensively after coming on in the 87th minute, but certainly helped as Notts went on the attack in the dying minutes to look for a winner. He took the throw to Jim O’Brien, received it back and gave it back for O’Brien to whip one of the most threatening crosses of the game in from the left.

After receiving it short from Miller, O’Brien provided a peach of a ball into the middle. Wootton seemed to be in the perfect position to slot it home for the winner, but opened his body up a little too much and saw his right-footed effort fall agonisingly wide of the right post.

A Kyle Wootton miss from that position is a collector’s item and Wootton will surely have tossed and turned over that and another key miss in the second half on Saturday night.