Credit: Notts County Football Club

By Michael Callander

Notts County will be fresher for their trip to Havant & Waterlooville on Saturday, after Tuesday night’s home fixture against Bromley was postponed.

The referee and groundstaff assessed the pitch ahead of the game at 6:30pm as heavy rain passed over Meadow Lane, and deemed the surface unplayable.

Notts were hoping to go five unbeaten in all competitions and get a third straight league win, but will now have to wait until Tuesday 9 January to get back to league action as Dagenham and Redbridge visit NG2.

Before that, though, Neal Ardley’s side will travel to Vanarama National League South side Havant & Waterlooville in the FA Trophy.

They exited “last season’s” FA Trophy in September 2020 to Harrogate Town, who had already been promoted out of the National League in a playoff final against Notts in August.

The Westleigh has seen a mixed bag of results so far this season, having been relegated from the fifth tier after the season was concluded on a points-per-game (PPG) basis.

Havant sit 12th in the National League South ahead of Notts’ visit, and Ardley will hope to progress towards a potential Wembley final at the expense of former Sutton United manager Paul Doswell.

With Tuesday night’s game postponed, Notts and Bromley will likely reschedule the fixture for a free Tuesday night slot; the first midweek both clubs have free is Tuesday 30 March, between Notts’ home game against Wealdstone and their trip to Wrexham.

This brings up questions of when, or if, their season will end with 46 games played as advertised.

Notts have only played 17 league games so far, four less than Torquay and Altrincham in first and fourth respectively. Solihull Moors and Dover have played just 15.

That leaves Notts with 29 league games to play between now and the proposed final fixture on 29 May, also against Bromley.

That’s 29 games, in just 16 weeks. Notts, and every other club in the National League, will surely suffer a spate of injuries with players playing two or three games a week almost every week until the end of the season.

Winter conditions and rain may also have a big effect on some fifth-tier pitches which are, with all due respect, not to Premier League standard.

So as well as the muscle fatigue injuries that come with playing three games in seven days repeatedly, we may see more rolled ankles and the like too.

Then add COVID-19 into the mix. That’s why the league season didn’t start until October, condensing the season by two months. Since it eventually began, games have been regularly postponed due to positive cases within squads.

The final National League games would usually come at the end of April, but are now at the end of May. That’s a season that started two months late, and will end just one month later than originally advertised. That extra month’s worth of games has to fit somewhere.

As mentioned, those games will fill almost every Tuesday night slot between now until the end of the season. Pencilling the rearranged Bromley game in for Tuesday 30 March, that gives Notts just seven free weeks in the final 16 weeks of the season.

Ending the season within the current timeframe was always going to be a nightmare to schedule, even before factoring in potential further postponements for weather or COVID-19. With those extra considerations, I find it almost impossible to imagine any clubs finishing the season on Saturday 29 May.

Perhaps the clubs who have played many more games than Notts to date (Torquay and Altrincham are on 21, with FC Halifax Town, Aldershot and Weymouth on 20) might be able to scrape through and play 46 games by then, but for those who’ve already seen many games postponed, I can only see the season being extended to give them time to complete the full complement of fixtures.