Notts County answer hat-trick of important questions with Stevenage fightback


For much of this last week, there has been plenty of talk as to whether Notts County could handle the pressure of being top of the league.

Could they withstand the intensity? Could they embrace their position? And could they show why they have rightfully earned their place at the division’s summit?

They were just three of the important questions being asked of Kevin Nolan’s team, and they certainly offered definitive answers to all of them at the Lamex Stadium.

A 1-1 draw may not look much on paper, but this was more about their character, their ability to dig deep, and their powers of recovery.

The last time Notts went top they were beaten soundly by Crewe in the next game, and this result suggests they are at peace with the responsibility of being in pole position.

And bearing in mind this was a Stevenage team that walloped Notts 3-0 back in March, it merely underlined the progress the club has made since then.

Indeed, Stevenage have proven to be a pretty formidable team on their own patch, having lost just twice at home in the league all season, and are still in with a shout of a top seven finish.

Stevenage’s Danny Newton fires past Notts County goalkeeper Ross Fitzsimons to make it 1-0

For 45 minutes it looked as though Notts were again going to be another victim of their energy and work-rate, having trailed to Danny Newton’s first-half strike.

But an inspired second-half fightback tipped the game back in Notts’ favour which underlined why Notts are good value to be sitting top of the league.

Stevenage’s Danny Newton celebrates making it 1-0 with Harry Beautyman

They went on to dominate a game they will probably feel they could have won, but Nolan has always spoken at being able to respect a point when you can’t take all three.

That was achieved thanks to help from Elliott Hewitt, who led the way with an excellent performance in the heart of midfield.

The former Ipswich Town youngster is usually renowned for his industry, but here he showcased maturity in possession, and capped his performance with a quite wonderful equaliser.

It was no more than Notts deserved and Nolan spoke with admiration for the way his players stuck to their task in his post-match analysis.

Notts County’s Jon Stead and Elliott Hewitt react to going 1-0 down

If there was one negative, he said, it was the final 25 minutes of the first half in which he felt Notts had began to show too much respect to their hosts.

Up until that point, Notts started the game brightly with an exchange of passes between Jorge Grant and Richard Duffy opening up the Stevenage defence who scrambled the ball away for a corner.

Gradually though, Stevenage began to claw back possession and territory.

Newton was a whisker away from opening the scoring when he raced into the box to meet a Harry Beautyman cross which clipped the top of the bar.

Darren Sarll’s team were beginning to exert control and when Jonathan Smith lashed over from 25 yards it prompted instructions from Nolan and his management team to the players.

Nolan was becoming increasingly frustrated with the referee for failing to spot a number of challenges and when Terry Hawkridge was left in a heap, play continued.

Notts County’s Elliott Hewitt celebrates making it 1-1 against Stevenage with Jorge Grant

Notts were incandescent on the sidelines, but Stevenage continued to attack with Beautyman’s strike rolling the wrong side of the post.

But it was to get much worse for the visitors when Newton held off Duffy to crash the ball into the far corner.

Notts County manager Kevin Nolan

Nolan’s side immediately offered a response and after Jon Stead had seen a shot deflected behind for a corner, Grant was presented with a free-kick 20 yards from goal.

He showed unbelievable technique to get it over the wall, but it just wouldn’t come down quick enough to find the top corner.

Notts regrouped at half-time, however, and the side which started the second half was a totally different beast to the one which ended the first.

Hewitt, enjoying more possession on the ball, created a chance for Grant who met his cross into the box with a lovely volley which bounced off the bar.

Notts kept on coming and they were rewarded with their equaliser in the 59th minute.

Video Loading

Video Unavailable

A poor pass from Jack King was seized on by Grant who had the presence of mind to feed Hewitt in space just inside the box.

The midfielder opened up his body and rather than opt for power, bent his shot into the far corner in a stunning demonstration of accuracy.

The goal ignited Notts’ desire to grab a second and they went for the jugular.

Ryan Yates’ long-range strike flew just over, before Hawkridge raced into the box and struck a low shot that seemed destined for the bottom corner until it was blocked.

Still Notts kept on coming in what had effectively become a game of attack versus defence.

But despite their intent they failed to find a breakthrough, as they kept hold of top spot in League Two which showed they are more than capable of staying there.



…continue on post

LEAVE A REPLY