‘Top spot in League Two is there for the taking for Notts County’ – Leigh Curtis


For what feels like the umpteenth time this season, Notts County have again been bestowed with the honour of sitting top of the league table.

Whether they can stay there remains to be seen given they have dropped the baton on a couple of occasions already this term.

But should they be able to consistently reproduce this ruthless destruction of Newport County for the rest of the campaign, then top spot is there for the taking.

Although it was against 10 men, this 3-0 success was achieved with a deadly swagger which resulted in one of the most impressive performances at Meadow Lane this season.

To say it could have been five or six would not be an overstatement as Notts created chances at will with Newport goalkeeper Joe Day standing in their way of a big victory.

Playing against 10 men is renowned for not being as easy as it looks on paper, but with Jorge Grant in irresistible form, it became an extremely comfortable afternoon.

Notts County celebrate Jorge Grant’s goal

The on-loan Nottingham Forest midfielder helped himself to two goals and created another for Shola Ameobi in what ranked as one of his best performances of the season so far.

Grant’s influence had waned in recent weeks which led the manager Kevin Nolan to admit that he had to play his way back into form.

He certainly did that here as the deft touches, ruthless finishing and excellent movement left the visitors chasing shadows as he bagged his ninth and 10th goals of the season.

But to suggest it was all a one-man show would be doing a disservice to what was a complete team performance as many players produced some extremely impressive performances.

A clean sheet, the first since a 3-0 win at Exeter last month, was also a valuable prize to Nolan who was eager for his team to rediscover the resilience he had witnessed earlier in the campaign.

The Newport manager Michael Flynn predictably claimed the outcome could have been different if Dan Butler had not seen red for leading with an arm in a challenge with Matt Tootle in the 33rd minute.

Notts County celebrate Shola Ameobi’s goal

Flynn said he “definitely knew” it wasn’t a red card, which was disputed by Nolan post-match, who suggested referee Craig Hicks had got it spot on.

Just three minutes after that controversial decision, Notts punished Newport by taking the lead with a goal that was well crafted.

While there was an argument to suggest the visitors were still in the process of reorganising themselves, Notts moved up field with intent.

Jon Stead, with his back to goal, held play up sufficiently enough to allow Grant to sprint forward in support.

He was the extra man on the overlap and the pass supplied to him was inch perfect which Grant took in his stride before applying a cool finish into the bottom corner.

Notts then had bona fide appeals for a penalty when Richard Duffy tumbled under a challenge in the area, but Hicks was not interested much to the ire of Nolan in the dugout.

Jorge Grant scores his second goal against Newport

You wondered whether Newport, being only a goal down at the break, would use the interval to set about the task of finding an equaliser.

But their hopes of forging a way back into the contest were effectively destroyed when Grant turned provider.

Finding space on the left, the midfielder had the presence of mind to get his head up and spot the run of Ameobi in the area.

The cross was delivered with pinpoint accuracy as Ameobi battered away the attentions of Scot Bennett to power a drive beyond Day before he even had chance to see it.

It was a wonderful goal to witness and it underlined some of the creative approach play which made a mockery of suggestions that Nolan’s side are long ball merchants.

The third goal was another example of the quality in the final third as Tootle, who was magnificent throughout at right-back, weighed in with another assist.

Receiving possession, he immediately spotted the run of Grant whose original header was parried out by Day.

Kevin Nolan on the touchline at Meadow Lane

The midfielder reacted quickest to the rebound and while his header was hacked away by Newport’s defence, the referee’s assistant ruled that it had crossed the line.

Flynn later complained that he had seen a video of the goal and said it was just another decision against his team, having quipped it had “not been a great day”.

But Notts continued to show no mercy as chances came and went for them to reinforce their dominance.

Stead and Shaun Brisley both went close, but predictably it was Grant who was a whisker away from making it four and grabbing himself a hat-trick.

A free-kick, awarded for a foul on Carl Dickinson, was in a great position 25 yards out and Grant showed incredible technique to get it over the wall, but it bounced off the crossbar.

Further goals would not have flattered Notts given their superiority as they marched back to the top of the League Two table.

Now they have to attempt to stay there.



…continue on post

LEAVE A REPLY