Wasteful Notts settle for a draw.

I'd never been to the Don Valley Stadium before, nor the Withdean Stadium in Brighton, so I wasn't properly prepared for just how depressing it is watching a football match in an Athletics stadium. We arrived in Sheffield early and had a stroll round the huge Meadowhall shopping centre whilst I nursed the lurgy, which has since delayed this report by quite a few days! It wasn't just me either, Brendan Moloney was still kept out by the mystery injury he picked up whilst with the Republic of Ireland, but Johnnie Jackson returned to the midfield for Michael Johnson's first game in caretaker charge, as the visitors lined up in an unfamiliar 4-5-1 formation.

This was obviously geared towards stopping the Millers playing, after all they were second and unbeaten at home this season, but from the first whistle to the last Notts were completely in control of the match. It took them a while to come out of their shell, possibly down to the fact they couldn't believe that a high flying Rotherham side were unable to pass five yards to a team mate and had one tactic, hoof it towards Drewe Broughton. Matt Ritchie had the first opening of the match and he should've put the Magpies infront, some woeful defending by Dale Tonge allowed Neal Bishop in and he pulled it back for Ritchie who adjusted his feet well, but shot straight at Andy Warrington when he could've squared the ball to Ben Davies for a simple tap in.

Ben Davies, having scored a sublime free kick against Torquay last week, was eager to test his luck from a tigher angle, but Warrington was equal to his low effort. Notts old boy Nick Fenton fired out a timid warning shot from the hosts, heading a corner harmlessly wide, as the attacking threat of the free scoring Adam Le Fondre and the talented Nicky Law simply didn't seem to exist. Fenton picked up a crucial yellow card soon after with a borderline assault on Lee Hughes over by the corner flag. Hughes did himself no favours with a bit of rolling around as if shot, but Fenton was extremely lucky to see just yellow for a wreckless and dangerous challenge. Notts came as close to scoring as they would until injury time from the subsequent move as Ben Davies floated in a tantalising cross which Mike Edwards rose to meet, planting a firm header against the underside of the Millers' bar and away.

As half time approached, the hosts managed to produce their first shot on target, from top scorer Adam Le Fondre. Nicky Law clipped in a cross and Le Fondre looped a header goalwards, but it was comfortably tipped over the bar by the backpeddling Kasper Schmeichel. This was just before the break and Rotherham created their last meaningful attack of the match in the moments just after the half time interval. Kevin Ellison cut inside and hit a harmless looking shot which spun off Le Fondre and nearly deceived Schmeichel, who tipped it round the post. As Notts broke though, the game was effectively ended as a fair contest. Ben Davies tricked his way through the Millers' midfield and ran at Fenton, beating the ex-Notts man before being sent tumbling to the turf. The referee had little option but to produce a second yellow, once the linesman had given the foul, and Notts had around forty minutes to produce a winner.

Notts continued to press and Ricky Ravenhill had a pot shot, volleying well over on his weaker foot from the edge of the area. Mike Edwards did well at the other end to clear Nicky Law's corner as Luke Rodgers came on to replace Ravenhill and Notts reverted to a more familiar 4-4-2 formation. This swung the pendulum further in Notts' direction and Rodgers had Warrington at full stretch moments after coming on. He picked up the ball on the corner of the box and hit a swerving shot which was brilliantly tipped over by Rotherham's veteran 'keeper. Rodgers was then hauled over 25 yards out by Ian Sharps, allowing Davies to have another crack at a set piece. His effort fizzed at goal, but was parried to safety by Warrington, who was becoming a one-man wall in the home goal.

Rodgers' personal battle with the 'keeper continued as he jinked away from Jamie Green but saw his low, hard shot somehow saved by Warrington and the rebound even more miraculously deflected to safety by Pablo Mills on the line. The Millers were dropping deeper and deeper and, having conceded an injury time leveller to Hereford United the week before, the home crowd were on edge. Rodgers continued to torment the hosts as he latched onto a pass from Jamie Clapham, skipped away from two challengers and fired a low, left footed shot which skidded past Warrington and seemed to be flying in. Then, out of nowhere, Jamie Green appeared at full stretch to slice the ball over his own bar in a goalline clearance that defied all physics. The 1,300 strong away following were now on their feet and could sense the winning goal on it's way. Graeme Lee headed the resulting corner inches wide as the fourth official indicated four minutes of added time.

It seemed inevitable that Notts would have the ball in the goal eventually, and so it proved. Unfortunately for the Magpies, they didn't account for the intevention of a rogue linesman's flag. Matt Ritchie finally stopped trying to take on his full back long enough to cross the ball and, as Ben Davies challenged at the far post, the ball hit Green's thigh and bounced to Rodgers who slammed it past Warrington. The celebrations were shortlived as the linesman had his flag up, with Notts having been denied a deserved win by a decision that was just clearly incorrect. The ball had deflected into Rodgers' path off of the Rotherham defender. There was still time for home sub Paul Warne to get booked for a body slam on Ritchie as the ref blew up for full time and Notts were left to reflect what might have been after they failed to make their complete domination pay.

Notts Co - Schmeichel, Thompson, Lee, Edwards, Jones (Clapham), Ravenhill (Rodgers), Jackson, Bishop, Davies, Ritchie, Hughes (Akinbiyi)

Rotherham Utd 0
Notts County 0