Ian McParland's Notts County side gave their near neighbours a lesson in finishing today, as the Magpies ran out 2-1 winners against their local rivals after new director of football Sven Goran Eriksson was introduced to the crowd. It was the passion, spirit and hard work of the Notts players that earned them the win, alongside calm finish, something which was not evident from the visitors despite Billy Davies having sponged several million pounds on a host of seemingly average forwards.
Notts First Half - Hoult, Moloney, Lee, Edwards, Clapham, Westcarr, Bishop, Thompson, Davies, Hughes, Canham
Over 12,000 people crammed into Meadow Lane today, with the hoardes flooding in as Sven Goran Eriksson was introduced to the Notts fans, infact the congestion was so bad in parts of the Jimmy Sirrel stand that kick-off was delayed by nearly fifteen minutes. When the match finally did kick-off it failed to burst into life for the opening half hour, with both sides neat in possession but unable to penetrate the opposition. The tackles were full blooded and coupled with the passion shown from the stands it was hard to believe the match was a friendly, particularly when John Thompson threw himself into a fifty-fifty tackle on the half way line and came out on top.
The first clear cut chance of the match came just after the half hour when a swift Forest counter attack saw Dele Adebola tee up Robert Earnshaw, who struck the ball straight at Russell Hoult when half of the ground thought that someone of his quality would tuck it away with ease. Something which set the tone for a horrible afternoon for the Welsh international, who created space for himself twice in quick succession but dragged his shots way off target. For Notts, they struggled to break down an organised and combative visiting defence although Lee Hughes and Sean Canham were working hard upfront, while the centre back partnership of Mike Edwards and Graeme Lee was particularly impressive in the first period.
Notts Second Half - Pilkington, Moloney, Lee, Edwards, Clapham, Westcarr (Fairclough), Bishop, Thompson, Davies, Hughes (Facey), Rodgers
At half time Kevin Pilkington and Luke Rodgers were introduced for the hosts, replacing Hoult and Canham respectively, and immediately it seemed to revitalise the Magpies. Within seconds of the restart smart link up play by Lee Hughes saw Rodgers played in, but having been forced wide he dragged his shot past Lee Camp but agonisingly off the inside of the post and away. This gave Notts, both players and fans, confidence however and they began to really take the game to Forest.
It took a further ten minutes for the deadlock to be broke, when a long ball forward was missed by Wes Morgan, leaving the pacy Rodgers through on goal. He made no mistake as he calmly opened up his body and slotted the ball past Camp and into the far corner to spark delirious scenes in the Kop. Rodgers has been in fine form this season and has now struck 6 goals in 4 games in black and white. This really sparked County into life and the hosts now looked by far the most impressive side.
Things then got even better for Notts as a silky passing move involving Neal Bishop and Ben Davies saw Craig Westcarr gather the ball out wide, and he sent over a teasing cross to the far post where Lee Hughes rose to head the ball past Camp and to send the Kop barmy once again. Hughes set off in celebration infront of the travelling fans, who had been booing the former West Brom man for the whole match. This was Hughes' last act as he was replaced by Delroy Facey, but after an impressive debut Hughes was given a standing ovation from the Meadow Lane crowd as he left the field.
Forest began to come back into the game however having been stunned by two Notts sucker punches, with a chipped ball into the box being volleyed straight at goal by Dexter Blackstock when he should have found the net. The Magpies also managed to defend a dangerous free kick thanks to some heroics from Graeme Lee, but the defence was finally breached on 77 minutes by Lewis McGugan. The midfielder picked the ball up 25 yards from goal and hit a speculative shot on goal that took a slight deflection, however Kevin Pilkington always looked likely to save it comfortably. Somehow though he left the ball slip through his grasp and bobble in, giving Forest an unlikely route back into the match.
It was a nevrous final ten minutes for Notts with Blackstock racing clear but, when clean through, hitting something that was neither a cross or a shot which trickled harmlessly wide when he should've levelled the game for Forest, or at least put it on a plate for a teammate. The final act of the match was a rugby tackle by Chris Gunter, more out of frustration than anything else which saw him bring down Luke Rodgers who was bursting forward for the Magpies. Full time then blew much to the delight of the home fans who gave a generous ovation to the side as they came over, there is still work to be done and gaps to be plugged for Ian McParland, but he can take great pleasure in the commitment and, at times, quality his side showed today against higher league opposition. He may even have a phone call from Davies, lining up a £1,000,000 swoop for Luke Rodgers, because Forest certainly need someone who can shoot.