Heffernan crashes the party.

Last updated : 13 December 2003 By Richard Brown

Heff netted for the Magpies
The rain was teeming down across Nottingham for days before match, leaving some fans in doubt of whether or not the match was to go ahead. And even by Saturday morning, the rain was showing no signs whatsoever of stopping, by this time I must admit that from judging by the quantity of the rain which fell, I was also in two minds as to whether or not the pitch would be in a playable state.

But by the time I was settling down for the beginning of the televised Manchester derby, the weather was beginning to lighten up as blue skies loomed over the city and all signs were pointing to the match taking place as arranged. And so it did.

This match was hyped up to be the beginning of a new era, and judging by today’s uninspired performance, the future of the club isn’t up to much except for the very fact that our hopes were set so high – as we were saved.

Stallard was drafted into the line-up as Dearden was without the services of Clive Platt, who netted the goal that sealed the club’s place in the Second Round of the FA Cup in front of the Sky cameras, as he serves a two-match ban for his sending off in the 1-0 victory at Boundary Park a fortnight ago.

Wycombe’s hoof-the-ball-over-the-top-totally-bypassing-the-midfield approach allowed them to work Notts hard right from the off as they tried to force some first minute nerves from the Notts backline. However, the only thing that Nicky Fenton was willing to budge was Jermaine McSporran - face first into the flooded gravel track before smashing into the barriers. Not the start every striker would wish for.

Notts clawed out a quarter-chance within 2 minutes of the game starting as Simon Baldry smashed a shot well wide of the mark.

Although from then on, neither side produced anything that looked to arouse the on looking crowd of 5014.

In fact, the only truly significant incidents to emerge from the opening 15 minutes of the match were the bookings of Wycombe players, Chris Vinnicombe and Dannie Bulman – both of which were for fouls on County’s Darren Caskey.

It took until the 23rd minute until one of the ‘keepers were beaten – and even this effort went sailing over the cross-bar. Darren Currie (straight from some nancy-boy Salon) found an opening – but his lob was watched carefully over the bar by big Steve Mildenhall.

But it was not before 26 minutes were on the clock when Mildenhall was seriously troubled. The ball fell kindly for Jermaine McSporran who was in acres of space on the far side of the penalty area, and as soon as the ball was at his feet, it seemed as though everything was in bullet time as the heads of the surrounding supporters dropped in that desolate corner of the Family Stand.

The Notts defence gave him the space and time needed to get a shot away, only for Steve Mildenhall to pull off a marvellous stop which, for me, received a somewhat inept ovation from the Notts faithful.

Notts had thus far failed to create a chance worthy of breaking the deadlock as the absence of Clive Platt from the front line took its toll as last season’s successful striker pairing of Stallard and Heffernan lacked the physical dominance which Clive Platt had brought to the side.

Simpson : Broke the deadlock
Paul Bolland soon became the next addition to referee, T.A. Parkes’ book as he booked the Notts man for a foul on Luke Moore.

This offence was the first of many today as his determination exceeded his ability as he proved to be second to every ball.

Notts were denied a penalty towards the end of the half as Paul Heffernan was bundled over in the box – although the referee of having none of it, sending the Notts crowd into a frenzy of annoyances and disarray.

The game was looking very much like going into the half time break at 0-0 – especially after Jermaine McSporran, Chris Vinnicombe and Luke Moore had all missed half-decent chances for the Chairboys. But when ex-Notts man Michael Simpson burst onto the scene in the second minute of first half stoppage time, I could honestly say that I was non too surprised to see it go in as the Wanderers had threatened all half. Simpson unleashed his effort – which took a major deflection off the head of Ian Richardson- it perplexed Mildenhall who would otherwise have had the shot covered.

Notts County 0-1 Wycombe Wanderers

Wycombe had looked the marginally better side in the first 45 minutes of the game. Although to say that Notts deserved to be down at half time would have been a little harsh on the lads as both sides seemed just as poor and clueless as each other.

And by the time the second half was underway the Notts crowd was beginning to show the strain and desperation of which was mounting between the four stands as Lady Luck was clearly against the Magpies.

Steve Jenkins was the man who took the first pop at goal between either side although his shot never really looked like challenging Wycombe’s Steve Williams in between the sticks.

Paul Bolland soon followed but even his best efforts failed to even find the target. County’s frustrations grew further as a Darren Caskey effort deflected off the legs of Steven Taylor and comfortably into the arms of Williams.

Soon after, Adam Murray entered the fray for Paul Bolland who, to be fair, was very much below par this afternoon.

However the next 15 or so minutes were not to be remembered for Murray proving the catalyst in County’s slow improvement in performance, but for the foolish mistakes made by the referee as he showed his inability to control the players. The referee also illustrated a basic misunderstanding with his linesmen as they were very much divided in their decisions on numerous occasions. His amateurish mistakes however were no excuse for Nicky Fenton who was to be booked for a foul on Luke Moore.

Then a criminal handball from Wycombe’s Roger Johnson prevented a finely threaded through ball from reaching Paul Heffernan. An offence worthy of an immediate dismissal you might say? Apparently not, as the man in the middle produced only a yellow and a slap on the wrists.

Adam Murray again impressed.
The decision would have seemed slightly more criminal had it not been for a rather scrappy equaliser from Paul Heffernan. Baldry crossed before Richardson smashed the ball goal-bound but the shot came back out to Murray who executed a rather eccentric kung-fu kick towards goal, only for Richardson to prevent the ball from going wide as he slotted it back into the area and into the path of Ian Baraclough whose shot was parried out to Paul Heffernan who ended the scramble.

The scores now level, and that’s how it was remain for the duration of the game. Although the contrasting views of the opposing managers was interesting to see as Tony Adams seemed to be content with the point whilst Dearden was by no means satisfied as he constantly urged Notts forward for that illusive winner – but to no avail.

The referee, clearly not at ease with his level of influence to the contest, made a series of basic errors that ensured that he won’t be receiving many cards from the County faithful this Christmas.

The first, was a decision to allow Notts the advantage when
Murray was dragged to the floor. Not too criminal of a decision to make but considering the fact that Notts did not have the ball after the incident then it makes the situation a little more dubious.

The second, an alleged handball committed by
Richardson on the edge of his own area. Again seems reasonable. But considering the fact that Richo’s hands were as good as behind his back, then a handball would be rather doubtful.

However, in between the incidents was a miss from a well closed down, Mark Stallard and a booking for Ian Baraclough.

Soon after his miss, Stallard was being replaced for Tony Hackworth.

Notts County 1-1 Wycombe Wanderers

This result will not fair well considering the fact that within the next 13 days, the Magpies will be up against Plymouth Argyle (away) and QPR (home) who are currently positioned second and first, respectively.

The unconvincing result also leaves many fans questioning the position of Dearden as manager of Notts County Football Club.

Match Ratings to follow...