It's been a rather dull few weeks at NCM towers. Our brimming tub of clichés has been left dormant in the cupboard and we've not been able to wax lyrical about Lee Hughes since last year. Darn the snow. Finally, finally, we had a game on Tuesday night come about 8:45pm though. I say that, because the first half didn't happen. I want to just write 'N/A' and be done with it 'cos there is genuinely nothing of any interest to report. If I tried i'd just end up selecting well executed throw-ins as 'highlights' and there wasn't even many of those. So, the first forty five minutes of the FA Cup third round clash with Forest Green Rovers can be summed up in one sentence. A side severely lacking match fitness and a side near the bottom of the Conference not really doing a lot.
Thankfully, after the break, the game livened up somewhat and we had an FA Cup tie on our hands. Graeme Lee hooked a volley onto the bar after a corner was half-cleared by the visitors and a bout of comedy non-league goalkeeping from Rovers 'keeper Terry Burton finally brought the game to life as he spilled a well hit, but not entirely venomous, shot from Ben Davies straight to the feet of Stephen Hunt, who toe poked the ball home from a yard out. What Hunty was doing in the opposition's six yard box remains a mystery, but it did at least make the Kop believe that we weren't going to make a mess of yet another tie with non-league opposition.
However, the Blue Square Premier strugglers weren't deterred by falling behind and created some fine chances to level the game. Firstly Jonathan Smith had a fine chance after an Isaiah Rankin cross fell to his feet, but his close range effort was beaten away by Kasper Schmeichel's feet. Former Leeds United man Tomi Ameobi then had a golden chance to level things, but he made a dire connection from a yard out allowing Schmeichel to get the ball away from the Notts goal. A deserved visitors wasn't long in coming though and once again it came through work from the biggest nemesis of Schmeichel this season - John Thompson. A goal kick from Burton was horrifically miskicked by Thompson, allowing Rankin to race clear and fire a fine finish into the near post, leaving Notts' Danish goalkeeper with no chance. Rovers certainly deserved their slice of fortune and surely felt they could go on to win the game.
It wasn't to be though as Lee Hughes found the one genuine moment of class that showed the gulf of league places between the side. Karl Hawley played an intelligent pass into Hughes' feet and he danced away from his marker before bending an unstoppable shot around a defender and in off the post, with Burton rooted to the spot. It was a genuine moment of class, probably the only one of the night from the Magpies. The game was really starting to open up and substitutes Luke Rodgers and then Matt Hamshaw had chances to seal it for the hosts. Firstly Rodgers hit a fierce shot from the edge of the area that was beaten away by Burton and then Hamshaw embarked on a mazy run which saw him curl an effort narrowly wide of the far post from 25 yards. The Magpies were nearly made to pay for this profligacy as Rankin forced another save out of Schmeichel before the big moment fell to Conal Platt in injury time. Another error from Thompson left Platt six yards out with the goal at his mercy, but his firm effort was clawed away from goal by Schmeichel and the Magpies held on through a nervous four minutes of injury time to set up a fourth round tie with Wigan Athletic at Meadow Lane on Saturday.
Notts Co - Schmeichel, Bishop, Thompson, Lee, Hunt, Davies, Ravenhill, Jackson, Westcarr (Hamshaw), Hughes, Hawley (Rodgers)
Notts County 2 (Hunt '50, Hughes '65)
Forest Green Rovers 1 (Rankin '64)
Attendance - 4,389 (259 FGR)