McParland's final hurrah

It all seemed to be going so well. Notts were leading 2-0 thanks to two fine strikes and appeared to be heading for another extremely comfortable Meadow Lane win. No one could've seen Torquay's gutsy comeback on the horizon and certainly not the fact that manager Ian McParland would be out of a job just twenty four hours later. But things move fast in football. On paper it appeared to be a chance for Notts to show off the virtuoso style at Meadow Lane that had become their trademark infront of the Sky cameras and to pick up three comfortable points heading into next week's crunch game at Rotherham, but the Gulls didn't read the script. In truth, Notts' poor away form and performances meant they were probably only one such disaster at Meadow Lane away from McParland being in real trouble and so it proved.

Things seemed to be going to the plan in the early stages though as Notts immediately began to ping the ball around and had the lowly visitors chasing shadows. Lee Hughes should've opened the scoring when he missed the kind of chance that you expect him to take with his eyes closed. A Ben Davies free kick was half cleared and Craig Westcarr headed the ball back towards goal, the Torquay defence let it drift past and Hughes prodded it with his toe just two yards out. The ball spooned up and over the bar though to signal a huge let off for the visiting defence. They didn't heed the warning from Hughes however as he came closer just minutes later. Matt Ritchie and Dan Jones combined well down the left wing allowing the former to swing in a teasing cross which Hughes met unmarked. His header was firm but too close to Michael Poke, allowing the Torquay stopper to palm it over his bar and away to safety. It was already becoming one way traffic however and it seemed only a matter of time before Notts scored.

Just minutes, in fact, as Craig Westcarr struck his second goal of the season to give Notts a deserved early lead. Another Davies set piece caused havoc in the Torquay defence, who were unable to clear the ball allowing Westcarr to step up and side foot an excellent shot into the top corner beyond the reach of the diving Poke. It took a slight deflection on it's way, but Westcarr's sweet effort was heading for the back of the net anyway. Notts celebrated, the Kop sang and everything seemed to be going to plan. Torquay did give out their first real warning just after the Notts goal though as top scorer Elliott Benyon came close for the Gulls. Target man Tim Sills played the former Bristol City youngster through and he hit a firm shot which Kasper Schmeichel had to knock round the post with his feet. Sills also came close himself with a header which was cleared by Mike Edwards as it headed towards Schmeichel's goal.

This slight profligacy was punished as Ben Davies netted a superb second for the Magpies. The referee gave a foul just outside the Torquay area, we're still not quite sure what for, allowing Davies to place the ball menacingly as he eyed his second goal in black and white. Matt Ritchie and Craig Westcarr were waved away as Davies lined up his strike and curled an unstoppable free kick over the wall and into the corner, leaving Michael Poke with no chance. It was a perfectly executed free kick from Davies and gave Notts a 2-0 lead that their first half domination deserved. The celebrations were premature, however, as Mark Ellis pulled a goal back for the visitors before half time. Ex-Notts full back Kevin Nicholson's set piece delivery tormented Notts all game and he laid on his first of two goals. His powerful, whipped cross was stabbed home by Ellis at full stretch after he evaded the attentions of John Thompson. It meant Notts were to go in 2-1 up, a disappointment after the domination they had shown and position they had worked their way into.

If the second half belonged to the Magpies, Torquay can definately claim ownership of the second period. Benyon sent out an early warning shot to the Notts defence as he struck powerfully into Schmeichel's gloves. Sills tried to bundle the ball in for the equaliser from the rebound buy a combination of Mike Edwards and Ricky Ravenhill kept the ball out with more than a slight hint of handball. It was a new set piece taker who created the next chance as Tyrone Thompson's far post free kick wasn't defended at all and Ellis stole in to find space at the far stick where he seemed certain to score, but could only divert the ball wide of Schmeichel's far post. The Gulls were now dominating the game though and seemed to be getting closer to a second.

Ben Davies and Lee Hughes both fired half chance over the bar to warn the visitors that Notts' attacking threat still remained, but Tim Sills wasn't paying attention to this as he grabbed a deserved leveller. Once again Nicholson's delivery deceived the Notts back line and the ball was headed back across goal to Tim Sills, who turned and scuffed the ball past Kasper Schmeichel and into the bottom corner with his left foot to complete an unlikely comeback for second bottom Torquay. They weren't finished either, as yet another set piece saw Keiran Charnock flash a header inches wide of Schmeichel's goal. County nearly had the last laugh as Karl Hawley hit the inside of the post with a header from man of the match Davies' teasing cross, but Torquay kept hold of their point which was richly deserved from a real game of two halves.

Notts Co. - Schmeichel, Bishop, Edwards, Thompson, Jones, Westcarr (Hamshaw), Ravenhill, Davies, Ritchie, Hughes, Rodgers (Hawley)

Notts County 2 (Westcarr '12, Davies '33)
Torquay United 2 (Ellis '43, Sills '77)
Attendance 8,812 (227 visitors)