Notts Fall To Knight

In a day where, after watching the England rugby team win the World Cup in the morning, watching Notts in the freezing cold half seemed like a chore.

And what seemed the inevitable happened, Notts brought my good mood abrubly to a halt.

Tony Barras- Unable to play today
Two first half goals from the prolific, but annoying, Leon Knight was enough to condemn Notts to their eleventh defeat of the season.

Dearden made four changes to the starting line-up, bringing in the fit again pair of Simon Baldry and Paul Riley for Bolland & Nicholson, while Danny Livesey replaced the injured Barras and Paul Heffernan finally replaced the recently off colour Stallard.

So, the line-up couldn't really be faulted, it was what most fans wanted, after all.

Notts started the brighter of the two teams, winning a number of corners, which seemed to be used for the specific reason of giving the Brighton 'keeper, Ben Roberts, a nice easy warm up.

With 6 minutes on the clock Notts had their first goal attempt.

Baraclough, who had one of his best games of the season so far, drilled a well struck right foot shot just over the bar.

Two minutes later and Baraclough was again denied as Danny Cullip headed his looping goal bound header off the line.

In fact, Baraclough was Notts' main attacking threat in the first 15 minutes! With 14 minutes gone he was denied one of the goals of the season when his stunning 30 yard shot cannoned off the bar, with Roberts beaten.

That was it, the poor man didn't try again all afternoon.

Completely against the run of play, with 18 minutes played, Brighton showed just what a difference a sharp on-form striker makes, and took the lead.

Left back Kevin Mayo whipped a dangerous cross in from the left, and Leon Knight, who'd hardly had a kick up to that point, got given half a yard for the first time all game, and tucked the ball low beyond Mildenhall.

Knight then lost any respect I had for him by needlessly gloating infront of Z Block, an act that really should have earned the pint sized striker a booking.

This, as expected, changed the pattern of play within the game, with Brighton now enjoying much more time in Notts' half of the field.

Brighton defender Guy Butters then headed over the bar when well placed, the game could have easily been over there and then.

Notts were having little joy, with Heffernan and Platt both out muscled when they got near the ball. Brighton had clearly done their homework, double marking Platt, stopping any threat his flick ons can give and pressing Notts' midfield, restricting the use of Heffernan's pace.

Then came the moment that summed up my day.

As I left a little earlier than normal to buy my trademark pie, I heard a muted cheer from the Notts crowd, assuming it was for something minor, a good tackle from Richo being the favourite, I left it and stayed in the queue.

A couple of minutes later and there was a much louder cheer, yes I'd gone and missed the goal.

Ok, for those of you that missed the game, I'm reliably informed that Paul Riley was shoved in the back jumping to get on the end of a Simon Baldry cross. Paul Heffernan cooly tucked away the spot kick.

To compound my misery, as I made my way back up to my seat in Z Block, Brighton score. It appears I am now known as 'bad luck'.

It was Knight again who was lurking at the back post to finish off a cross from the right that at least two defenders and possibly Mildenhall could have cleared. Brilliant.

Darren Caskey then became the first of 8 players to be booked, and yes, it was for dissent.

Brighton came close to grabbing a third on the brink of half time, but McPhee just slid the ball wide.

HALF TIME: Notts County 1-2 Brighton & Hove Albion

The game was actually quite exciting, but incredibly frustrating for the Notts fans who had seen it all before.

Heff- Slotted home the penalty but was shackled by a tough tackling defence
Notts again started the second half the brighter of the two teams, again winning corners, and again Caskey's deliveries left a lot to be desired.

Leon Knight, who before his goal had been shackled well by Livesey, was now causing Notts more and more problems, coming close to scoring twice in a minute, first with a powerful right footed strike that Mildenhall parried, then with an outstanding left footed strike that went narrowly wide of the post.

With just under half an hour remaining, Dearden made a rather surprising, and by his standards, adventerous substitution, taking off Jenkins, who'd not done much wrong, for Stallard.

This meant a 3-4-3 formation, with Stallard playing just off the front pairing of Platt and Heffernan, who'd had little joy against a strong Brighton rearguard.

Leon Knight thrived on the now short Notts backline, and came close to his hat-trick two more times, only to be denied by Mildenhall.

Notts didn't really look like scoring but with 15 minutes remaining, Paul Heffernan managed to capatilize on a bit of hesitation in the visitors defence, only to see his clever lob drop agonisingly wide.

If anything, it looked a matter of time before the visitors grabbed their third rather than Notts get an equaliser, Dearden's gamble had clearly back fired.

Dearden decided to ignore mine, and many other supporters sat around me pleas to bring Willis Francis on, his only other change being made with 4 minutes to go, taking off injury victim Richardson and putting on Nicholson.

Richo was injured by a late tackle by Brighton winger John Piercy, an act which earned the Brighton man his second yellow, after being booked a minute earlier for a crude late challenge on Paul Riley.

Notts looked slightly more menacing with an extra man, but still failed to make any real ground.

As we drifted into added on time, Notts came agonisingly close to an equaliser as Danny Livesey, who had consistently been left to deal with Knight on his own all afternoon, headed Darren Caskey's free-kick against the base of the post with the 'keeper beaten.

FULL TIME: Notts County 1-2 Brighton & Hove Albion

So another defeat for Notts, who's fans had to face the grim possibility that they could have just watched their team play at home for the last time.

We can't really blame anyone in particular for this defeat, Brighton had done their homework, they shackled Caskey and restricted the supply to Platt.

The difference between the teams though, was a 5'5 striker, who showed just what a difference a quality finisher in a team makes, and impressed me more than any other opposition player at the Lane this season.

The last word must go to the Rugby squad (hey, let's make this report positive!) who did the nation proud yesterday morning. Well done lads.