Notts Sail Past Shildon

The scoreline perhaps flattered Notts a little, as Shildon staged a brief second half comeback but failed to deny Notts, who were very professional all afternoon, only briefly letting their concentration slip.

Goals from Nicky Fenton, a Clive Platt double, Kevin Nicholson, Ian Richardson, Tony Barras and Paul Heffernan were just about enough for Notts who were in destructive mood.

Nicky Fenton- Gave Notts the lead this afternoon
Notts' manager Billy Dearden decided to stick to the side that beat Hartlepool 1-0 last week, somewhat surprisingly leaving in the off form Mark Stallard, meaning Paul Heffernan had to settle for a spot on the bench once more. While Dearden decided to put the sparesely used youngster Willis Francis on the bench, meaning Tony Hackworth wasn't even in the squad.

Also returning to the squad was fit again midfield battler Michael Brough, who has recovered from a thigh strain.

Notts started much as expected, playing fairly well while still looking like they had another gear in them if needed, with Mark Stallard flicking a header wide inside the first minute and Baraclough and Caskey both having goal bound shots blocked.

With just 6 minutes on the clock it came as little to surprise when Notts took the lead.

Darren Caskey whipped in a dangerous free-kick from the left and centre back Nick Fenton cooly flicked the ball over the advancing Shildon 'keeper, John Jackson, into the top left hand corner for his first goal of the season.

Notts were flying and were really walking past Shildon, while their fans were clearly getting frustrated with the referee, Mr A Mariner, any excuse lads!!

13 minutes gone and Notts were two up. This time Clive Platt nipped in after a moment of uncertainty between defender Liddel and goalkeeper Jackson, before slotting the ball in the open goal.

At this point young Paul Riley ran down the tunnel obviously to get an injury strapped up, leaving Notts temporarily with 10 men.

The loss didn't appear to effect Notts, Ian Richardson was controlling the left side on his own, while Steve Jenkins and in particular, Simon Baldry were running riot down the right. Big Clive Platt was also causing the non league side no end of problems.

I'd go as far to say Notts looked in free scoring mood and it looked a matter of time before they were going to add to their tally.

Big Clive Platt scored a quick fire double
And sure enough on 17 minutes Notts were 3 ahead.

Ian Richardson headed another Caskey free-kick back into the danger zone and that man Platt was there to unleash a bullet header which struck the underside of the crossbar but clearly crossed the line.

At this point fans around me were thinking about a cricket score: "What's the record Notts win?"; "Has the whole team ever scored in one match?" and even negative old me was taken in. It really didn't look like we could stop scoring.

It was especially pleasing for Platt, who is now, on league goals at least, Notts' top scorer. Who'd have predicted this at the start of the season when he was made the scapegoat for Notts' dreadful start to the season. I hope these supporters will at least admit they were wrong about him.

With nearly 20 minutes gone, Shildon managed their first shot on target, but Nigel Bolton's shot was routine for Steven Mildenhall.

Notts were still applying pressure but had just taken their foot of the gas slightly, although at one point Simon Baldry seemed to take on the entire Shildon backline before the linesman gave a bizzare offside, even though no-one else was involved in the move.

With half an hour now gone, even Ian Richardson was getting in on the act, and he came close with a 25 yard piledriver, but Jackson managed to scramble the ball around the post.

From the resulting corner, Fenton came close to adding his second (strange but true) of the afternoon as he cooly chested down Baraclough's pass before expertly lobbing Jackson.

Unfortunately for Fenton though, his effort cannoned back off the crossbar, and though Mark Stallard looked odds on to tuck the rebound away Shildon somehow managed to clear it off the line.

Simon Baldry- One of Notts' best players today
Notts seemed content to let the half drift out, but received a warning when 35 year old David Bayles headed wide an excellent free-kick when he couldn't of been better placed.

As the half drew to a close, Ian Baraclough hit a long ranger just wide, before Paul Riley was withdrawn, presumably still suffering form his earlier injury, for Kevin Nicholson.

Nicholson had much to prove to the Magpies' fans who still hadn't forgot last weeks horror miss. I can't help but think that Willis Francis would have been more appropiate to get half a game in a game such as this, but I suppose we're winning games, so Dearden's decisions must be accepted.

HALF TIME: Notts County 3-0 Shildon AFC

The second half started in total contrast to the first. Notts were becoming lacklusture and seemed to think they'd already won the game.

Incredibly, 10 minutes into the so far rather dull second half and Shildon got themselves back into the game.

Keith Emmerson made good ground down the right, skipping past Nicholson's weak challenge. He then crossed the ball in and Jamie Middleton made it a day to remember for him as his diving header flew past Mildenhall into the top left corner of the net.

Quite bizzarely, most of the Notts fans around me up in Z Block decided to applaud the Shildon goal, as the travelling support went wild, many of them invading the pitch.

Even this goal didn't wake Notts up, and only Baldry, Caskey and Platt looked capable of damaging the Northern Counties League side's defence. Quite bizzare.

If Notts, and their fans, weren't quite aware that Shildon hadn't turned up just to make up the numbers, they were with an hour gone.

This is because the referee quite correctly awarded Shildon a penalty when Darren Caskey brought down Danny Key in the box.

Caskey- Gave away the penalty but had quite a good game
Garry Barnes
, who we had been warned about before the game, stepped up to take the spot kick and cooly sent Mildenhall the wrong way to send the Shildon fans into delerium.

Needless to say, this goal wasn't quite as well applauded up in Z Block as everyone started to realise the seriousness of the situation.

Notts now realised they were in a battle, and thankfully this time, they woke up.

Just two minutes after Shildon had scored their second Notts restored their two goal advantage.

It was again good work down the right by Baldry and his low cross was headed in by Nicholson for his first of the season, going someway to banish memories of THAT miss.

Notts fans then loudly sang "You're not singing anymore" back to their opposition, who had sung the same chant to Notts just second before the goal.

Notts were now playing much better, with Nicholson and Baldry on the wings looking more dangerous, and Platt continuing to threaten constantly.

Just four minutes later and Notts hit their fifth.

Nicholson had won a corner on the left which Caskey aimed at the near post towards Platt, but both him and the defender missed it leaving Richardson to head home from the six yard line for yet another first goal of the season.

Notts continued to play well, with Richardson bizzarely flying down the left wing on a few occasions, something we're not used to seeing from the experienced utility man.

Mark Stallard then missed another chance to open his account for the day, hitting his shot just wide.

Notts had a few more half chances in the next 5 minutes, Richardson lashing a powerful shot wide, while neither Stallard nor Platt could quite connect with Baldry's excellent low centre and Jackson also produced the save of the match to stop Barras' powerful volley.

Darren Caskey then started a delightful move which involved Jenkins, Baldry and Platt before Caskey himself curled a left footer narrowly wide.

Dearden then made Notts' second change, bringing on Heffernan for Platt, who was immence throughout, with just over 10 minutes remaining.

Like last Saturday, Heffernan made an immediate impact, curling an ambitious 25 yarder over the bar.

Tony Barras was then booked for a foul on Lee Ellison but Barras immediatley forgot about that as he went down the other end to nod in his third of the season.

Tony Barras- Added Notts' SIXTH
Darren Caskey curled in an exquisite free-kick from the right and Barras was left unmarked to nod home his third of the season. He is also the only Notts player to have scored in all competitions (excluding LDV) this season. Not bad for a centre half!

Dearden then made Notts' final change with five minutes remaining, taking off the quite brilliant Baldry for Michael Brough, who he obviously thought needed the time more than the young Willis Francis.

With just 3 minutes left on the clock Notts rounded things off nicely with arguably the pick of the goals.

Heffernan linked up quite brilliantly with Stallard who played him in with an excellent through ball and Heffernan cooly tucked the ball home from the right side of the penalty area. Seven goals now!!

A few Shildon idiots invaded the pitch at the end and tried to provoke the Notts fans, who just laughed it off. But credit must go to the rest of the travelling Shildon contingent who must be one of the best lot of travelling supporters we've seen here in the last few years.

FULL TIME: Notts County 7-2 Shildon AFC

A professional performance by Notts but it certainly wasn't a hammering, as the scoreline may suggest.

Shildon's two goals means they can go home proud of themselves and they sure made the game and atmosphere much be interesting.

All in all, an entertaining Sunday afternoon.

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Notts have been drawn away at Gravesend in the Second Round of the FA Cup, a potential banana skin, but a match they will certainly be expected to win.