Dearden marked the return of suspended pairing, Darren Caskey and Ian Baraclough with their restoration into the starting line-up as they started at the centre and left side of midfield, respectively as Adam Murray and Paul Riley were sacrificed.
Meanwhile, Mark Stallard and Tony Barras were both, I presume, rested as they started on the bench.
Right from the off, Notts were on-top as they looked the far more capable team – and rightly so. Although, in fairness,
The first chance of the afternoon fell to a player in the red and white of
County’s Clive Platt was at the heart of Notts’ first and subsequently second opportunities. The first was created by Darren Caskey, who was central to everything today in the Notts midfield, whose delicate through-ball found Clive Platt in full flow as he managed to manoeuvre the ball around the on-rushing Gravesend ‘keeper before avoiding the tackle of a frantic Fleet defender as he attempted to roll the ball into the empty net – and he would have succeeded in scoring had it not been for the efforts of Paul Gibbs who managed to clear his lines.
Platt’s and also Notts’ second opportunity of the afternoon came soon after the first as Platt managed to reach the ball before his marker, only to see his header saved by Paul Wilkerson in between the sticks of Gravesend.
Darren Caskey picked up the games first booking from a very composed referee in the form of Richard Beeby after the Magpies’ play-maker committed an infringement upon
The opener came very much against the flow of play as A GEOGRAPHY TEACHER of all people put the part-time Conference side ahead on 42 minutes after some good creative play from Andy Drury. The goal followed two consecutive half clearances from Notts’ Steve Mildenhall and Nicky Fenton.
What followed was Drury’s finely threaded pass which found Steve Perkins who slipped the ball past the all-too casually outstretched leg of Nicky Fenton and a somewhat miss-sighted Steve Mildenhall.
Notts had the chance to go into the interval level-pegging as Gravesend’s ‘keeper somehow managed to drop a Steve Jenkins cross allowing Platt to play up to Sky’s cameras with a superb piece of juggling skills – but unfortunately, Platt applied a clown-like finish to match.
HALF TIME: Gravesend & Northfleet 1-0
After the break, Notts came out looking far stronger after apparently receiving the hair-dryer treatment from manager, Billy Dearden.
But it all their early grit and determination so nearly went to pot as
Paul Wilkerson was then called into action as he made two good reaction stops from Simon Baldry and Paul Heffernan five minutes into the second period.
Heffernan was again in the centre of the action as he latched onto a Simon Baldry cross. Although his shot was somewhat below par and was saved with very little difficulty. Shortly after, ‘Heff’ was booked for an off the ball incident with the Fleet’s Steve McKimm who, it must be said, made a song and dance out of a nothing shove.
Following a well worked move from County, Clive Platt laid the ball off beautifully for his strike-partner, Paul Heffernan who curled his right-footed effort wide by a hair’s breadth.
Soon after and the Fleet’s shot-stopper, Paul Wilkerson – who is coincidentally is brother of the Evening Post reporter and F*rest correspondent, Ian Wilkerson – was forced to be replaced after picking up what was thought to be either a cramp or a recurrence of an ankle injury sustained earlier in the season. His replacement, Alex O’Reilly, was immediately in the action as he produced a stunning save from a Darren Caskey free-kick.
His second task however was not such a joyful one as the resulting corner lead to County’s much-needed equaliser which could only mean that his task was to retrieve from the back of the net. The equaliser came courtesy of Nick Fenton as he powered a header towards the floor as it shot past the newly introduced ‘keeper.
Fenton was then booked for over celebrating the goal.
A matter of minutes later, Simon Baldry clearly unjustly forced Simon Gibbs off the ball. Gibbs reacted nastily - firstly by kicking out at Baldry’s heel and secondly by lunging into the Notts winger after the ball had gone and right in front of the referee and his fourth official. Gibbs was shown the red card, much to his disgrace, as he then had to be hauled down the tunnel to avoid confrontation with apparently one member of the
This proved to be a pivotal point in the game the balance of power slowly-but-surely began to shift in favour of
After that, the play began to flow in a casual and fairly routine manor with a little bit of argy-bargy in amongst it.
The game looked to be going back to
But County’s party was so very nearly crashed as two minutes later and at the other end of the field, Lee Shearer was given the chance to unleash an unchallenged header at the back post. A task which he succeeded in doin and one which was somehow kept out by the on-song ‘keeper, Steve Mildenhall.
Before the game came to a close, Simon Baldry trickled a shot inches wide of the mark for County as he looked to cement their place in the Third Round of the competition.
FULL TIME: Gravesend & Northfleet 1-2
To cap off an unforgettable week for Notts County Football Club, Billy Dearden’s men book their place into the Third Round of the FA Cup where they will be, once again, amongst the big boys as they look for a big money-spinning clash – at home, of course.
So, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…
…BRING ON THE CHELSKI!!! (or the Red Scum)