Red Robins leave Magpies red-faced.

By Richard Brown
Last updated : 10 January 2004

Welcome to Nottingham
It has been some week for Notts County. With the resignation of the manager Billy Dearden, the surprise departures of Steve Jenkins and Clive Platt and the appointment of ex-Notts defender, Gary Mills as manager – leaving the fans with plenty to talk about come Saturday afternoon. If only the on-the-pitch matters were quite as captivating.


With John Gaunt placed in charge of first-team affairs for the day, all Mills had to worry about was, well, everything else as he marched out on the
Meadow Lane turf to the applause of the Notts faithful.


Mills’ arrival marks the beginning of yet another new era that overlaps the last as did the one before that, but formalities had clearly changed as even before a ball a kicked, Notts worked applied a new match-day technique – from the manager participating in the training, right up to a group huddle before kick-off as each and every player wanted to grab every chance possible of impressing the boss.


And it took Notts as little as 28 seconds before their first chance arose as Paul Riley so very nearly connected to a Paul Bolland cross at the far post.

Notts’ second opportunity followed as again Paul Riley, after his two-goal brace against Peterborough in midweek, could not steer home an early Notts goal.


However if there is one thing that hasn’t changed in Notts’ game, then it is their willingness to gift teams goals early on. This time it was Lee Peacock, who must still give the Notts back-four nightmares after that 5-0 spanking on the opening day of the campaign, who got the better of all four of County’s defenders as a drop-kick from Bristol’s ‘keeper floated into the Notts half, to the feet of Peacock, round three defenders and into the back of the net as the Bristol hit-man executed a first-rate finish from the edge of the eighteen-yard box.


Nick Fenton was the next man in black and white to have a chance on goal as he fired his shot wide of the mark on 15 minutes.


Notts' best player this afternoon.
Notts’ shot-stopper, Steve Mildenhall was clearly being given the afternoon off courtesy of the defence who were coping well with the City pressure, cutting out long-balls left, right and centre – and in the air too!


Magpie’s defender Nicky Fenton was the first victim of the referee’s book as he was booked for punching the ball away in disgust as the amateurish officiating of the contest became apparent. Yet the man who’d just been booked still looked by far Notts’ most threatening prospect going forward today looked sharp once more as he rose to head over from a free-kick on the half-hour mark.


Notts were dragged back into the tie, and I say dragged in the strongest sense of the word, as Paul Bolland whipped in an inch perfect cross which failed to meet its intended target but was still headed home as the guilty Tony Butler put through his own net following an incisive through-ball from Darren Caskey to start the move.


Caskey soon had a shot for himself with 2 minutes of normal time still to play, but he somehow managed to sky his effort in true Jonny Wilkinson style.


HALF TIME:
NOTTS COUNTY 1-1 Bristol City


Again customs were changed at the ‘Lane as Gary Mills’ newly inherited side emerged long before their South-Western adversaries to prepare as their intentions were there for all to see – but maybe I am reading too much into that. Whilst the only changes to show from the City camp was the removal of Danny Coles from the action as he was switched with Mickey Bell.


Paul Bolland became the next problem for City ‘keeper, Steve Phillips to deal with as Bolly forced the Bristol no.1 to save his effort.

Riley : Looked sharp
Two Darren Caskey corners for Notts were the cause of further defensive headaches for the Robins as Paul Bolland and Nicky Fenton both missed decent chances to put the home-side one to the good.


Kevin Nicholson followed Fenton into the book on 67 minutes for a foul on Bristol’s Marc Goodfellow – fresh onto the field, making his debut for the club following his £100,000 transfer from Stoke City earlier in the week.


Mark Stallard was the next to be frustrated as he could only manage to strike his shot into the arms of Phillips.


The City debutant then had two efforts to put Bristol ahead – one sailed over and the next was palmed away by Steve Mildenhall.


Then something of a novelty for Notts fans, A DOUBLE SUBSTITUION, as Tony Hackworth and Paul Bolland were sacrificed for fresh, younger legs as youth team produce in the form of Willis Francis and Shaun Harrad were introduced to the somewhat scrappy encounter.

With one minute of the three allowed for stoppages now elapsed, Brian Tinnion crossed into the centre for City new boy Marc Goodfellow to head home the winner from close range. Game over.


FULL TIME:
NOTTS COUNTY 1-2 Bristol City

This latest defeat sends Notts further into the red, after Chesterfield’s 2-1 defeat over Wrexham sends the Magpies second-from-bottom. Never mind, there’s always next week to get it right. Or the next or maybe the one after that …

Match Ratings to follow.