Notts fans will certainly know who Accrington Stanley are now, after a day of high intensity action in Lancashire. A goal apiece for strikers Lawrie Dudfield and Jason Lee sandwiched Accrington's reply from David Brown, to lift Notts into ninth, just a point from the Playoffs.
It seems an age since Notts' last fixture twelve days ago, when Thompson's side crumbled to another home defeat, with Chester City the visiting victors. Good then to get on the road once again, where Notts have shown their best form recently, winning at Darlington and picking up a draw at Swindon in two of their more recent trips.
From the side that started against Chester, Thompson made two changes. One was enforced with regular left-back Austin McCann forced out through a training ground injury. Stephen Hunt shifted from centre-back to McCann's position, with Mike Edwards returning to the side alongside captain Alan White at the heart of the defence. The other was through choice, with Dan Martin given a rare start, replacing Ian Ross in midfield. Andy Parkinson moved to right-wing with Martin on the left. Martin was the hero in the return fixture between the sides, scoring twice in a 3-2 victory for the Magpies.
Following an impeccably observed minutes silence for a former Accrington player who died recently, Notts began the clash looking to overcome a scrappy pitch, certainly unfit for League 2 action and more akin to a non-league stadium. Stanley did of course earn promotion via the Championship from the Conference last term, but since the sale of star player Gary Roberts to Ipswich Town, Jon Coleman's men have slipped to third from bottom, and have won just once in sixteen games.
Martin was soon involved in the action, narrowly missing the target when he struck just over the bar after just four minutes.
Stanley responded immediately, with Pilkington making a good save after Romuald Boco turned and struck well at goal, forcing the former Mansfield goalkeeper to turn the ball away for a corner. From the resulting set-piece, Rogers drove over the bar. Rogers, making his debut for the hosts, knows Notts well, following his spell with City rivals Nottingham Forest.
Notts soon grabbed a further chance, and it led to the opening goal of the afternoon after just nine minutes. A high ball from David Pipe towards target man Jason Lee saw Lee cleverly flick it down towards strike partner Lawrie Dudfield. After an initial bit of luck following a break off a defender, Dudfield finished with aplomb, striking it past Rob Elliot the Accrington goalkeeper. Elliot is a loan signing, and he previously held such a position with Notts, during the unsuccessful reign of Gary Mills.
Dudfield, who netted with a header at Swindon when Notts were last on the road, soon found himself chasing the target again, though a good defensive challenge prevented him from racing in on goal.
After fourteen minutes, Boco was soon causing more trouble for the Notts rearguard, and he created panic by cutting inside players and again attempting a shot at goal. Poor defending saw the ball find its way scrappily to David Brown who stabbed home via the post. It was Brown's third goal of 2007, as the striker continued his red hot form.
The competitive but ultimately scrappy encounter saw Notts retake the lead
A rare occasion for Notts seeing more than one striker on the score sheet in one game, a problem that supporters have been hastily wishing to see rectified in the transfer market. With no funds available, Thompson has been made to work with what he has got, and on the basis of the start made in Lancashire today, training has been successful over the last couple of weeks. It is the first time in thirteen games that the front two have both scored. That game was a 2-0 win at Grimsby Town, Lee and Junior Mendes, a substitute today, the players on target.
Despite the lack of good football on display, the sloping pitch in particular causing problems for both sets of players, it was a lively affair, and both defences seemed to show weaknesses that made you sense there were more goals to come.
A throw by Matt Somner into the box saw Edwards create a half chance for Martin, with the ball eventually finding its way to Lee. Lee was felled, but the referee waved play on as Stanley hit Notts on the counter-attack, forcing Somner to race back and give a free-kick away on the edge of Pilkington's area. The resulting set-piece deflected into the wall, but Brown picked up possession and attempted a shot. The poor surface meant Brown failed to muster any power and Notts eventually cleared, though the defence continued to look far from steady.
The first caution of the afternoon saw Notts midfielder Jay Smith penalised for a foul in the thirty third minute, as the game began to become slightly stop-start and certainly more physical.
Martin was finding himself continually involved, consistently providing an outlet on the left, despite the fact that he was slightly out of position. The former Derby youngster realised the incompetence and fragile confidence of Elliot in the Stanley goal and tested him with a series of deep crosses that Elliot failed to grasp. The message must surely be to test him on each possible occasion.
Boco then wildly lashed wide of the target from a corner in the last five minutes of the first half.
Two additional minutes were signalled as stoppage time at the end of the first half, as Accrington began to press for an equaliser before heading in for the half-time team talk. They nearly got it as poor Notts defending allowed Paul Mullin a free header at goal, but fortunately for Notts, Pilkington managed to hold on to the sharp effort. That was the last piece of action in the half, with Notts satisfied to enter the break 2-1 up, though Stanley had created the better openings.
Neither manager made a change as the second half began. It began with Notts, on their first ever visit to the Fraser Eagle Stadium, claim a penalty when an unsighted Accrington defender appeared to handle in the area with Dudfield ready to pounce. Again the claims were waved away, perhaps unsurprisingly given that Notts have been awarded just one this season, that came during the 3-2 success at Barnet, and even that was subsequently missed by Martin.
Lee got on the end of a high ball to release Dudfield through the middle after fifty-two minutes, but he was forced away from goal and could eventually only win a corner with a shot that Elliot tipped wide.
Dudfield was involved again shortly after, with a chance to kill of the game. The best move of the match saw Notts string together seven neat passes, before right-back Pipe whipped a low cross in towards goal. Poor defending enabled Dudfield to nip in at the back stick, though he agonisingly failed to touch the ball home, with it just out of his reach as it crossed the goal line.
Accrington forced their sixth corner of the game on the fifty-fifth minute, but Notts cleared the ball and quickly unleashed a counter-attack with Pipe and Lee integral, as they had been throughout the game. Somner eventually swung the ball in, and Martin looked to attach himself to it with a good chance, but Accrington survived as Martin failed to seriously extend Elliot.
Pipe's deep free-kick was met by White, and Dudfield, consistently lurking, prodded the ball towards goal where it was well met by Elliot tipping it wide for a corner. The corner was easily cleared, as Notts seemed to become frustrated at their inability to kill off an Accrington side without a home win since the 30th September.
Rogers again delivered an awkward free-kick, testing the Notts defence who could only help the ball into touch. Stanley's search for an equaliser was showing signs of bearing fruits, with the corners causing real problems, particularly as the wind caught hold of the ball, helping it towards Pilkington's troubled six yard box.
Pipe was forced to bravely head away when under siege, before a frantic defence turned away a succession of long balls into the box. Leam Richardson, part of Billy Dearden's regime at Notts and heavily involved in the successful Great Escape season, decided to run at the Notts defence, and he was abruptly halted by White, though the ref denied the home fans' calls for a penalty.
Mendes, struggling with a medial ligament injury and told by Thompson he would be used as a substitute only during the coming weeks, replaced the ineffective Parkinson after sixty-six minutes. Although usually a striker Mendes slotted immediately into Parkinson's right sided role, perhaps to give a test to the rampaging Rogers.
But it was Pipe who tested Rogers soon after, taking the former Forest man on easily, forcing Rogers to retaliate with a thunderous, yet illegal challenge as he jumped in. Had he connected he may have broken Pipe's leg. The Welshman reacted, with a melee ensuing between the majority of the players. Referee Andy Woolmer immediately banished Rogers to the stands, a red card for him on his Stanley debut.
After much debate, Woolmer also sent Pipe the same way, rather harshly considering his reaction was little more than petty.
Officially Rogers was dismissed for dangerous foul play, and Pipe violent conduct, you could suggest unfairly considering his career could have been seriously hampered by the man Forest fans affectionately called ‘Tank'. The fact that Notts earnt the free-kick from the incident, which was well dramatised by the opposing dugouts, highlighted who the greater sinner was.
It had been Pipe's first sending off of his Notts career, though manager Thompson got his second dismissal soon after, Mr Woolmer placing him in the stands for the alleged use of the word “cheat”.
Following the drama, Gary Silk replaced Martin for Notts, with the youngster slotting into Pipe's place at right-back, Notts attempting to shut up shop and close down the Accrington raid.
Football returned to the game with eight minutes left as Dudfield raced clear. With Lee well placed for a pull back, Dudfield decided to strike at goal when Lee would have an easier chance to beat Elliot. Lee was furious, but Notts had no time to concern themselves as Accrington hurried into a final push.
Ross entered the fray towards the end of the game for the last appearance of his loan spell from Sheffield United. Ross is due for a meeting with United manager Neil Warnock on Monday to see where his future lies, but as it stands this would be his final appearance for the Magpies, as he replaced earlier substitute Mendes, forced off through injury.
The anxiety of the game was coming to a head as Stanley were penalised for two or three niggly challenges as Notts hurriedly attempted to see out the game.
All eyes were on the fourth official as he announced that five minutes were to be added on at the end of the game, to the dismay of the travelling army.
It wasn't until the fifth minute of the five that Notts were forced to defend, Hunt and White blocking attempts well, before Silk hammered clear to the tune of the final whistle.
The away following breathed a huge sigh of relief at collecting the three points, and with it Notts' first double of the campaign, with the strikers getting the credit in the first half and the defenders in the second half, though there was certainly more drama than the 2-1 scoreline suggested.