The Pressure turns up a notch as Notts fall, again.

Last updated : 20 December 2003 By Richard Brown

Steve Mildenhall
Steve Mildenhall : On form
Dearden named an unchanged side from last weeks disappointing draw with Wycombe Wanderers. This meant NO starting place for Adam Murray who admits that first team football will be the decisive factor in deciding his future at
Meadow Lane or elsewhere.

Notts travelled down to Home Park with a contingent of just 134 diehard supporters – barely two coach loads – hoping to be sent home with an early Christmas present to remember as Notts took on a Plymouth side with eyes only for the division’s top-spot.

If ever there was a game that you wouldn’t want to witness, then this was the one. In fact it took both teams the excess of 10 minutes before either side made any significant impact on the game. But when the game finally got its first chance, it was inevitably
Plymouth who created it. A somewhat ambitious shot from Lee Hodges on the left-flank was parried away by Steve Mildenhall.

Six minutes passed and Marino Keith popped up at the far post to force Mildenhall into action to deny the Pilgrims of the opener.

Nicky Fenton became the first name down on the referee’s Christmas card list as he looked for a souvenir of the game by snatching the shirt from Marino Keith’s back. Fenton’s booking followed Mark Stallard half-rounding the
Plymouth ‘keeper before allowing him to rise to his feet, and to the occasion, and pounce onto the ball.

Mildenhall was once more at the heart of the action as he was on hand to keep out David Norris’ header.

Stallard had another chance to break the deadlock, but when through on the goalkeeper, produced a dissapointing effort that was saved by Plymouth 'keeper Luke McCormick.

Stallard then did find the net, off the rebound for a Paul Heffernan strike, but his effort was chalked off by referee Phillip Olivier for pushing.

Adam Murray : On the Bench
However it was high-flying Plymouth who undid all County's hard work by breaking the deadlock, despite the best efforts from a floundering Ian Baraclough on the line, Nathan Lowndes thumped home from close range.

A quick succession of corners the ensued shortly after the goal – however unfortunately for Notts, it was the Pilgrimages who were doing the right things in the right areas as Mark Stallard and Ian Richardson cleared two successive corners before a shot from Peter Gilbert struck one of what could have been any Notts players frantically throwing their bodies in the path of the ball.

From that moment forward the half was as good as dead with fifteen minutes of niggling fouls, long-balls, throw-ins in pointless positions and poor Adam Murray still wasting away on the bench.

HALF TIME: Plymouth Argyle 1-0 NOTTS COUNTY

The second half started brightly for Notts as they won the first corner of the half with just short of a minute played. From then on for the next two minutes the sight of Darren Caskey switching sides for the next corner and Plymouth easing the ball into touch became very much routine.

Caskey was once more involved as he followed Fenton into the book for a silly push on the Plymouth 'keeper, which the home crowd believed was worthy of a red card, but the ref sensibly issued a yellow to the midfielder.

Plymouth’s Marino Keith was clearly not struggling to find his form as his colourful performance was highlighted by an exciting five minutes for Plymouth as they picked up the second half on the same note as the first, as the constant harassment began to harvest rewards by the Pilgrims constantly pinning County inside there own 18-yard box.

Tony Barras was then given his first run out in a month for Notts as he was brought on to take the place of thigh strain victim Nicky Fenton at the heart of the County back-four.

With 66 minutes gone, Paul Bolland picked up a deserved booking for a foul on Plymouth’s Nathan Lowndes.

5 minutes later and Darren Caskey was replaced by Adam Murray who surely must now be having doubts on the role he has to play at Notts County as Dearden’s bewildering decision not to start Murray today, alongside today’s result, leaves questions with doubts over what the position regarding Dearden and his job are at this point.

The fact that Caskey was removed also raises doubts as to whether Mr.Dearden has any tactical sense whatsoever.

Tony Capaldi, Marino Keith and also Pilgrim’s goal scorer, Nathan Lowndes were soon substituted after their numbers arose to be replaced by those of David Friio, Micky Evans and the gaffer’s son, Blair Sturrock.

Micky Evans : On something?
One of these substitutes, namely Micky Evans, was to make a telling contribution within minutes of his introduction as he put the ball past Mildenhall with a sweet right footed effort from point-blank range on 79 minutes.

Notts were looking more and more vulnerable by the second as the difference between the two sides looked to be the admirable efficiency of the Pilgrims attack.

This gulf of fortune between two teams who entered the game placed second (Plymouth) and twenty second (Notts) became even more visible as seven minutes after being brought into the action and just four minutes after netting his first, Micky Evans struck once again to add to County’s woes with his second of the game with another well executed strike.

A goal which proved to kill-off the remainder of the game from both teams’ perspectives.

FULL TIME: Plymouth Argyle 3-0 NOTTS COUNTY

No complaints about the outcome of the game, although plenty about Dearden’s status at the club as countless Notts County messageboards were, are and will continue to be chock-a-block with ‘Dearden Out!’ calls – ones I understand will be echoed on the terrace come Boxing Day as Notts face-up to the tough task of halting QPR’s ambitions of reclaiming their place at the top of the Second Division.

Finally, I will take this chance to wish all of NCM’s site-visitors a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.