Two League Wins in a Row for Notts

The game was hardly a classic but it's exactly the game Notts need to win, and should have been winning at the start of the season, when they were defeated in similar games 1-0.

Notts manager Billy Dearden decided to make one change from the side that did so well in the Carling Cup at Chelsea in the week, bringing in top scorer Mark Stallard for Paul Heffernan. Danny Livesey was also fit again and took his place on the bench.

The game started incredibly slowly, with Notts clearly still hungover from Wednesday's Carling Cup exploits, despite insisting this game was as important.

Infact, this game was the exact opposite of Wednesday's. Few chances for either side and the quality of football was poor.

If Notts were expecting a come down, they sure got one. They were back playing Second Division football and they had better get used to it, and fast.

We had to wait 5 minutes before the first goal attempt from either side, but Hartlepool's Ritchie Humphreys long range effort flew high into the Family Stand.

Paul Riley- Had another busy afternoon
Notts' first goal attempt came 11 minutes in, but Darren Caskey's free-kick was comfartably dealt with by 'Pool keeper Jim Provett.

Notts, despite showing little going forward, were looking solid at the back, with Barras and Jenkins in particular putting in some solid tackles.

Hartlepool full-back John Brackstone was then shown the first yellow card of the contest for a scathing late tackle on Steve Jenkins.

With 25 minutes gone, Steve Mildenhall did well to hold on to a dipping Ritchie Humphreys volley.

Notts then had a sound penalty appeal turned down by referee Paul Danson, when a handball had appeared to have taken place in the Hartlepool penalty area.

In the last 15 minutes of an extremely dull half, Notts had two chances to score.

First, Simon Baldry's shot forced Provett into an excellent low save, then Paul Riley just failed to connect with Baldry's cross as he appeared to try a spectacular scissor kick when a simple header would have sufficed.

HALF TIME: Notts County 0-0 Hartlepool United

With the second half getting underway, everyone in the entire stadium was wishing for an improvement on the first half.

The first attempt on goal was again from Hartlepool, but Humphreys long range effort flew wide of Mildenhall's left hand post.

With 10 minutes of the half gone (yawn) Hartlepool made the first change of the afternoon, which also signalled a change in their formation.

Brackstone was replaced by their top scorer, Paul Robinson, which meant their previously lone striker Richardson, now had a partner in attack.

Simon Baldry- Got on the scoresheet this afternoon
With an hour on the clock, and the game still lacking in any form of entertainment, Mark Stallard declined an invitation to strike a loose ball at goal when the ball was crying out to be hit.

Three minutes later though, and the game got the goal it was crying out for and thankfully for us, it was a Notts one.

Darren Caskey's corner from the right was half cleared and with Clive Platt holding off about 3 defenders, Simon Baldry riffled home an 18 yard shot for his first league goal for the club.

Hartlepool missed a golden chance to equalise just 4 minutes later.

Experienced midfielder Mark Tinkler fired way over the crossbar when in acres of space and he really should have hit the target.

Notts were then very unlucky as Ian Baraclough's seemingly goal bound shot was blocked by his own man! I'm sure Bara had a word to say to Stallard afterwards!

With 20 minutes remaining Billy decided to make Notts' first change, taking off Stallard, who clearly isn't fit, for Heffernan.

Heffernan made an immediate impact and should have put the game beyond doubt with 15 minutes remaining.

Darren Caskey, who again shone in the second half, ran (honest) the length of the field before putting in Heffernan on the left, but unfortunately Heffernan's shot was straight at Provett.

Heffernan then came close again with a left footed snapshot that fizzed just across goal.

Notts were enjoying their best spell of the game and Clive Platt was the latest man to make Provett work, after connecting with Jenkins' cross.

With 7 minutes remaining Simon Baldry, who was full of running all afternoon, was left one on one with a Hartlepool defender.

Unsurprisingly, Baldry managed to take the ball round him but Strachan then tripped the Notts winger. The referee decided against showing Strachan a red card and deemed a yellow suitable punishment.

Hartlepool substitute, the ever popular Marco Gabbiadini, then came close, but his shot crepped wide of Mildenhall's left hand post.

Kevin 'whoopsey missed it' Nicholson
With 5 minutes remaining, Notts made their second and final change, taking off Paul Riley, who again was full of running down the left, for Kevin Nicholson.

With 3 minutes to go, came the mother of all misses. This was a miss upon misses.

Ian Baraclough broke through midfield and did everything right. Beat the man, but instead of finishing it off himself, kindly toe poked the ball to unrushing substitute Nicholson. Oh dear.

Nicholson, who was about 4 yards out at this point and with no 'keeper to beat, scuffed his right footed shot wide of the post. Absoloutly unbelievable.

There was still uneccessary booing the next time Nicholson touched the ball, from people that are supposedly his teams fans.

The miss was terrible, but he knows it was bad and it didn't matter in the end anyway, so the booing was really uncalled for.

There was still time for Marco Gabbiadini to make himself even more unpopular by scathing down Richo twice in injury time. The referee booked him, but he really should have been sent off.

FULL TIME: Notts County 1-0 Hartlepool United

So a valuable 3 points for Notts, points that take them out of the bottom four for the first time this season.

The game may have been dire, but this is the sort of game that Notts were losing by the odd goal earlier in the season, Wrexham for example. So if they can grind out results without playing particularly well, especially against opposition near the top, then it sure is a good sign.

Match Ratings to follow.