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MATCH REPORT

PUBLISHED
20:34 19th January 2010

Notts County 2-1 Forest Green Rovers

An entertaining second period saw Notts County overcome a valiant Forest Green Rovers in a close-fought contest. The opening 45 minutes lacked goalmouth action, but Stephen Hunt's second half opener sparked the game into life. Isaiah Rankin pulled one back for the Blue Square Premier strugglers as they showed the grit required to cause an upset. Within 60 seconds Hughes netted the winner from distance to sent his team into the fourth round, where they will take on Wigan Athletic. It had been more than a month since the black and white stripes had been seen gracing the Meadow Lane field of play, following a series of postponements. With the relentless efforts of the ground staff finally paying off, a buzz lingered around the stands, not just because the Magpies were playing at last, but because the winners would get to test themselves against Premiership opposition in the next round. Notts entered the game on a high, having won four of their last five matches, the latter coming in convincing style away at Burton Albion. The visitors, on the other hand, were experiencing a rough ride in the Blue Square Premier, scrapping to avoid the drop. Battling it out at opposite ends of their respective divisions they might have been, but the early stages saw both teams enjoy spells of possession - the visitors a little more, perhaps - though little of significance was created. One thing was for certain, however: they were successfully frustrating David Kevan's team. Within this early tug of war, Karl Hawley was heavily involved as Notts attempted to gain a stranglehold on the game. First, latching onto a Lee Hughes flick-on, he attempted to lift the ball, quite inventively, over the Rovers' goalkeeper, before creating space, moments later, from the left wing to fire wide of the target from outside the box. Ben Davies thought he'd grabbed the opener when he found enough room to glide infield from the right flank. Striking firmly with his left boot, Terry Burton was required to stoop low to collect, only the ball appeared to wriggle free, leading him to clutch desperately to spare his blushes. The Nails were sticking to their game plan and were proving to be a difficult unit to break down. County sought refuge in the wide positions, the interchanging Davies and Craig Westcarr key, but still they found no opener. Hawley, clambering over Johnnie Jackson, rose highest to connect with a Westcarr centre to narrowly evade the crossbar. Then, Hunt, on his return to the first team, failed to connect cleanly with a deep Davies corner, directing the ball high and wide of Burton's top-corner. Evidently encouraged by the management team's words of wisdom, Notts came out after the break with much greater vigour. Inside the first minute Hughes raced free on goal, with the ball bouncing in his path, but, uncharacteristically, spurned a one-on-one, lifting the ball well wide. Raised by the surge in tempo by the home side, the Kop found their voice, spurring Notts to continue their early bombardment. At the epicentre of the chanting, Davies' low corner was looped into the air for Hughes to nod into the direction of Graeme Lee, who, opening up his body, volleyed authoritatively to rattle the crossbar. The pressure eventually paid off when Davies let fly once more, resulting in Burton spilling the drive into the path of the unmarked Hunt. The well advanced left-back, who had overlapped during the attack, was left with the simple task of prodding the ball into the net from a yard out. Forest Green were not out of the game by a long shot and started to carve out a number of opportunities themselves. Rankin became increasingly involved, utilising the left side to cause a few scares. A low ball from the left gave Jonathan Smith a fantastic chance to level the tie. Narrowing well, Kasper Schmeichel produced his first stop of the match, blocking with his legs. Moments later he was called into action again, having to show great alertness to flick the ball away from Tomi Ameobi, who had controlled clumsily less than a yard out. It was a quick burst of attacks from the underdogs that Notts were struggling to withstand. Rankin, the provider of the aforementioned chances, ultimately dragged the visitors level. Exerting his strength, he was able to muscle past John Thompson onto a hopeful long ball, prior to slamming into the corner to leave the spreading Schmeichel with no chance whatsoever. Concern reverberated around Meadow Lane, the memories of two cup losses at the hands of non-league opposition fresh in the memory. Nonetheless, the mumbles were transformed into cheers when Hughes put the Magpies back in front in spectacular style just a minute after conceding. Controlling a direct ball to his chest, the forward wrong-footed his marker and proceeded to swing the ball around two defenders and the out of position Burton from 25-yards. It was his 19th of the campaign and definitely one of his finest. As the only non-league side left in the tournament, Rovers were eager to extend their run and proved to be quick on the break. A sharp movement involving the front pairing required Schmeichel to stretch out his leg to deflect a skimming effort away to safety. A replay looked destined with 90 minutes glowing on the scoreboard, when a delivery from the right evaded everyone except Conal Platt. Reacting sharply he scooped towards the corner, but thankfully for the Magpies, Schmeichel was able to scurry across to scramble away. County held out, despite the last ditch attempts of the visitors, to proceed into the fourth round for the first time in 15 years. They will now take on Premiership outfit Wigan this Saturday on home soil. Attendance: 4,389 (259 Forest Green Rovers supporters) Hoofers' Man of the Match: Ben Davies Notts County: Kasper Schmeichel, John Thompson, Graeme Lee, Stephen Hunt, Johnnie Jackson, Craig Westcarr (Hamshaw 79), Neal Bishop, Ricky Ravenhill, Ben Davies, Lee Hughes, Karl Hawley (Rodgers 75). Substitutes: Russell Hoult, Mike Edwards, Matt Hamshaw, Ben Fairclough, Jamie Clapham, Luke Rodgers, Ade Akinbiyi. Scorer(s): Hunt (50), Hughes (65) Yellow Card(s): None Forest Green Rovers: Terry Burton, Mark Preece, Paul Stonehouse, David Brown, Conal Platt (Else 90), Jonathan Smith, Danny Powell (Berry 87), Tomi Ameobi, Joe O'Cearuill, Jared Hodgkiss, Isaiah Rankin. Substitutes: Tom Pass, Jack Winterm Jon Else, Steve Davies, Callum Henry, Tyrone Berry. Ben Osman. Scorer(s): Rankin (63) Yellow Card(s): None Report by Dane Vincent
    Data provided by Press Association

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