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15:56 3rd January 2011

Another Three Goal Win

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Notts County welcomed home fans back for the New Year with another convincing win, this time over Hartlepool United.

Against the division's best away performers, the first half was a battle but it was the Magpies that led at the break. Tom Ince was the man to grab the goal with a tremendous finish worthy of his performance across the 90 minutes.

After half time, Notts went on to add two more, as Lee Miller and Craig Westcarr scored for the second match in a row. This wrapped up a second 3-0 win on the bounce and leaves Notts only four points off the Play Offs.

A clash between two in-form sides, it looked set to be an interesting 90 minutes for the first game at Meadow Lane in 2011. Notts were looking to make it six games unbeaten and push towards the mid-table, whereas the Pools were aiming to break into the top-six with a sixth successive win.

Paul Ince decided not to make any changes to the 11 that overcame Walsall 3-0 on Saturday. However, there was a place for Lee Hughes on the bench, following his recovery from illness, which saw him sit out the weekend's match.

Considering both team's recent results, it was unsurprising that the opening stages presented plenty of confident football. Either outfit could have gone in front inside the opening 10 minutes.

Ince, who produced arguably his best performance since joining the club against Walsall, again looked lively in possession. And, he almost found the top corner with a powerful, bending hit on seven minutes, moments before Ben Davies' in-swinging free kick nearly caught out visiting stopper Jake Kean.

Rob Burch had been in excellent form in recent weeks and he showed that again to keep out the Pools. Not only did he gather top-scorer Antony Sweeny's close-range header, he produced an outstanding, acrobatic save to keep out Leon McSweeney's strike that was destined for the top-corner.

Notts' goalkeeper had been playing through the pain of a knee injury, though, and it was disappointing to see him pull up just 13 minutes into the match. He was withdrawn to a standing ovation, with Stuart Nelson coming on as his replacement.

Sweeney's dipping volley from Ritchie Humphrey's long throw almost called Nelson into action within minutes but the ball looped onto the roof of the net. At the other end, Westcarr looked to grab his second goal in as many games, only his effort was dragged wide.

The forward came close again with an audacious attempt, following some neat build-up play by Bishop and Pearce. But, rather than score the opener, he was the one to provide it.

Out-muscling Neil Austin on the left flank, he was able to find Ince inside the box with delicate pass. Carrying the ball with some sharp touches, the wideman struck fiercely into the roof of the net with the outside of his boot.

Tom Ince

It was perfect timing, just ahead of the interval, but Ince could have added his second during added time. Picking the ball up in the final third, he raced towards goal and fired just past the foot of the post from 25 yards.

Hartlepool, as expected, pressed after the break but only McSweeny caused any problems in the opening 15, forcing Nelson to grip well from his curving set-piece. For Notts, Ince had another promising shot blocked and Westcarr's cross could have crept into the corner had Kean not been on his toes to grip the ball at his front post.

It was by no means a game for flowing football, as both sides battled for territory. In rare goalmouth action, Davies cleared the bar with a free kick and McSweeny fired over, when Evan Horwood found him with a diagonal pass from the back.

On 70 minutes, Notts eased the tension by doubling the lead, with Miller finding the net for the second game running. Davies had collected the ball on the right flank and whipped a delightful cross towards the back stick for the striker to head sternly past Kean.

It could have been 3-0 before the celebrations had died down, as both Jon Harley and Ben Davies came close with hopeful hits from range. Still, the home fans didn't have to wait much longer for the third.

Neal Bishop broke down the right and had plenty of options waiting in the area. He opted to pick out Westcarr, who considered spreading the ball to the unmarked Ince but instead turned quickly to rifle into the corner for his ninth of the campaign.

Now it's a trip to Premier League Sunderland to look forward to on Saturday. Notts head to the Stadium of Light full of confidence, having now recorded five wins in six fixtures.


Attendance: 6,285 (405 Hartlepool United supporters)

Carlsberg Man of the Match: Krystian Pearce

    Data provided by Press Association


    For the first 50 years of their existence, England played their home matches all around the country.