10-man Notts County were defeated 2-1 this afternoon by an organised Bristol Rovers.
It was back to league action for the Magpies at the Memorial Stadium, as they looked to bounce back from a heartbreaking loss in the Carling Cup on Tuesday night. The performance against Premier League Wolves was inspiring and another display like that would certainly cause problems for the Pirates.
Ricky Ravenhill returned to the team, following his one-match ban, as part of a flexible five-man midfield and Alan Judge retained his place in the centre to make his first league start since joining on loan from Blackburn Rovers. Despite being named in the starting 11 on the teamsheet, Lee Hughes did not take up his regular spot at the spearhead of the team, Jake Jervis instead coming into the side.
Early goals have been an issue for Notts this term and Will Hoskins further highlighted that on four minutes. The former County youth rose to meet Carl Regan's centre and glanced it into the far top corner to give the hosts the lead.
Hoskins' strike-partner, John Akinde, almost doubled the deficit moments later from Chris Lines' diagonal delivery into the box. Under heavy pressure from John Thompson, he poked harmlessly wide of the target.
Craig Short didn't hesitate to change his side's shape in an attempt to level the tie. With Judge shifting onto the wing, joint top-scorer Craig Westcarr joined Jervis in attack.
Still, Notts' offensive threat was largely restricted in the fixture's opening. However, everyone thought that Judge had levelled the game in spectacular style on 24 minutes.
The adaptable midfielder had moved up front, switching with Westcarr, and collected a clearance on the edge of the area, before proceeded to bend the ball into the bottom corner. Celebrations were cut short, though, when it became clear, several seconds later, that the ball had deflected behind the goal off the stanchion.
Judge was looking like Notts' biggest threat and he had home goalkeeper Mikkel Andersen worrying again with an effort that bounced narrowly wide. Krystian Pearce also came close with a thumping header from a Davies corner but the crossbar denied him.
Although the Magpies were showing more promise going forward, Rovers still looked dangerous and could have added a second on more than one occasion. Jeff Hughes headed a Stuart Campbell free kick inches past the post and Lines forced Stuart Nelson to palm away with a chipped shot.
But the game was to swing in Bristol's favour in the 39th minute, as Graeme Lee was shown his second yellow card for a block on Akinde. As the centre-back trudged into the changing rooms, Lines stepped up to fire around the wall and into the side netting.
10-man Notts held out until the break but more changes were required as a result of the sending off. Edwards, who slotted in at the heart of defence, replaced Jervis and Westcarr returned to the forward line.
Inside 10 minutes of the restart Rovers were two up, again through Hoskins. Pearce's pass out of defence was intercepted and the forward made room for himself to strike accurately into the bottom corner.
And Hoskins might have completed his hat-trick shortly after but he was unable to direct Gary Sawyer's delivery at goal. Rovers were on top and a comeback was looking unlikely at this point.
Jo Kuffour had a better chance to add a third when he was presented with the ball six-yards out, directly in front of goal. Taking a touch, he blasted directly at Nelson, somehow failing to score.
More substitutions saw Karl Hawley and Kevin Smith make up a new-look forward line and the pair combined well, as Notts almost pulled one back. Smith held up play strongly and laid the ball into the path of Hawley, whose stern hit was hacked off the line.
Hawley was then influential in making the score 2-1 by intercepting a back pass. It appeared that he had wasted his opportunity but his block fell to Davies, who slotted home.
There was hope of salvaging something from the match and it nearly happened on three occasions. Hawley's shot was blocked by Andersen at his near post, Pearce curled over from range and Davies almost prodded in his second of the afternoon.
Davies hoped for a penalty deep into stoppage time but the referee booked him for diving instead. Ultimately, another late fight back failed to materialise this time around and the home team scooped all three points, though Notts will have another chance to get back to winning ways on Tuesday when they travel to Peterborough.
Attendance: 5,962 (332 Notts County supporters)
Magpie Player Man of the Match: Alan Judge