Match Sponsored By:
A goal either side of half time saw Notts County record a 2-0 win over Gateshead in the first round of the FA Cup.
Ben Davies opened the scoring from the penalty spot 22 minutes in. The win was secured seven minutes from time by substitute Luke Rodgers' tidy finish.
The Magpies reached the fifth round of the tournament last season, where the dream was ended at Craven Cottage in a 4-0 loss to Fulham. It was a memorable journey, one that Notts were looking to recreate, starting with a win over non-league Gateshead.
Paul Ince, taking his place on the touchline for the first time since arriving at the club, made a number of changes from the side that lost 3-1 to Southampton the previous Saturday. Most notably, his son, forward Tom Ince, and full-back Stephen Darby, who are both on-loan from Liverpool, came into the starting 11, along with Liam Chilvers and Lee Hughes.
Ince almost grabbed a debut goal in the opening 10 minutes, when Hughes controlled Stephen Hunt's diagonal ball into the box with his chest. Ince collected and unleashed a strong, first-time volley that forced visiting goalkeeper Tim Deasy to parry away.
Stephen Hunt, a two-time goal-scorer in last year's competition, had a low shot blocked, following a neat interchange between Davies and Karl Hawley, as Notts dominated the opening stages. Ince also grazed the bar from distance, rounding off a charging run into the final third.
Notts' early pressure was eventually rewarded with a penalty on 22 minutes, after Hughes had been bundled to the ground by the imposing centre-back James Curtis. Davies confidently stepped up to place the ball into the bottom corner for his eighth goal of the campaign.
The pressure was maintained on the back of the opener and the lead could have been doubled on more than one occasion. Karl Hawley's deflected centre almost found the bottom corner and Ince's bending strike flew narrowly wide of the angle.
Gateshead almost pulled level on 39 minutes, with Curtis nearly making amends for his earlier foul. The defender was able to find space to strike Martin Brittain's corner at goal through a crowd of players but Rob Burch smothered the effort.
After the break, the Tynesiders came out with no fear and could have drawn level within the first two minutes. Brittain smashed inches over with a direct free kick and later teed up Jon Shaw with a delightful cross, but the striker was unable to beat Burch, who gathered low to his left.
But, it wasn't long before Notts gained control of the game again and Ricky Ravenhill almost doubled the advantage with a dipping volley, which nestled on the roof of the net. Two more chances followed in quick succession: Davies' deflected cross was desperately palmed away and Hughes curved just wide.
It was proving to be end-to-end stuff, though, and Gateshead refused to give up without a fight. Curtis again made his presence felt up top with a troublesome header that bobbled wide and Burch was required to stretch well in order to keep out another promising Brittain set-piece.
Hawley had a fantastic opportunity to grab his first of the term on 70 minutes but he failed to connect sufficiently with Davies' whipped cross. Gathering a poor clearance, substitute Neal Bishop dragged his shot well wide.
Another goal looked to be on the cards but which way it would go wasn't clear. Davies swung agonisingly wide from the wing with a trademark free kick and, for the visitors, Gary Mulligan almost crept in, only for Darby to hook the ball away from him at the last plausible moment.
Finally, on 83 minutes, a goal came through County sub Luke Rodgers. Hughes had flicked on a long punt from Burch, allowing the fleet-footed frontman to rifle home past the outrushing Deasy.
The fourth official declared five minutes of added time and Rodgers should have added a second when Hawley sent him racing clear on goal. However, his attempt appeared to deflect off his shin and was directed harmlessly off target.
Notts never looked troubled as they counted down the clock and the home supporters were pleased to see their side avoid a potential banana skin. They will now be looking out for the second round draw on Sunday afternoon.
Attendance: 3,325 (260 Gateshead supporters)
Carlsberg Man of the Match: Ben Davies