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21:43 25th January 2011

Hughes Strike Secures A Point

Lee Hughes came off the bench to rescue a point for Notts County in a 1-1 draw against Hartlepool United.

In a first half lacking goalmouth action, it looked set to be 0-0 at the interval. However, Gary Liddle's timed run allowed him to put the Pools ahead seven minutes before the half time.

Hughes' introduction for the second period gave the Magpies more attacking options. And there were no surprises when he popped up to grab 69th minute leveller.

The travelling support were relieved that only a light drizzle sprinkled the Victoria Park pitch prior to kick-off, following the freak downpour that caused the original fixture to be postponed just three minutes in. Notts had turned their form around since then but remained eager to bounce back from a first loss in nine games at the weekend.

An injury crisis had led to multiple changes from the side that faced Carlisle United. On-loan Dave Martin was named in the starting line-up, alongside Ben Burgess and Graeme Lee, who made their first starts under Paul Ince.

Stephen Darby also returned to the starting 11 in a new role on the right wing. Back from a calf injury, Hughes was named as a substitute.

In a tentative opening, the hosts were the only ones to threaten. Top-scorer Antony Sweeney volleyed tamely at goal from close range and Andy Monkhouse struck just past Stuart Nelson's upright from the edge of the box.

Notts looked solid but offered little going forward, with the long option being used to little success. However, with 10 minutes remaining until the break, Notts started to get the ball on the deck.

On the right flank, John Thompson laid the ball off for Darby to swing a cross towards the six-yard box. Craig Westcarr nipped across his marker but his header drifted inches over.

The game was sparked into life on 38 minutes, when Paul Murray's lofted pass found Gary Liddle totally unmarked inside the area. The midfielder had beaten the offside trap and fired the ball underneath Nelson, who had rushed sharply off his line.

Just before the break, Krystian Pearce had to be withdrawn due to a head injury and was replaced by Karl Hawley. This led to a shuffle in personnel, as Darby moved to right-back, Thompson reverted to the heart of defence and Westcarr switched to the wing.

Burgess, who had been limping towards the end of the first 45, was withdrawn at half time. Hughes, his replacement, almost made an impact inside the first five minutes of the restart, shooting wide from Thompson's headed knockdown.

It was a better start for Notts and more chances followed, after home sub Joe Gamble had given them a scare with a drive across goal. Westcarr, back up front, gathered Hughes' header for the first, but was dismayed to see his hit deflected around the post by a fine Murray block.

Cutting inside from the right wing, past two players, Martin also came close. Pools stopper Jake Kean had to race quickly across to his near post to keep out the winger's crisp strike.

Martin was getting plenty of joy out on the right and was again presented with the ball when Neal Bishop rose high to win a crucial header in midfield. Martin's floated cross found Hawley, who headed into the path of Hughes to scramble the ball home for the equaliser.

Hartlepool almost regained the lead within a minute of Hughes' 11th goal of the campaign, as Leon McSweeney's long-range punt narrowly cleared the top-corner. At the other end, Alan Judge forced Kean to parry clear with a stern effort from 25 yards out.

In a nail biting close to the match, Judge thought he'd clinched all three points with a spectacular attempt. Kean was beaten but the ball cannoned back of the advertising boards, rather than nestle in the back of the net.

During three minutes of added time, Monkhouse came even closer for the hosts. His dipping effort look destined for the net but Nelson somehow reached back to claw the ball over the bar and save a point for his team.

Attendance: 2,545 (196 Notts County supporters)

Magpie Player Man of the Match: John Thompson

    Data provided by Press Association


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