Match In Association With...
One goal was enough to lift Notts County eight points clear of the drop zone in a 1-0 win against Charlton Athletic this evening.
Four minutes into the second period, Neal Bishop put Notts ahead in unorthodox fashion. Athletic looked certain to level from the spot but Stuart Nelson preserved the lead by keeping out Bradley Wright-Phillips' tame hit.
It was back to the league for Paul Ince's Magpies, following an end to the FA Cup run at the weekend. And, for the second game running, the television cameras were focused on Notts, though they were hoping for a more positive outcome this time around.
County lined up in a flexible 4-3-3 formation, consisting of Alan Gow and Karl Hawley on the wings and Craig Westcarr in the centre. Carl Regan was named in the starting 11 for his debut, though John Thompson was also called up, because of an injury to Jon Harley in the warm up.
Regan almost made an immediate impact in the black and white stripes, when he was given space on the wing by Hawley's incisive pass. The full-back fired a low cross in from the left, narrowly evading the outstretched foot of Westcarr.
Westcarr was able to get a shot away, when Neal Bishop fed him the ball on the edge of the box, following a fortunate deflection. The forward turned sharply and aimed for the bottom corner but Rob Elliot reached low to palm clear.
The Addicks' first opening came as a result of a long ball over the top, which saw Nelson come rushing out of his area. Notts' stopper collided with Joe Anyinsah and was deemed fortunate - by the visiting supporters, at least - to come away with just a booking.
Johnnie Jackson, returning to Meadow Lane for the first time since leaving Notts, created Charlton's next chance with a low cross from the left. Nelson fumbled and Bradley Wright-Phillips looked to capitalise, but he failed to hit the target from close range.
Alan Gow twice came close for Notts, as both outfits continued to search for an opener. He first tested Elliot with a low, bending effort and then cleared the bar with a dipping volley.
With the first half drawing to a close, Nathan Ecclestone seemed set to give Charlton the lead heading into the break. He burst towards goal, only to have Nelson rush out and block his strike.
Within four minutes of the restart, Notts went in front, as Bishop grabbed his second goal of the season. Gow had aimed his free kick towards the near post and the midfielder deflected the ball home with his backside.
Substitute Scott Wagstaff almost pulled one back immediately but he was unable to beat Nelson with his volley. But, Westcarr could have doubled the lead after he finished off a persistent run with a fierce strike that flew over the bar.
There were further close calls, as Hawley charged down Elliot, following Carl Jenkins' wild back pass. At the other end, Christian Dailly fired narrowly over from Simon Francis' corner.
But, the finest opportunity for the visitors to draw level was from the spot, when Mike Edwards crashed into Anyinsah. Wright-Phillips stepped up but was denied by Nelson, who gathered low to his right - immediately lifting the home crowd.
As the fixture edged towards the closing stages, Charlton continued to press but Notts were standing up well to their advances. Conor Clifford was introduced in place of Gow with 10 minutes left on the clock to strengthen the barricade, leaving only Hughes, who had earlier replaced Hawley, in attack.
Westcarr almost secured all three points with a tremendous punt in added time but Elliot reacted acrobatically to parry. Still, Notts held out and will go into Tuesday night's game at Brentford with the aim of climbing even further up the table.
Attendance: 8,141 (686 Charlton Athletic supporters)
The Co-operative Man of the Match: Neal Bishop