Match Sponsored By:
Notts County moved four points clear of the relegation zone this evening after defeating Colchester United 2-0 at Meadow Lane.
In an entertaining first 45, Craig Westcarr grabbed his first goal since the Sunderland win to put County ahead. An own goal from U's defender Nathan Clarke then doubled Notts' lead eight minutes before the break.
Paul Ince's message to his team was for them to make up for the weekend's loss to Exeter City with a much better display. With Swindon Town's game cancelled, due to a waterlogged pitch, it gave the Magpies a great opportunity to put some daylight between themselves and the relegation places.
Both new loan players were handed their full debuts, with Conor Clifford and Kevin McDonald joining Neal Bishop as part of a three-man midfield. There was also a place on the bench for exciting winger David Martin, who had missed the last two matches with a groin injury.
Both sides had good chances in a lively opening 10 minutes. For the visitors, David Mooney skimmed the post with a clever chip and Stuart Nelson was required to rush out and deny Kayode Odejayi, who raced into the box after gathering Jon Harley's wayward pass.
Krystian Pearce forced Nelson's opposite number, Mark Cousins, into an acrobatic save for the first of Notts' opportunities - a thumping header, after Alan Gow had worked the right channel. Gow then came close himself with a half volley that dipped just over the crossbar.
McDonald was next to test Cousins, when he bent the ball towards the bottom corner from the edge of the box. The goalkeeper parried and Clifford almost pounced on the rebound, only to have his marker, Matt Heath, wrestle the ball away from him.
Notts continued to edge their way on top and Westcarr managed to give them the lead, when he chased Gow's flicked pass in behind the U's backline. The forward touched the ball past Cousins, who had rushed out of his goal, and slotted home.
Gow almost allowed McDonald to grab a second, when he cut the ball back from the by-line, but the midfielder's hit was deflected wide. Clifford fired the resulting corner towards the near post and was overjoyed to see Clarke direct it into his own net, making it 2-0.
Following the interval, Notts continued to look bright, though it was Colchester that threatened first. Gathering a clearance, Mooney struck sternly towards the bottom corner but Nelson reacted sharply to palm the ball away.
When McDonald found Lee Hughes with a pass down the right flank, Notts almost went three up. Westcarr met Hughes' low cross at the back post but Lee Beevers somehow managed to deflect it wide of the target.
Hughes came even closer on 67 minutes with a delightful chip from the corner of the box. However, Cousins scurried back to his goal line to claw the ball over his bar.
Notts, on the whole, looked resolute, except when a long ball from the back saw Odejayi escape. He lifted the ball over the outrushing Nelson but was unable to find the bottom corner.
David Mooney also had a shot from range, which Nelson gathered coolly, down to his right. Although McDonald had been handed the Man of the Match award, the home stopper wasn't far away from scooping it himself, as he didn't put a foot wrong all evening.
Five minutes of added time - much due to a change in referee - was played but the closest Colchester came was from a free kick, where substitute Lloyd James cleared the top corner by inches. Notts now head into the FA Cup replay with Manchester City in a much more positive frame of mind.
Attendance: 4,041 (155 Colchester United supporters)
Caine-Douglas Man of the Match: Kevin McDonald