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16:57 6th August 2011

Three Goals, Three Points

Three first half goals gave Notts County an opening day win over Carlisle United at Brunton park this afternoon.

The first half got off to a brilliant start for the Magpies, when Jeff Hughes smashed home on 13 minutes. The lead was doubled by an own goal, with Francois Zoko guiding Alan Sheehan's free kick into the net.

Lee Hughes added third three minutes into stoppage time with a sublime finish, setting up an interesting second period. Carlisle gave Notts a few problems after the break but they were unable to find a way back into the tie.

Last season's top-scorer Lee Hughes was a surprise name in the starting line-up for the opening day clash and he was joined by captain Neal Bishop, who had survived a late fitness test. Four new signings - Hamza Bencherif, Julian Kelly, Sheehan and Jeff Hughes - all made their full debuts.

Light rain sprinkled the Brunton Park pitch ahead of kick-off, creating a slick surface, perfectly suited for a passing game. Despite the gloominess, there was cheer around the stadium, because football was back.

Stuart Nelson was the first goalkeeper to be tested during a tentative start to the fixture. Full-back Frank Simek's low cross had skidded off the turf and Nelson had to watch closely as he gathered at his near-post.

Notts looked dangerous in attack and, on 13 minutes, went ahead, after Karl Hawley found Lee Hughes down the right flank. The frontman's chipped cross from the by-line found Jeff Hughes, who slammed into the roof of the net at the back post.

Controversy surrounded the goal, because of a coming together in the build up between Lee Hughes and Peter Murphy. But, the referee waved away the protests, incensing the home support.

Bishop almost doubled County's lead moments later but Carlisle goalkeeper Adam Collin bundled the low hit behind for a corner. The Cumbrians could equally have levelled the scores, when Murphy headed wide from James Berrett's free kick.

Ricky Ravenhill volleyed over, minutes before the Magpies made it 2-0, courtesy of an own goal by Zoko. Sheehan's in-swinging set-play from the right wing skimmed off the striker's head and into the top corner.

On 39 minutes, Lubomir Michalik thought he'd pulled one back for United. Connecting with a half clearance on the edge of the box, he volleyed inches past the bottom corner.

In added time of the first half, Lee Hughes tucked away his 50th goal in County colours, when he intercepted Tom Taiwo's under-hit back-pass. Hughes proceeded to round the outrushing stopper before slotting into the far corner with a left-footed finish.

Lee Hughes

The second half started in a heated manner, as Murphy and Lee Hughes were again involved in an off the ball incident. Shortly after, Hughes was removed and replaced by Craig Westcarr.

Carlisle were the first to threaten after the break, when half time substitute Andy Welsh broke down the left to provide another sub, Rory Loy, with possession. The forward's low centre looked to find Zoko but Nelson reached out to intercept.

An offensive free kick saw Bencherif's effort charged down, leading the ball to loop unexpectedly in behind the County backline. Welsh raced clear, with Julian Kelly in hot pursuit, but his placed finish rolled narrowly wide.

Another sub, Liam Noble, was next to come close for the hosts, only his back-post header was directed wide. At the other end, Bencherif glanced just wide, rounding off a well-rehearsed set-play.

Moments before being replaced by Jude Stirling, Jeff Hughes had a header pushed away. This followed Westcarr's turn and shot, after fine work by Hawley in the channel.

Notts appeared increasingly comfortable as the time ticked away and Martin Allen introduced Ishmel Demontagnac for his final alteration. The players and fans applauded each other at the final whistle in celebration of a fine performance and a deserved three points.

Attendance: 5,941 (552 away supporters)

Man of the Match: Alan Sheehan

Magpie Player

    Data provided by Press Association


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