10-man Notts County were defeated 2-1 by Sheffield Wednesday this afternoon at Hillsborough.
Wednesday dictated much of the play in the first 45 but failed to make the most of their territorial advantage. This enabled Notts to go in at the break a goal to the good, courtesy of a well-placed Jeff Hughes penalty.
Julian Bennett equalised shortly into the second period and Gary Madine added a second on 66 minutes, leaving County chasing the game. Getting back on level terms was made a sterner task when Neal Bishop was shown a second yellow card and Notts were unable to find a way back.
Following the exciting 3-2 triumph over Tranmere Rovers on Tuesday night, the Magpies were looking to make it back-to-back wins in front of the Hillsborough crowd. Three changes were orchestrated from the side that started against Rovers, with Karl Hawley, Alan Judge and Hamza Bencherif drafted into the starting 11.
Cristian Montano and Craig Westcarr dropped to the bench, whereas Ricky Ravenhill was ruled out through injury, following a heavy knock to the head. However, the midfielder was present on the sideline to show his support for the team and applauded the travelling fans ahead of kick-off.
Wednesday set the tempo early on and wideman Ben Marshall was causing the Notts rearguard a few problems on both wings. His first centre, from the left, evaded everyone and Lewis Buxton had an effort blocked by Mike Edwards, before blazing over on the rebound.
From the right flank, Marshall's next delivery wasn't cleared, allowing David Prutton space to shoot. The midfielder composed himself and rifled powerfully into the side-netting.
Despite this early pressure, it was County that took the lead, after Chris Lines had handled inside the area. As he did so coolly against Tranmere, Jeff Hughes tucked away the spot-kick, striking into the bottom-right corner, out of Nicky Weaver's reach.
The hosts threatened to draw level through Madine, when he latched onto Prutton's diagonal pass, but his cutback was intercepted by Stuart Nelson's extended glove. Madine then struck wide from 25 yards, after Judge had been stripped of possession.
Bishop almost made it 2-0 to County on 21 minutes, when he latched onto Hawley's lay-off to fire just past the post. At the other end, an unmarked Clinton Morrison headed over from Lines' dangerous swinging free kick.
The Owls kept up the pressure as the match edged towards the break but they were unable to find the final ball. This was combined with Notts' organisation and willingness to throw bodies on the line, which became a source of frustration for the home fans.
On 52 minutes, Wednesday equalised through Bennett. It appeared that the ball had gone out of play, only for Morrison to chip towards the back post, where Bennett slammed through a hoard of players, who had attempted to block on the goal line.
The goal prompted a substitution by Notts, with Cristian Montano replacing Judge. Montano was immediately in the thick of the action and was twice denied by Danny Batth's challenges, during lengthy spell of pressure.
Weaver then pushed away Montano's goal-bound header, after he'd pulled away from his marker to connect with Jeff Hughes' out-swinging corner. In reply, Marshall nodded Reda Johnson's long throw at goal, though Nelson collected neatly.
In the 66th minute, the hosts made it 2-1 through Madine. Buxton had burst down the right to deliver a teasing low cross that was crashed against the roof of the net by Madine.
Bencherif tested Weaver with a strike that skidded off the greasy surface shortly before being removed. Westcarr was his replacement and he almost made it 2-2 with 16 minutes left on the clock.
Inside the area, Hughes met Westcarr's run with a weighted lay-off and the forward only had Weaver to beat. But, his left-footed hit flew past the top corner.
County then went down to 10 men, after Bishop was shown a second yellow card. Still, Martin Allen maintained a three-pronged attack, as his team searched for a leveller.
Montano found room behind the Wednesday backline thanks to Lee Hughes but was pushed wide of goal by the goalkeeper. The forward resorted to chipping towards Hawley, whose volley was charged down.
In the final minute of regulation play, Jeff Hughes' hold-up play allowed Westcarr to blast high and wide. This left four minutes of added time for the Magpies to salvage something from the fixture but the late bombardment of the home box proved fruitless.
Man of the Match: Jeff Hughes