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Notts County picked up a deserved three points this afternoon in their 2-1 win against Walsall.
Notts dominated the first half and created plenty of chances, but it wasn't until the 38th minute that they went ahead. Lee Hughes made it 1-0 with an unstoppable volley - arguably his finest finish in County colours.
Andy Butler made it 1-1 with a header from a set-piece but Notts got back in front through Cristian Montano, who found the bottom corner with a sublime finish. Jon Macken gave Notts a scare deep into injury time but it was the home fans that went home happy, following another strong performance and another three points in the bag.
Less than two days after claiming a 1-1 draw with Italian giants Juventus in Turin, the Magpies were back at Meadow Lane for the npower League 1 fixture with Walsall. Martin Allen's side were looking to claim back-to-back home wins, following the triumph over AFC Bournemouth seven days earlier.
There was one change from the Cherries game, with Ben Burgess missing out after failing a late fitness test. In his place was Cristian Montano, who scored off the bench last Saturday and no doubt added freshness to the Notts frontline, having missed the European venture.
None of the Magpies' starting 11 seemed affected by the midweek trip and looked sharp from the first whistle. From this bright start, Notts were unlucky not to go in front on multiple occasions.
The first of the chances came from Stuart Nelson's targeted kick, which was flicked on by Jeff Hughes. Montano collected and showed great strength to muscle his way into space, before rattling the post with a stunning hit from the edge of the box.
Krystian Pearce cleared the bar after connecting with Alan Sheehan's whipped cross and Lee Hughes almost caught out visiting goalkeeper David Grof with a hopeful overhead attempt, as County mounted the pressure. Alan Judge then picked out Hughes in another goal-scoring position with a bending free kick, only for the frontman's header to bounce agonisingly wide.
On 22 minutes, Walsall threatened for the first time, with Kevan Hurst striking inches high of the top corner, but it was Notts that continued to dictate. Lee Hughes volleyed powerfully wide from Julian Kelly's near-post delivery and Alan Judge forced Grof to punch clear with a goal-bound free kick from the left flank.
Notts' next opening came 12 minutes later, where Jeff Hughes picked out Montano with a superb through-pass. The forward's placed shot was tipped away by Grof and Butler was able to put enough pressure on Lee Hughes for him to prod wide on the rebound.
Lee Hughes opened the scoring in spectacular style as half time lingered, sending the home faithful into hysterics. From 12 yards out, Hughes controlled Judge's centre on his chest and then proceeded to fire an unstoppable volley into the top corner on the turn.
The second period opened much slower than the first and both sides struggled to create anything in the final third. But, the match was sparked back into life on 59 minutes, when Jon Macken volleyed towards the bottom corner, requiring Nelson to scurry across his goal line to push clear.
Two minutes later, the Saddlers drew level from a set-play. Richard Taundry swung the ball into the County box, where Butler rose high power a header past Nelson from six yards.
It took the Magpies only four minutes to get back in front, courtesy of a weighted overhead pass by Neal Bishop. Montano held off his marker as he gathered inside the box and struck sternly into the bottom corner, off the inside of the post.
With 11 minutes to spare, the visitors thought they'd equalised for a second time, after Mat Sadler's free kick from deep evaded Nelson. The ball deflected towards goal off the chest of Manny Smith but Krystian Pearce raced to divert over with a heroic headed clearance on the line.
Sheehan's corner gave Mike Edwards a chance to seal the points but he headed over. Montano then retained possession inside the area to set up Jeff Hughes at the back post, though Sadler's well-anticipated header denied him a certain goal.
Four minutes of added time was shown and the Saddlers threw everyone forward, as they pumped balls into the box. Macken could have snatched a point for Walsall when Notts failed to clear but the striker drilled into the stand behind the goal.
Attendance: 6,218 (827 away supporters)
Man of the Match, sponsored by Chino Latino: Jeff Hughes