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21:52 14th February 2012

Up To Ninth

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Notts County made it back-to-back victories this evening with a 2-1 triumph over Exeter City.

Lee Hughes was handed an early Valentine's Day gift on eight minutes, when the Grecians' stopper, Artur Krysiak, slipped, allowing the frontman to tuck away his 11th goal of the campaign. Scot Bennett equalised for City six minutes later, finding the net with a strong header at the near post.

The other Hughes, Jeff, made sure that it was County that went in at the break ahead, when he converted the from the spot on 28. The second half provided a tense battle, with few clear-cut openings, but Notts were able to hold on through six minutes of added time to take all three points.

It had been two weeks since the Magpies' most recent fixture, a 1-0 triumph over Walsall, due to back-to-back postponements. Only one change was made from the team that played that night, with Alan Sheehan being replaced by top-scorer Jeff Hughes on the left wing.

Cristian Montano, who had returned to the club on loan the previous week, took up a spot on the bench. He was prepared to make his home debut for the second time, along with Jonathan Forte, who had returned for his third loan spell with the club, after stints in the 2008/09 campaign.

Ahead of kick-off, everyone in the stadium took part in a minute's silence to pay tribute to Education Officer Jim King, Club Statistician Ian Mills, former Supporters Trust Chair Glenn Rolley and Nottingham Forest owner Nigel Doughty. All had recently passed away.

Action on the pitch kick-started in the sixth minute, when Daniel Nardiello struck powerfully at goal, only to have Stuart Nelson deny him with a strong parry. At the other end, an overhead pass by Ben Burgess found Lee Hughes in behind the visiting backline but his shot from eight yards bounced wide of the bottom-left corner.

Hughes made no mistake two minutes later, following a slip in possession by Krysiak. The striker capitalised on the loose ball and slotted into an empty net from close range, before dancing in front of the fans in the Family Stand.

In the 14th minute, Bennett almost levelled, when his back-post effort from Billy Jones' corner was steered away from goal by Jeff Hughes' brave challenge. However, the duo combined again from the resulting set-play and Bennett headed forcefully past Nelson at the near post to make it 1-1.

City nearly moved in front moments later, as John O'Flynn looked set to race clear, though Jon Harley produced a superb saving challenge to halt the attack. On 26 minutes, Guillem Bauza also threatened with a low strike that skidded narrowly wide.

Just a minute later, Notts were awarded a penalty, when Harley, following a neat link-up with Neal Bishop that allowed him to race into the box, was sent tumbling by Troy Archibald-Henville. Jeff Hughes confidently shouldered the responsibility and fired into the bottom-right corner to make it eight successful spot-kicks out of nine this term.

Alan Judge thought he'd made it 3-1, after he burst through a hoard of defenders and squeezed the ball through the goalkeeper's legs with a stern hit. Celebrations were cut short when the referee pulled play back for a handball in the build-up.

The chances continued to flow as half time loomed and Lee Hughes came close when he connected with Jeff Hughes' centre - at the same time colliding with Krysiak - but his header looped over. The frontman then nodded wide from Kieron Freeman's swinging cross, which rounded off a sharp attack from the back.

Exeter started the second half brightly and Jones, from the left flank, delivered a low cross that was swept wide at the near post by Bauza. Then, a back-pass by Damion Stewart was almost intercepted by O'Flynn but Nelson raced out of his goal in time to clear the danger.

Judge drilled wide from range with Notts' first effort of the half, before striking into the stands with a free-kick. Lee Hughes' cross-come-shot from the left later swerved past the post, as County got back on top.

Liam Chilvers was withdrawn from the action because of a cut to his eye, which had earlier forced him to change his jersey. After further bleeding, the decision was made to replace him with Krystian Pearce.

In a second substitution, Montano was introduced at the expense of Lee Hughes. Immediately, the volume of the Kop was raised, as they chanted the Columbian's name.

On 78, O'Flynn managed to cut the ball back from the by-line, after showing great strength to hold off Pearce. Nardiello met his pass but was off-balance and failed to hit the target.

The frontman did have the ball in the net two minutes later but the goal was disallowed because of a deliberate handball, which only earned him a yellow card. Initially the striker had connected with a cross from left but his volley was kept out by Nelson's tremendous spreading save, leading Nardiello to resort to desperate measures with the handball.

Six minutes of stoppage time was shown by the fourth official, during which substitute Richard Logan headed across goal, inches past the far post. Still, the Magpies were able to see the additional time through to add another three points that took them up to ninth in League 1.

Attendance: 4,741 (200 away supporters)

Man of the Match, sponsored by Chino Latino: Kieron Freeman

Chino Latino

    Data provided by Press Association


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