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Notts County climbed into the Play-Off places this afternoon with a 2-0 win against Carlisle United.
Following a closely contested first half, Notts went in at the break with a two-goal lead. A week after netting his first goal since re-joining the club, Jonathan Forte added another with a delightful header.
Alan Sheehan doubled the Magpies' lead with a spectacular free-kick in the 38th minute. United almost pulled one back before and after the interval through Paddy Madden but on both occasions the striker was unable to take his chances.
The Magpies returned to Meadow Lane on the back of another win, which had stretched Keith Curle's perfect start as boss to three matches. The run had lifted Notts within one place of the top six, setting up the six-pointer with the Cumbrians, who were also on 49 points heading into the fixture.
Four alterations were made from the side that started in the midweek triumph over Rochdale. Sheehan, Forte, Kieron Freeman and Mike Edwards replaced Jon Harley, Lee Hughes, Julian Kelly and Sam Sodje.
Sheehan had recovered from an injury that kept him out of the clashes with Chesterfield and Rochdale, whereas Freeman was back from international duty with Wales under-21s. After the club decided not to appeal against Hughes' Tuesday night dismissal, he served the first part of a three-match ban.
In a scrappy opening to the 90, Notts were first to threaten, when Forte, positioned his back to goal, controlled Sheehan's centre and directed wide with an ambitious overhead kick. Moments later, for Carlisle, Madden almost found the top-right corner with a prodded effort, after capitalising on a fortunate deflection in the final third.
Stuart Nelson produced a brave, low save at the feet of Madden in the 11th minute, though play was pulled back for offside. A minute later, at the other end of the field, Edwards' looped cross from the left wing found Hamza Bencherif, whose header was plucked from underneath the crossbar by visiting stopper Adam Collin.
County tried their luck from range on both 18 and 21. Bencherif drove high into the Family Stand and Bishop had a low shot smartly gathered by Collin, down to his right.
Former Magpie Lee Miller came the closest to breaking the deadlock in the early exchanges, when he connected with James Berrett's in-swinging corner. The target man's header was set to find the bottom-right corner and would have, had Jeff Hughes not diverted the ball wide with his chest.
The goal-line clearance enabled County to take a 1-0 lead in the 33rd minute through Forte. Judge had worked the right channel well, before providing an arrowed delivery towards the back post that allowed the on-loan Southampton hitman to nod across goal, out of Collin's reach.
Forte was instrumental in Notts adding a second on 39, when his quick turn on defender Lubomir Michalik drew a foul on the edge of the box. Sheehan stepped up to swerve the ball powerfully around the wall, into the top-left corner.
The visitors mounted some late pressure ahead of the interval and were within inches of pulling a goal back during added time. As the Magpies rearguard struggled to clear, Madden unleashed a ferocious bicycle kick that dipped fractionally high of the bar.
Madden had another opportunity to get his side back into the game inside the first minute of the second period. Berrett had been fed into the right channel and teed up Madden with a pinpoint delivery, only his shot was mishit and trickled harmlessly off target.
Ben Burgess was replaced by Gavin Mahon on 59, as Notts looked to protect the lead. However, the switch did give the likes of Bencherif, Judge and Jeff Hughes more freedom to get forward.
Shortly after the change, Berrett found Peter Murphy with another impressive corner. The centre-back failed to connect cleanly with his header and the ball skewed wide.
Liam Chilvers later floated a long pass onto the head of Freeman, who had pushed forward down the right. Judge's floated delivery evaded Collin and Forte's close-range header bounced agonisingly past the post.
Nelson had to remain alert and was called upon, as the match moved into the latter stages. Murphy's curled free-kick required the stopper to leap across his goal-line to confidently clutch the ball.
Forte had one further attempt - a low shot from the edge of the box - before being withdrawn to a standing ovation. Ishmel Demontagnac was introduced in his place as the lone striker.
Jon-Paul McGovern nearly gave Carlisle hope late on, when he intercepted Liam Chilvers' header back to Nelson. The midfielder lifted the ball over the County goalkeeper but found the side-netting.
The full time whistle meant that Notts had recorded four consecutive wins without conceding a single goal. To top off a great day for the home faithful, the Magpies moved up to sixth, above Stevenage, who drew with Exeter City.
Attendance: 6,451 (650 away supporters)
Man of the Match, sponsored by Chino Latino: Alan Judge
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