A battling Notts County were beaten 2-1 by a confident Sheffield United at Bramall Lane this afternoon.
In an exciting first half at Bramall Lane, the teams went in at the break on level terms. Alan Judge had given Notts the lead in the 17th minute directly from a free-kick but Ryan Flynn made it 1-1 with a well-taken finish on 31.
The decisive goal came only six minutes into the second period, when Stephen Quinn's centre was put into his own net by Alan Sheehan. The Magpies pushed for a leveller and came close on several occasions, but they were unable to prevent United from claiming a sixth consecutive league victory.
Martin Allen's men knew they'd be in for a tough afternoon against one of the division's form teams. The Blades had won five league games on the bounce prior to the meeting and had not conceded in any of those matches.
Notts had failed to score in only one of their last 10 outings and, with Lee Hughes getting back amongst the goals against Leyton Orient, the Magpies had every chance of halting the hosts' impressive run in front of the Sky Sports cameras. County were also encouraged by the return of Ben Burgess and Krystian Pearce, who were both named in the starting 11 after missing the clash with Leyton Orient.
United were the first to threaten, when their top-scorer Ched Evans raced clear of numerous County players down the right, only the frontman's cross failed to find one of his teammates. At the other end, Judge was given space 25 yards out but his shot found the stand behind the goal.
On 14 minutes, it looked as though Stuart Nelson was going to be withdrawn from the action, after he suffered a head injury when he collided with Neil Collins during an aerial challenge. However, following treatment from physio John Wilson, the stopper was able to continue.
Moments later, the Magpies went ahead, following Harry Maguire's foul on Burgess. The free-kick, from the left flank, was swung towards the far corner by Judge and the ball evaded everyone to find the net.
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In the 31st minute, the Blades drew level, when Richard Cresswell turned at pace and fired a low cross towards Flynn. The wideman added to the pace of the centre with stern hit that left Nelson with no chance.
The goal immediately lifted the Blades and more chances followed - the first a solo effort by full-back Matt Lowton, which saw him jink his way into the box and strike straight at Nelson. McDonald then tested Nelson with a first-time shot that forced the stopper into a low parry.
County also came close before the break when Burgess' header cleared the bar and then from Judge's effort shortly after. The midfielder latched onto Jeff Hughes' headed flick-on with an excellent first touch but his powerful grounded effort was pushed away by Steve Simonsen in the home goal.
In the sixth minute of the second period, United went in front under controversial circumstances, when Pearce felt that Notts should have been awarded a throw-in. The decision was given in the hosts' favour and, as Pearce protested, Quinn forced an own goal from Sheehan with a teasing delivery into the six-yard box.
Nelson prevented United from making it 3-1 by producing an acrobatic tipping save to deny McDonald. The midfielder had connected with Flynn's out-swinging corner to header forcefully at goal.
Ishmel Demontagnac's introduction, at the expense of Charlie Allen, gave Notts fresh legs, as they searched for a leveller. They almost got it as well, when Jeff Hughes retained the ball with great tenacity on the edge of the box and his deflected shot was only kept out by Simonsen's superb reaching stop.
United remained a threat and on the counter attack Evans was kept out by Nelson's low save. McDonald also thought he'd netted with a long-range shot that rounded off a clever offensive move but Jeff Hughes frustrated him with a brave block.
Karl Hawley, who replaced Pearce, stung the palms of Simonsen, after a knockdown by Burgess. The forward's attempt was a spectacular overhead kick and would have undoubtedly beaten the goalkeeper had it been a yard either side.
As the hosts looked to kill the game, Evans rattled the post. He was then denied by Bishop as he closed in on goal, only for the County skipper to nip the ball away with a fantastic sliding challenge.
Burgess nodded inches over from Judge's searching cross with Notts' final attempt of the afternoon but it wasn't to be their day. It was highlighted when Demontagnac was sent off for an off-the-ball incident.
Man of the Match: Alan Judge