Notts County's fine run of form away from home continued at Glanford Park on Saturday, as Keith Curle's men claimed a battling point in a 2-2 draw with Scunthorpe United in npower League 1.
13 mins – GOAL: SCUNTHORPE 1 Notts County 0 – Christian Ribeiro
24 mins - Campbell-Ryce injured and eventually replaced by Yoann Arquin.
34 mins – GOAL: Scunthorpe 1 NOTTS COUNTY 1 – Lee Hughes
42 mins - Clarke header hits the crossbar
44 mins – Stewart puts a great last-gasp challenge in to deny Clarke.
45 mins - GOAL: SCUNTHORPE 2 Notts County 1 – Damien Mozika
54 mins – Lee Hughes header hits the post
63 mins – Deflected Lee Hughes effort ruled out for offside
69 mins – Paul Reid sent off for elbow on Yoann Arquin.
82 mins – GOAL: Scunthorpe 2 NOTTS COUNTY 2 – Lee Hughes
Curle made two changes to the side that drew with Crawley Town the previous weekend, bringing in Lee Hughes and the fit again Alan Sheehan to replace Yoann Arquin and Francois Zoko, with Jeff Hughes moving into midfield, having deputised at left back in the previous three matches.
There was a familiar look to the structure of the team though, with a flat back four behind a midfield three of Andre Boucaud, Neal Bishop and Jeff Hughes and Alan Judge and Jamal Campbell-Ryce playing out wide with Lee Hughes spearheading the attack.
A fast-paced and entertaining opening half saw the home side have the better of the action, with Mark Duffy a constant threat down the right wing and the pace of Scunthorpe’s attacking play, especially on the counter, causing Notts problems throughout.
Indeed, it was the home side that had the first chance of any note, when Leon Clarke latched on to a flick-on by former Notts striker Karl Hawley and then did well to hold off the challenge of Leacock and get a shot away across the face of goal that Bartosz Bialkowski did well to parry before collecting at the second attempt.
That was a warning for what was to come for Notts, as Scunthorpe looked to pile pressure on their guests and it was Duffy who would instigate the move that led to the home side’s opener, cutting in from the right before finding the overlapping run of Christian Ribeiro, who continued his run into the box at an angle before finishing well across Bialkowski’s goal.
There was a nervy moment for Notts a few minutes later, when a loose corner was pounced upon by the home side, setting Duffy away through the middle but Gary Liddle, the last man back for Notts, stood firm to put in a strong challenge and bring the attack to an abrupt halt.
Notts then began to get into the game more, looking to use a more patient, measured build-up that would bear fruit, with Neal Bishop first supplying a well weighted, lofted ball over the defence to find the jump of Lee Hughes on 18 minutes, but the striker couldn’t get his header on target.
Hughes didn’t have to wait long for his second chance at goal, with Jeff Hughes the provider four minutes later, as another cross in from the right found the head of Lee Hughes and although the striker was able to turn the ball goalwards, it was also straight at Steve Mildenhall in the Scunthorpe goal, who collected comfortably.
There was a moment of concern for Notts shortly after that when Jamal Campbell-Ryce went down after a collision on the edge of the area and although the referee would allow play to continue, the talented wide man eventually had to be substituted, replaced by Yoann Arquin on the half hour mark.
It was as Arquin was entering the play that Scunthorpe had their next chance, another Duffy corner testing the Notts back line, who stood firm to clear their lines at close quarters.
The equaliser came for Notts on 34 minutes when Andre Boucaud delivered a sublime crossfield ball that Judge did well to bring down before delivering the perfect cross for Lee Hughes, who made no mistake at the third time of asking, heading home to make it 1-1.
Hughes thought he was through on goal with the chance to put Notts ahead a couple of minutes later, after another fine delivery from Judge, but the referee’s assistant put his flag up, one of the closer decisions that he had to make in the opening half.
Notts were very much in the ascendancy at this stage and another well worked attacking move the length of the pitch, based around Judge on the right wing, saw Arquin unleash an ambitious long-range effort that wasn't as close to the target as the Frenchman would have liked after opting not to look for those that had made the move forwards with him in support.
That signalled the end of Notts’ notable attacking play for the opening half, with Scunthorpe dominating the final exchanges before the break, first coming close through Clarke, after Duffy and Ribeiro had linked up well down the right once again to get the ball across to the striker, but his headed effort rattled off the crossbar.
Scunthorpe, with all the momentum in the closing minutes of the half, then broke again, setting Clarke through, bearing down on goal and Stewart had to put in a fantastic challenge to deny him inside the area. It was a brave tackle and one that had to be timed to perfection, which both the referee and his assistant on the touchline were happy that it was, despite the protestations of the home crowd.
However, this was just a brief respite for Notts and the home side did eventually capitalise on their sustained pressure. A low cross from the right, where Scunthorpe had been causing problems all half, found Mozika in space on the edge of the six-yard box and although Bialkowski did well to get a hand to the shot, he could only divert it across the face of his goal and into the back of the net for Scunthorpe's second, handing them the lead going into the interval.
HT Scunthorpe United 2 Notts County 1
Scunthorpe looked to start the second half as they had ended the first, immediately looking to put pressure on Notts and winning an early corner that the visitors would struggle to clear their lines from.
Notts rode out the storm early in the second period, at the expense of only a yellow card, for Damion Stewart who collected Mozika in his attempt to clear the ball on the left wing.
The visitors then began to get a foothold and looked to mount some pressure of their own. First Judge attacked down the right and saw his cross blocked by the hand of Tom Newey just outside the area, allowing Sheehan to test Mildenhall with a well struck freekick that the home keeper punched clear.
Then, as Scunthorpe looked to clear their lines from that attack, Liddle was bundled over midway inside the Scunthorpe half, with Sheehan again taking the resulting set piece, this time finding the head of Lee Hughes, whose clever backward flick was denied only by the post, much to the dismay of the travelling fans behind the goal.
Having survived that flurry from Notts, Scunthorpe had the next chance to make an impression on the scoresheet, with Paul Reid allowed a free header on the edge of the area from a corner, but the defender could only direct his header wide of the target.
The first moment of controversy in the game came shortly after the hour mark, when a Scunthorpe clearance, from another spell of attacking play by Notts, fell to Sheehan some distance from goal and the Irishman unleashed a rasping effort that Lee Hughes deflected into the far corner to supposedly bring the visitors back level. However, the linesman's flag had gone up for offside, against Lee Hughes, to the disbelief of the Notts players.
Jeff Hughes would have another headed effort denied by Mildenhall shortly after, as Notts continued to look for a way back into the game, but it was on 69 minutes that the next significant twist would come, with Scunthorpe captain Reid shown a straight red for an adjudged elbow on Arquin as they challenged for the ball.
That forced Brian Laws to make a change, bringing on Callum Kennedy for Jimmy Ryan to add more defensive cover, but it turned the tide of the game very much in Notts' favour and would see the visitors enjoy a spell of sustained pressure as they went in search of the equaliser.
Lee Hughes was very nearly presented with a clear cut opportunity to bring Notts back level, when Judge did well to keep a long cross in right on the line and nudge it back towards his striker, but Hughes couldn't quite turn quick enough in front of goal and Scunthorpe were able to clear.
Keith Curle then looked to step up the pressure on the home side further, bringing Joss Labadie on for Damion Stewart in a clear indication of his desire to push for the equaliser, although it was Scunthorpe that had the next chance, when a quick break found Clarke through with Notts caught short at the back. The visitors quickly got numbers back to cover though and that would be the home side's last real chance in the game.
Labadie scuffed an attempted volley as the ball fell to him on the edge of the area 10 minutes from time, but Notts did eventually make the breakthrough three minutes later.
Lee Hughes, who had worked tirelessly throughout the game to make himself available up front, again found himself in the right place at the right time, shaping his body well to fire home from close range after an Alan Sheehan cross had flashed across the face of goal from out wide on the left.
There was another change for Notts shortly after they had bagged the equaliser, with Francois Zoko joining the action to replace Jeff Hughes, who had looked to be carrying a knock.
The final minutes of the game, of which there were five added on at the end, were dominated by attacking play by Notts, punctuated by the odd break by Scunthorpe, although never really threatening until very late on, when Kennedy looked to be free, only to be brought down by Dean Leacock, a challenge that earned the Notts defender a yellow card, when the home crowd were calling for a straight red.
Arquin had come closest to bagging a winner for Notts before then, but having risen well to connect to a Judge cross the Frenchman could only direct his header wide.
Whilst Notts continued to press and won a late corner that was flicked across goal at the near post to give the Notts fans behind the goal hope that a winner might be coming, it would come to nothing and the match finished all square, extending Notts run away from home to 18 games without defeat in all competitions.