Notts County are in the draw for the third round of the FA Cup with Budweiser, following a 1-1 tie with Rotherham United. In a close encounter at the New York Stadium, both sides had chances to win the game and will consider the draw to be a fair result.
In a gripping opening 45, Notts created a host of openings but in the end they were fortunate to go into the break on level terms. Yoann Arquin gave the Magpies a 32nd minute lead, with a superb volley but earlier efforts from Jeff Hughes, Neal Bishop and Francois Zoko could have seen Keith Curle’s side further ahead.
Although dominant for the majority of the half, United ended strong and levelled three minutes before the interval through Ben Pringle. Mark Bradley then had a golden opportunity to put the hosts in front during the final minute of the first period but County escaped.
The second half proved to be a much closer affair, with very few clear-cut openings. The game did open up late on but neither side was able to capitalise.
There were three changes to the Notts starting-11, as Dean Leacock (suspension), Andre Boucaud (injury) and Chris Iwelumo (cup tied) dropped out of the matchday squad. Hamza Bencherif and Gavin Mahon were both handed their first starts since October’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy clash with Sheffield United, in centre-back and defensive midfield roles respectively.
Arquin returned to the spearhead of the County attack in place of Iwelumo, having been a substitute for the Swindon Town encounter seven days prior. The Magpies took up their regular 4-3-3 formation, which included Jeff Hughes, Alan Judge and Francois Zoko in the three attacking midfield berths.
In a lively opening to the game, Notts almost took a third-minute lead, when centre-back Johnny Mullins, under pressure from Arquin, nearly found his own net with an over-hit back-pass. Home goalkeeper Andy Warrington managed to clear but, moments later, the Magpies threatened again, when Neal Bishop directed Alan Sheehan’s near-post corner over the bar with a firm header.
County maintained the early pressure and the chances continued to flow, with Julian Kelly curling inches wide of the top-left corner. From another Sheehan corner, Arquin then rattled the woodwork with a well-placed header inside a crowded goalmouth.
Up next was Zoko, after he made space for himself inside the area to force Warrington into a smart save, down to his left. On 15, Sheehan, again, found Jeff Hughes with a free-kick delivery from the right flank, only the midfielder’s glancing header bounced narrowly wide of the right-hand post.
Rotherham produced their first effort on goal in the 19th minute, via a breakaway attack that resulted in Daniel Nardiello feeding the ball to Michael O’Connor inside the box. From a tight angle, the midfielder tested Bartosz Bialkowski with a stern drive, before firing well wide with a second attempt.
Shortly after, Pringle came close with a crisp, 25-yard strike that found wrong side of the left-hand post. At the other end, Hughes dragged a shot wide from the edge of the area, following nice link-up play by Arquin and Zoko.
Notts gained the lead in spectacular style in the 32nd minute but they first had to stand up to a period of pressure. Gary Liddle, Bencherif, Bishop and Sheehan were all called into action with a series of interceptions and blocks to keep out the hosts.
The Magpies’ opener came from another Sheehan delivery, this time a searching cross from the left-wing towards Arquin, who had drifted into space on the edge of the box. Rather than take a touch, the striker connected with a first-time volley that skidded away from Warrington, into the bottom-left corner.
Immediately after the goal, Pringle thought he had set up an equaliser for the Millers, when his right-wing centre evaded Nardiello, Alex Revell and the back-post. The wideman did not miss with his next opportunity.
On 42, O’Connor broke into space in the left channel, with the Magpies stretched. The midfielder’s grounded delivery was perfect for Pringle, who swept inside the right-hand post from 12 yards out.
Rotherham should have taken the lead in the final minute of the first half, when another O’Connor delivery caused problems. His in-swinging, left-wing cross was met at close-range by the chest of Mark Bradley but the right-back’s finish cannoned back off the foot of the post.
Judge sparked the second half into life with an unexpected volley into the arms of Warrington. For Rotherham, Nardiello had two efforts in quick succession, first a feeble shot that did not trouble Bialkowski and then a punt from distance, which flew into away section behind the goal.
The temperature dropped and so did the number of chances, as both teams battled for supremacy in the midfield area for lengthy spells. However, on 59, Zoko did test Warrington with a headed finish from a Sheehan set-play.
Sheehan’s corners were finding a man more often than not and both Bencherif and Jeff Hughes came close with headers. The Millers’ towering frontman Revell also threatened in the air with a nodded finish that cleared the bar, moments prior to O’Connor’s 25-yard hit, which crashed into the advertising boards.
On 75, Warrington was called into action, when Judge targeted the bottom corner with a placed shot. Bialkowski then had to stand up well to keep out Nardiello’s powerful drive.
Joss Labadie was introduced at the expense of Mahon, as Curle orchestrated his first changes of the afternoon. The other saw Zoko and Aquin switch roles in attack.
With only three minutes remaining on the clock, the bumper away following anticipated a late winner, as Hughes, who scored four times in the tournament lined up a shot, made possible by Arquin’s lay-off. The Northern Ireland international’s low finish beat Warrington but skidded wide of the mark.
A minute later, Nardiello found himself with yards of space inside the area, after Pringle’s mishit shot rolled into his path. The forward made a mess of the chance and ballooned his attempt well over.
This was the last effort of the match and both teams will be in the hat for the next stage of the competition. Who gets there will be decided in the replay at Meadow Lane, which will take place on Tuesday 11 December (7.45pm kick-off).
The third round draw will be made at 2.40pm on Sunday 2 December, live on ITV1. Notts and Rotherham will be ball number 55.