A 4-2 scoreline might suggest that Notts County were dominated by Peterborough United. This was certainly not the case.
Notts dominated large periods of the play but key decisions in the match proved costly. Most notable was a call for a second half penalty with the game at 3-1 that could easily have got the Magpies back into the match.
It was actually County that struck first in the game, when Dean Leacock found the bottom corner with a superb nodded finish. Tommy Rowe’s near-post header quickly cancelled out the opener and sent the teams into the break on even terms.
County started the second period well but Tyrone Barnett put visitors ahead with a composed 54th minute strike. Two quickly became three, as Grant McCann confidently chipped home from the penalty spot.
Jamal Campbell-Ryce, a lively figure in attack, then thought he had provided an excellent chance for Notts to get back into the game, when Kgosi Ntlhe handled his cross. And, to rub salt into the wounds of the outraged home support, Britt Assombalonga added a fourth just moments later.
Due to Gary Liddle and Manny Smith being suspended and Haydn Hollis sidelined with a long-term knee injury, Dean Leacock was the only fit centre-back available to first team manager Chris Kiwomya. As a result, Alan Sheehan moved inside from left-back to partner the skipper, a role he carried out for more than 75 minutes on the opening day against Sheffield United.
Smith, following his midweek red card, was the only omission from the starting 11 that defeated Fleetwood Town. Jamal Campbell-Ryce returned to the team and lined up in an attacking midfield berth, with Greg Tempest dropping to left-back.
Notts started brightly but it was the visitors that threatened first, when Tommy Rowe stretched the home backline with a cross-field pass into the path of Daniel Kearns, who forced Bartosz Bialkowski into an instinctive block. In quick response, Campbell-Ryce found a pocket of space in the final third and Callum McGregor’s run allowed the former Bristol City man to fire over from 20 yards.
Posh attacked at pace and came close again moments later, following Kearn’s low centre across the six-yard line. Record signing Assombalonga connected with an inventive back-heeled attempt, which Bialkowski anticipated with a smothering save down to his right.
On 15, a crunching tackle by Joss Labadie allowed Notts to break through the centre with Danny Haynes. The striker had the option of Showunmi to his right, but opted to go alone and dragged wide of the mark.
Notts gained the lead in the 26th minute, when Alan Sheehan caught out Posh with an unexpected defensive free-kick into the feet of Mustapha Dumbuya. The right-back got pastNtlhe to deliver a fantastic cross that was nodded forcefully into the bottom-right corner by Leacock.
The visitors went in quick search of an equaliser and almost found it immediately following a handball offence on the edge of the box, which was hotly protested by the County players. McCann stepped up and beat the wall, only for Bialkowski to bat behind for a corner.
It was from this 29th minute set-play that Posh made it 1-1. Lee Tomlin’s pacy near-post delivery was glanced into the roof of the net by Rowe.
Assombalonga had the ball in the Magpies’ net again shortly after with a header over Bialkowski. However, the goal was ruled out for offside.
The visitors continued to search for a second and Assombalonga, again, tested Bialkowski with a long-range drive. Then, Tomlin escaped his marker on the left to let loose with a low drive that was turned away by Sheehan’s outstretched boot.
Showunmi provided Notts’ next effort, when he latched onto Tempest’s diagonal ball into the box but he could only find the arms of away stopper Bobby Olejnik. McGregor, who had netted on his debut against Fleetwood, later forced the goalkeeper into a stronger save with a 20-yard hit that looked destined for the bottom-left corner.
The Magpies came out of the break as the better team and Campbell-Ryce became increasingly influential with his mazy runs. On 53, he was heavily involved as Showunmi met Dumbuya’s overlapping run with a reverse pass, though the attacking full-back’s dangerous centre across the face of goal was kept out by a vital last-ditch clearance.
Just a minute later, Posh moved in front when a passing move was rounded off by Rowe’s incisive through-ball to Barnett. The wideman made no mistake and quickly swept inside the right-hand post.
On 59, it was 3-1, after Mark Fotheringham was seen to have tripped Tomlin inside the box. McCann took on the responsibility of the spotkick and found the net with a cheeky, dinked finish.
Campbell-Ryce won a free-kick for Notts on the edge of the box when he was hacked down by Kearns as he attempted to strike the ball. Labadie struck powerfully around the wall but Olejnik palmed clear with an impressive leaping save.
Campbell-Ryce kept the attack alive out wide and his cross was cut out by a blatant slap from Ntlhe. The fans and players paused in anticipation of a penalty but neither the referee or linesman halted play.
In initial anger, the Kop livened and the Magpies responded, pushing more bodies forward in an attempt to salvage something from the game. But, it appeared to be game over when a defensive error let in Assombalonga, who struck powerfully into the bottom-right corner, leaving Bialkowski with no chance.
Notts pulled one back during added time when Arquin, who had replaced Showunmi in attack, won a penalty for the Magpies with a shot that was seen to be handled by Gabriel Zakuani. The Frenchman stepped up himself to rifle inside the left-hand post but it was too late to make an impact on the outcome of the fixture.
It proved to be a hugely frustrating day for the players, staff and fans, because on another day the outcome could have been totally different. The Magpies now have seven days to dust themselves down before a trip to Walsall, who have both of their Sky Bet League 1 fixtures.