Notts County put on a show for the bumper home audience this afternoon in a convincing 4-0 triumph over Crewe Alexandra. The three points lifted the Magpies out of the relegation zone and made it three consecutive Meadow Lane wins across all competitions.
Callum McGregor was the star of the show, as he played a part in the County’s first three goals. Ahead of the break, the on-loan Celtic forward delivered two sublime finishes on 33 and 41 – his fifth and sixth of the season – to give Notts a 2-0 advantage.
The long-range specialist, along with another on-loan youngster, Jack Grealish, was then influential in the third, which saw Danny Haynes pounce on a loose ball to tuck away his third of the campaign. Marcus Haber then came off the bench to wrap up the scoring with a terrific header.
Following impressive performances against Tranmere Rovers and Carlisle United, Chris Kiwomya named the same starting-11 for the third game on the bounce. Only Adam Coombes was a new addition to the squad, as the striker replaced Romello Nangle on the bench.
A minute’s silence prior to kick-off paid tribute to former Notts boss Ron Fenton, who sadly passed away last month. The tribute was impeccably observed and followed up with a tremendous roar from the Kop.
The reduced ticket prices had attracted the biggest home crowd of the season, as nearly 6,000 watched on from the home sections. Their backing was tremendous from the first whistle and it transferred onto the pitch.
However, it was the visitors that almost delivered the first blow in the seventh minute. A free-kick on the right flank saw Byron Moore swing an in-swinging cross towards the far post, where defender Adam Dugdale placed narrowly wide on the volley.
Notts’ first opening was crafted by Jack Grealish’s excellently weighted slide pass to Mustapha Dumbuya, who overlapped into the box before having a shot well blocked by Mark Ellis. The deflection fell at the feet of Grealish on the right wing and his resulting cross deflected onto the roof of the crossbar and behind for a corner.
The injured Alan Sheehan was quickly replaced by Greg Tempest at left-back ahead of Callum McGregor’s pacy set-piece delivery into the six-yard box. Joss Labadie, who netted in the most recent home game against Tranmere, rose well but only his glanced header bounced agonisingly wide.
To the unrelenting chant of ‘We’re the Black and White Army’, the Magpies continued to push forward, particularly down the right, where Dumbuya joined the offence at every opportunity. However, in the final third, Crewe stood up well final third to prevent crosses entering the danger area.
For the visitors, Max Clayton looked lively in attack and forced Bartosz Bialkowski into a parry down to his left with a long-range drive in the 25th minute. Moments later, the striker tried his luck again, though the ball dipped onto the roof of the net, via a deflection off Andre Boucaud.
Moore also worked Bialkowski with a fierce hit from the corner of the box, which the stopper kept out with a near-post block. Left-back John Guthrie’s then found frontman Vodaine Oliver, whose headed knockdown was fired inches over by Clayton.
County survived the pressure and showed a greater cutting edge in the final third, as McGregor found the net for the fifth time this term. The forward found space 25 yards from goal and, just like against Carlisle seven days prior, rifled into the bottom-right corner.
The Magpies oozed confidence in possession and, following a series of quick exchanges, Boucaud’s diagonal pass forced a mistake in the away defence. A poor header allowed Dumbuya to break and his low cutback allowed McGregor to add his second with an outstanding placed finish inside the left-hand post.
Crewe went in search of a goal that would get them back into the match early into the second half and they would have found it had Tempest not made a vital clearance to prevent Oliver’s low strike through a crowd of players from finding the net. Clayton also came close once more, when, from a Moore corner, he latched onto a Dugdale header to prod over.
On 52, Grealish dragged his marker infield and provided a back-heeled pass into the path of McGregor, who looked certain to complete his hat-trick. However, the in-form attacker unleashed a stern shot that flew narrowly over.
Grealish was involved again shortly after, when he was upended on the edge of the area. Mark Fotheringham had the home fans off their feet, as his curled free-kick crashed against the stanchion behind the goal.
In the 66th minute, Grealish surged into the box, following a quick exchange with McGregor. The on-loan Villa winger delivered a troublesome chipped centre that the home rearguard struggled to clear and Haynes pounced with a composed finish.
The Alex backline failed to cope with Tempest’s crossing from the left wing and he almost provided County’s fourth with a floated cross onto the head of Labadie, who headed inches over. Still, the youth team graduate’s next delivery was rewarded with a goal.
Haber had been on the field for just 10 minutes when Tempest provided an inviting centre. He did not waste the opportunity and scored for the second home game on the bounce with a well-placed header inside the left-hand post, out of goalkeeper Steve Phillips reach.
It was a big win for Notts and sends them into an extended break from league action in high spirits. Next up is a trip to Molineux, where the team will attempt to make it into round three of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.