10-man Notts County were beaten 3-0 by Coventry City at the Sixfields Stadium this afternoon. The Magpies went into the break on even terms but the Sky Blues made the most of their numbers advantage and delivered three second half goals, courtesy of a Leon Clarke double and another from his strike-partner, Callum Wilson.
Dean Leacock’s return from illness led to one change in the County camp, as Curtis Thompson dropped to the bench. The skipper lined up at the heart of defence alongside Alan Sheehan and Gary Liddle shifted to right-back.
Development squad defender Jordan Holt impressed at left-back on his Football League debut against Oldham Athletic and held on to his place, despite a number of senior players returning from injury and suspension. Andre Boucaud, Jamal Campbell-Ryce and Marcus Haber were named amongst the substitutes – a boost for caretaker boss Steve Hodge.
The match got off to a very slow start in terms of goalmouth action and the spectators had to wait until the 19th minute for the first effort to be registered. Ahead of that, Notts carried out most of the defensive work but they stood up well to a side in top form.
Early on, a misplaced pass in midfield allowed frontman Wilson to find space on the edge of the box but Joss Labadie prevented him from getting a shot away with a tremendously timed challenge. The hosts next threatened from a corner that saw Leacock direct narrowly wide with a defensive clearance at the back post.
The first attempt arrived after home captain Carl Baker wriggled away from two Notts’ players on the right flank. The creative midfielder found Wilson, whose quick-fire strike was well dealt with by Bartosz Bialkowski on his goal-line.
On 29, Callum McGregor created Notts’ first real chance of the game with a searching cross, which Jack Grealish headed over. Mark Fotheringham then saw a wayward cross force a save out of the Sky Blues’ goalkeeper, Joe Murphy.
Bialkowski was tested for the second time, as Clarke found room on the edge of the box and stung the palms of the Pole with a stern drive. The Magpies’ number one then had to race off his line to deny the striker again, this time with a low save at his feet.
McGregor looked eager to add his ninth goal of the campaign and threatened twice ahead of the break. From a quick free-kick, the on-loan Celtic forward watched a strong effort deflected over, before he cleared the bar from a low corner routine.
In the dying stages of the half, Notts suffered a blow when Danny Haynes was shown a straight red card. In an attempt to win the ball, the frontman caught Jordan Clarke with a high boot and Notts faced 45 minutes with 10 men.
It did not take long for City to make the extra man pay after the break, as they moved in front within two minutes of the restart. Following a determined run in the channel, left-back Blair Adams created the goal with a low cutback, which saw Clarke rifle home off the under-side of the bar.
Conor Thomas came close to doubling the lead when he latched on to a clearance to volley inches wide of the bottom-right corner. Adams later used his pace again on the left wing and forced Bialkowski into a smart save down to his left from the edge of the area.
Coventry added their second in the 58th minute, when Clarke capitalised on a wayward pass. The striker made no mistake and confidently lifted the ball over Bialkowski.
Bialkowski received a lengthy period of treatment on his arm but that did not him prevent him from keeping out a third moments later. Franck Moussa tricked his way into the box but his thumping effort was kept out by an outstanding reaction parry.
There was nothing the Notts’ number one could do to prevent Wilson from striking in the 64th minute, after an overhead clearance caught out the County backline. The striker raced clear and rounded Bialkowski ahead slotting into an empty net.
There was no way back for Notts from this point and the hosts appeared happy to settle for three, as they held on to possession for large periods. The Magpies dropped to the foot of the table on goal difference at the full time whistle but face a break from league action due to the FA Cup with Budweiser clash away at Hartlepool United.