10-man Notts County were beaten 1-0 by Crawley Town this afternoon, despite the heroics of goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski. The stopper produced a string of incredible saves but was beaten in the 54th minute when full-back Mark Connolly’s converted from a corner.
Boss Shaun Derry made one change to the side that faced Port Vale on Boxing Day, as Enoch Showunmi was handed his first start since the away trip to Walsall on 17 August. The striker spearheaded the County attack in place of Ronan Murray, who was named on the bench.
Crawley started the 90 at a lively pace and won two corners inside the opening minute, from which some fine defensive work was required. Form the first delivery, Sergio Torres watched a long-range hit diverted over by a superb Jack Grealish block, before Alan Sheehan denied a powerful Nicky Adams drive with a brave header.
Notts’ first corner arrived in the sixth minute after fine work by Jamal Campbell-Ryce and Callum McGregor’s back-post centre resulted in Sheehan having a downward header hacked off the goal line by Andy Drury. From another McGregor set-piece, this time a free-kick into the box, the ball fell invitingly to Morgan Fox, who unleashed a stunning half volley that flew wide of the top-left corner.
On 12, the hosts should have taken the lead, following a perfectly weighted chip into the left channel. The danger man Adams targeted the near post, where frontman Jamie Proctor applied a mishit finish and allowed Notts to escape unscathed.
Town threatened again in the 19th minute as Mike Jones’ 20-yard hit forced Bartosz Bialkowski into a tidy save down to his left. The Pole remained alert and was called into action again to smother at the feet of Adams, after Emile Sinclair had fed the winger into the box from the right flank.
Sinclair was next to test Bialkowski when he raced through on goal, clear of the Notts backline. The Magpies’ number one shot quickly off his line and anticipated the former Nottingham Forest striker’s low effort with a fisted parry.
Notts weathered the storm and nearly punished the Red Devils for missed chances from a sweeping Fox delivery into the box. Showunmi rose well to nod into the path of Mark Fotheringham, but the midfielder’s volley was drilled into the turf and home stopper Paul Jones plucked the ball out of the air.
Ahead of the interval, there were calls for a penalty by the away support behind the Crawley goal. Campbell-Ryce appeared to be upended as he cut inside from the left between two defenders but the referee waved play on.
Before the protests had died down, Town almost with a goal of their own. Sinclair broke through the centre and beat Bialkowski with a well-hit effort from the edge of the area, only the ball to skid inches wide of the mark.
County opened the second half brightly, with Grealish surging through the centre before spreading play to Campbell-Ryce on the right. The winger then curled a teasing cross behind the home rearguard and just inches away from Showunmi’s outstretched toe at the back post.
Similarly, at the other end of the pitch, Crawley came within a whisker of making it 1-0, following a quick passing move, which ended with a dangerous centre from the right. Proctor’s delivery evaded everyone, including Sinclair, who strived to gain a touch inside the six-yard box.
The opener arrived in the 54th minute, via a set-play. Adams’ out-swinging corner found Connolly unmarked and the giant centre-back’s header crept inside the left-hand upright.
Crawley went in search of a second goal and Drury almost found it with a placed attempt that swerved narrowly wide of the bottom-right corner. Jones, following a quick interchange with Proctor, then drove past the left-hand upright, as the hosts piled on the pressure.
In an attempt to get back onto even terms, Derry made his first alteration of the game by replacing Grealish with Murray – a move that saw Notts switch to 4-4-2. Danny Haynes and Greg Tempest were later introduced at the expense of Showunmi and Fotheringham.
Murray nearly made an immediate impact with a fierce 20-yard drive but Jones gathered well on his line. But, hopes of getting something out of the game suffered a huge blow when Sheehan was dismissed for a second caution in the 79th minute.
Bialkowski kept the Magpies in the game with more outstanding saves, first to keep out Proctor, who, after winning possession from Fox, had a thumping effort pushed away from the top corner. Proctor, again, tried his luck with a decent strike inside the near post but Bialkowski reacted well to guide the ball behind.
Arguably his stop was to frustrate Jones, when the midfielder’s long-range drive took a wild deflection. Bialkowski had committed to his right but adjusted his body in midair to somehow tip over.
Proctor remained hungry for a goal and eventually beat Bialkowski with a floated header, which bounced behind off the roof of the bar. After latching onto a direct punt, the frontman later rifled against the foot of the post.
Four minutes of added time saw Notts continued to be frustrated. It was a disappointing afternoon for the Magpies, who will look to bounce back against Bradford City on New Year’s Day.
Was the star man in this fixture last term and delivered again to keep the Magpies in the match until the end.