Goals from Michael Jacobs either side of the break saw Notts County beaten 2-0 by high flying Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux. The Magpies spurned a number of good chances and on another day may have taken something from the game but it was not to be against a strong Wolves outfit.
Manager Shaun Derry named an unchanged starting line-up following the impressive 3-0 victory over Coventry City the previous weekend. The only change was on the bench, as Ronan Murray, back from suspension, replaced Curtis Thompson.
Wolves opened the game brightly, as Bakary Sako rifled across goal and narrowly evaded the onrushing James Henry inside the six-yard box. Moments later, from a tight angle, Nouha Dicko stung the palms of Bartosz Bialkowski with a fierce drive.
Dicko had been handed a start in place of free-scoring frontman Leon Clarke, who missed out with a heel injury, but looked the hosts’ most dangerous player. On 12, the striker span away from his marker into space on the edge of the box and fired inches high of the top-right corner.
Wolves’ made their early dominance pay off in the 17th minute, after Scott Golbourne delivered an inviting cross from the left byline. Jacobs connected with a powerful diving header that left Bialkowski with no chance.
Sako threatened to double Wanderers’ lead with a fierce strike from the right wing, which Bialkowski pushed behind at his near post. At the other end, as Notts went in search of an equaliser, Callum McGregor sliced open the home backline with an incisive pass but Jimmy Spencer was beaten to the ball by goalkeeper Carl Ikeme.
The duo combined again in the final third but although Spencer was able to get a shot away, centre-back Danny Batth stood in the way with a fine block. It was much better from the Magpies after a slow opening.
County should have levelled, following an intricate move that saw Jack Grealish find the feet of Spencer with his back to goal. The striker met McGregor’s run with a perfectly weighted backheel but finish was placed inches wide of the right-hand post.
Bialkowski had to remain alert and was forced into a remarkable save on the half hour mark, as he reacted sharply down this left to keep out Sako’s thumping effort. Jacobs attempted to pounce on the rebound, only for Sheehan to come to the rescue with a vital last-ditch challenge.
Notts continued to grow in confidence as the game edged towards the break and both Andre Boucaud and Sheehan fired over from range. Home danger man Sako hit the target for Wolves with a stunning effort that shifted wildly in the air but Bialkowski managed to adjust his body to parry behind.
Early into the second period, Wanderers had a golden opportunity to make it 2-0, when Sako escaped the offside trap and roamed into space on the left. The powerful forward found Dicko with a low centre but Notts escaped as the striker’s mishit finish skewed wide of the mark.
On 54, Wolves added their second goal of the afternoon, after fine work by centre-back Richard Stearman, who intercepted a forward pass and surged out of defence. Stearman then fed the ball inside to Jacobs and the midfielder curled into the bottom-left corner from 20 yards.
It could have been three less than a minute later, as James Henry was played in on goal. The wideman only had Bialkowski to beat but the Pole stood up well to make an important block.
In an attempt to get back into the match, Derry made a double change. Spencer and McGregor made way with Murray and Kwesi Appiah introduced.
Sako was involved again in the 64th minute with a sweeping pass in behind the County rearguard. Dicko tested Bialkowski with a stern drive and Kieron Freeman prevented Jacobs from completing his hat-trick with a follow-up clearance.
Ikeme was forced into his first save of the second half when Boucaud found space to shoot from distance but the stopper made easy work of the attempt with a routine save down to his right. Jamal Campbell-Ryce later tried his luck with a decent near-post shot, though the goalkeeper, again, got his body behind the ball.
Grealish was presented with Notts’ best opening of the match in the 79th minute, following a delightful Campbell-Ryce cross. The on-loan Aston Villa winger was left unmarked at the back post but stooped to head over at close range.
This proved to be the final chance of the game as Wolves soaked up the late pressure well. Notts were defeated but gave a good account of themselves against one of the division’s strongest sides ahead of a six-pointer with Shrewsbury Town back at Meadow Lane.