Callum McGregor’s individual effort in the 39th minute was enough to fire Notts County into the Round 2 of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. The Magpies were good value for the 1-0 victory over one of Sky Bet League 2’s form sides, Burton Albion.
With Jamal Campbell-Ryce sidelined with a foot injury and Mustapha Dumbuya away on international duty with Sierre Leone, first team manager Chris Kiwomya made two changes from the side that faced Rotherham United. Curtis Thompson replaced Dumbuya at right-back and Manny Smith returned to the starting 11 to partner Dean Leacock at the heart of defence.
This meant that Gary Liddle was able to push forward into a five-man midfield. McGregor, who usually took on a central attacking role, moved onto the right flank.
Although the Magpies dictated the tempo of the game in the early stages, Burton were the first to threaten, when Jack Dyer’s weighted overhead pass picked out the run of Dominic Knowles. The striker added a guided downward header that forced Bartosz Bialkowski into an instinctive save down to his left, though a goal would not have stood due to the offside flag.
On 19, County pushed the big men forward for a free-kick just inside their own half. Liddle quickly shifted play wide to McGregor, whose diagonal delivery towards the back post was nodded narrowly wide by Smith.
Mark Fotheringham’s tough tackle on the halfway line created Notts’ next attack, which saw David Bell feed overlapping left-back Enda Stevens into space. Stevens continued into the area to provide a pacy low centre that was hacked off the goal-line by centre-back Marcus Holness.
The Magpies’ top scorer, Yoann Arquin, was the first player to test away goalkeeper Dean Lyness, when he gathered a headed clearance 25 yards from goal. The Frenchman’s drive skidded off the greasy surface and Lyness did well to smother the ball.
Notts maintained the pressure and a neat passing move resulted in McGregor having a stern attempt bravely blocked, after Fotheringham had slid him into the box. Then, as the visitors struggled to clear, Arquin headed towards the top-left corner and Lyness was required to produce an outstanding reaching parry to keep his side on even terms.
It was the 39th minute that County gained the lead through McGregor’s solo effort. The on-loan Celtic midfielder dribbled 40 yards down the centre of the pitch and picked out the bottom-right corner with a dipping hit from 20 yards out.
Moments after the goal, Joss Labadie was withdrawn from the action, evidently carrying a knock. Romello Nangle was introduced in his place and lined up on the right, with McGregor moving infield.
Ahead of the break, County nearly made it 2-0, following a determined run by Thompson in the right channel. The youth team graduate’s searching cross was nodded back across goal by Arquin and McGregor controlled on his chest before clearing the bar with a powerful volley.
Eight minutes after the interval, Fotheringham also tried his luck with a volley, albeit a little further out. The Scotsman latched onto a clearance, as Notts bombarded the area, but his ambitious attempt flew wide of the right-hand post.
On 61, Damien McCrory nearly pulled Burton level with a 20-yard free-kick. The left-back beat the wall but not Bialkowski, who leapt across his goal to push clear.
Albion then came close again, this time from Dyer’s back-post corner, which was headed wide by giant centre-back Ian Sharps. Moments later, Rene Howe, fresh off the bench, unleashed an unexpected snap-shot that required Bialkowski to move sharply across his line to make a claim.
Howe looked dangerous inside the box and he was in the thick of the action again, when his near-post run was picked out by another substitute Adam McGurk’s cross. The imposing frontman added an inventive flick but Bialkwoski reacted well to tip wide.
Burton should have levelled during four minutes of added time, after Robbie Weir won possession on the edge of the County box. The midfielder found Sharps unmarked with a delicate chip but the away skipper made a mess of his diving header and failed to hit the target from just six yards.
Notts managed to see out the remainder of the additional play without being troubled. The most important thing was the win, which gives the Magpies something to build on when they face a difficult test next Saturday in the form of MK Dons.