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16:50 13th August 2016

Notts County 1-1 Stevenage

Notts County were held by Stevenage in their first home match of the 2016-17 season.

The visitors took an early lead through Ben Kennedy but Jon Stead levelled with an excellent lob.

Notts rattled the woodwork twice before the break but neither side were able to tip the match in their favour in the second half.

John Sheridan made three changes to the team that faced Scunthorpe in midweek as he reverted to 3-5-2. Newly-crowned captain Michael O'Connor came in, along with Stanley Aborah and Jonathan Forte. Alan Smith, Graham Burke and Vadaine Oliver dropped to the bench.

Notts didn't get the start they wanted as, on eight minutes, Jobi McAnuff won the ball in the home side's box and cut it back for Kennedy to slot home from six yards.

Stead tried to conjure a response two minutes later when he volleyed the ball from right wing back Alex Rodman's cross, but he could only send it over.

Despite being behind, Notts were looking assured - helped by the presence of debutant O'Connor, whose composure in the middle of the park was already evident. The skipper nearly scored the equaliser on 16 minutes, striking the ball low and hard after Forte's cross had been half-cleared to the edge of the area. Stevenage keeper Jamie Jones got down to his right and held on well.

Two minutes later, however, the scores were level. Carl Dickinson played a sumptuous pass over the top for Stead, who watched the ball bounce in front of him before guiding it over Jones and into the net via the underside of the crossbar.

And another incisive pass, this time from Haydn Hollis on 29 minutes, nearly paved the way for Stead to double his tally. The forward controlled it well on his chest and struck it low across goal, but it bounced back off the post.

Stead was heavily involved in much of Notts' attacking play and he nearly turned provider on 33 minutes. Thierry Audel, playing on the right-hand side of Notts' three centre backs, sent Stead into the channel and continued his run into the box. Stead picked him out with an excellent low cross and the Frenchman was desperately unlucky to see his first-time shot cannon back off the bar.

Stevenage steadied the ship as the half wore on and, after Aborah had seen a left-footed effort comfortably saved, they came close to regaining the lead with the last kick of the half. Collin made an excellent one-handed stop but Notts failed to clear the ball from their box. It eventually dropped for Kennedy unmarked six yards out but he scuffed it straight at Collin, leaving the scores level at the break.

The teams reemerged unchanged and Notts quickly commenced their attempts to take the lead. Forte led the way by winning the ball high up the pitch and working himself some space to cross down the left. His delivery was dangerous but Fraser Franks did well to get goalside of Stead to deny him an excellent headed opportunity.

Sheridan made his first change just after the hour as Oliver replaced Forte. Shortly after play resumed, O'Connor entered the book for a foul on Tom Conlon.

From the resultant free-kick, Franks stooped low to head the ball and nearly looped it over Collin but the keeper reacted well to tip it over.

Sheridan's next change saw Burke replace Aborah on 69 minutes in a straight swap behind the strikers.

And the change almost paid off on 71 minutes when Burke received the ball thanks to a brilliant Stead knock-down and played a quick one-two with Oliver to open space for a shot. A Stevenage defender managed to divert the ball behind for a corner.

Notts kept up their pressure and were appealing for a penalty moments later. O'Connor played the ball to Rodman, who checked on to his left foot and floated a cross towards Oliver in the middle. The forward, and the home crowd, claimed he was being held by his marker but the referee waved play on as the goalkeeper collected.

Richard Duffy was the next Notts man in the book when he was penalised for a foul on McAnuff on 77 minutes.

O'Connor, playing his first competitive football of the season after recovering from an injury, was replaced by Elliott Hewitt shortly afterwards. The armband was handed to Dickinson.

The visitors nearly took the lead in spectacular style when play resumed, Michael Tonge sending the ball inches off-target with a long-range effort. Moments later, Conlon curled the ball over the wall and straight at Collin from a free-kick on the edge of the area.

Stevenage were enjoying a good spell of pressure and drew a booking from Hollis for a foul on McAnuff on 83 minutes.

It was proving to be a busy half for McAnuff, who gave Collin a brief scare with a looping header - the keeper managed to hang on to the ball on his line.

Rodman flashed a shot wide from 20 yards as the clock ticked down, and four minutes of added time gave Notts hope of finding a winner.

Burke had a chance to grab the headlines when he received the ball from Rodman on the edge of the area, but his well-struck effort was held by Jones in the Stevenage goal.

That was to be the final opening for either side as the match ended 1-1.


    For the first 50 years of their existence, England played their home matches all around the country.