Notts County supporters were left with plenty of reasons to be positive following the first Meadow Lane pre-season friendly. County almost overcame Galatasaray but two late goals denied them a historic victory.
The Champions League outfit were in town for a pre-season friendly but it felt far from a friendly, especially when Enoch Showunmi gave the Magpies a second-half lead. The encounter was of a high-tempo, a physical nature and Chris Kiwomya’s men matched the Turkish champions all over the pitch.
Substitute Burak Yilmaz’ 80th minute leveller killed the dream of a big upset. Then, as a draw looked likely, Wesley Sneijder won the game with an exceptional 25-yard hit.
A hugely popular fixture with the home fans and the Nottingham community, there was barely a spare seat in the Derek Pavis Stand. With the likes of Sneijder and Didier Drogba in the away squad and the fact that football had returned to Meadow Lane for the first time since the end of 2012.13, there was unsurprisingly a huge buzz around the stadium.
The quality of the visiting team was evident from the first kick, as they pressed the Magpies high up the pitch and created numerous chances through their energy. It was, after all, Notts’ toughest pre-season friendly on paper but they still managed caused the Champions’ League outfit’s defence problems when the opportunity arose.
Galatasaray’s first opening arrived in the 11th minute, when Albert Riera forced Bartosz Bialkowski into a difficuly parry down to his right. Emre Colak also tried his luck from range and his curved shot narrowly evaded the top-right corner.
It looked certain that Galatasaray would take the lead, after Engin Baytar won possession as County attempted to play out from the back. He fed the ball to Umut Bulut, whose low effort was cleared off the line by Gary Liddle, before Yejta Kurtulus’ rebound finish was kept out by the crossbar.
The visitors’ determination in closing down from the front led to another forced error. This time Nordin Amrabat let loose with a hit from distance but, again, Bialkowski stood in the way with a low smothering save.
The Cimbom rearguard was not given an easy ride and the front three of Enoch Showunmi, Tyrell Waite and Francois Zoko worked tirelessly. Showunmi’s headers were causing plenty of problems and Waite was unlucky not to beat the goalkeeper Eray Iscan to the ball on one occasion.
Notts were later unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty, when Joss Labadie was upended after tricking his way into the area. The referee waved play on.
On 36, Zoko won the ball inside the away box and delivered a low cutback towards Showunmi. However, Emmanuel Eboue read the pass and was able to make a vital interception.
Galatasaray introduced some of their big names at the break, including Drogba and Sneijder. The former almost grabbed an opener in the 55th minute, only for Mustapha Dumbuya, on his first Meadow Lane appearance, to deny the former Chelsea frontman with an outstanding last-ditch block.
Within a minute, Notts were in front, as Showunmi got the better of his marker in the left channel. After winning ball, the striker delivered a low centre that deflected into the far corner off the toe of defender Dany Nounkeu.
The home end erupted and social media sites went into meltdown, as League 1 Notts County were beating the European giants with their best players on the pitch. And, the Magpies almost made it 2-0 through half time substitute Romello Nangle, whose long-range strike dipped narrowly over.
Sneijder’s first impact came in the 69th minute from a breakaway attack that saw the home backline, which now included Haydn Hollis in the place of Dean Leacock, stretched. The Netherlands’ international roamed into space and rifled inches high of Bialkowski’s crossbar.
The midfield trialist, Dumbuya and Labadie all received rapturous ovations when they were withdrawn from the action, though it was moments after the final change that Galatasaray equalised. A delivery into the box was not cleared and Yilmaz made no mistake in pouncing on the loose ball to drive into the top corner.
The goal was not what concerned the spectators, it was an injury to Bialkowski, who took a heavy knock to the head during the goal. Following lengthy medical attention, goalkeeper coach Kevin Pilkington replaced the Pole, due to the club’s other stopper Fabian Spiess being sidelined with a knee injury.
Pilkington’s first action was to pick the ball out of the net, though there was nothing he could have done to prevent Sneijder’s injury time finish. The attacking midfielder, before anyone could respond, fired into the top-left corner, in off the post from 25 yards.
Regardless of the result, it will go down as a memorable evening for the upbeat County faithful, who gave their players a warm reception as they left the field. It was a great way to kick-off a run of three exciting pre-season friendlies on home turf.
ATTENDANCE: 5,377 (Including 926 Galatasaray Supporters)
NOTTS CO: Bialkowski, Dumbuya, Sheehan, Liddle, Leacock (c), Showunmi, Zoko, Labadie, Waite, Campbell-Ryce, Fotheringham.
SUBS FROM: Pilkington, Smith, Trialist, Tempest, Trialist, Nangle, Mahon, Thompson, Haworth, Pearce, Hollis.
GALATASARAY: Iscan, Zan, Riera, Nounkeu, Bulut, Kilic, Eboue, Kurtulus, Baytar, Colak, Amrabat.
SUBS FROM: Ercetin, Gulselam, Inan, Elmander, Drogba, Sneijder, Yilmaz, Chedjou, Balta, Kazim-Richards, Sarioglu.