Notts County have been knocked out of the Capital One Cup in extra time by Bradford City. The Magpies had plenty of chances to win the match but failure to tuck them away cost Keith Curle’s side dearly.
In an even contest, the Bantams enjoyed the better of the early efforts, with Hanson and Kyel Reid providing the best of them. Notts grew into the game and were unlucky not to go into the break a goal to the good, following fine attempts by Yoann Arquin and Alan Sheehan in the dying stages.
In a quieter second period Bartosz Bialkowski prevented the visitors from moving in front with two top saves on the danger man, Reid. At the other end, Arquin came closest for Notts and felt that he should have won the match with an injury time effort that was directed against the frame of the goal.
James Hanson delivered the decisive goal five minutes into added time, curling delightfully past Bialkowski. Notts had more chances to take the fixture to a shoot-out but it was not to be their day.
Notts dictated the majority of play in the opening 45, though it was the visitors that created the better of the chances in the early stages. Alan Connell and Kyel Reid both threatened with decent efforts but it was not until the 19th minute that County looked in any real danger.
A defensive pass from Carl Regan to Manny Smith prompted a slip, which allowed Hanson to run into space. The striker opted to take his shot early and Bartosz Bialkowski gathered smartly inside his six-yard box.
Gavin Mahon provided the Magpies’ first serious effort of the half on 22, when he controlled a headed clearance on the edge of the box before unleashing a stern half volley that was bravely charged down by Bantams’ skipper Gary Jones. Moments later, following Neal Bishop’s ball-winning header in the final third, Alan Judge
drove powerfully towards the top-left corner, only for Bradford stopper Matt Duke to acrobatically tip over.
Reid, a key threat for the visitors from the left flank, made his presence known on several occasions and came agonisingly close to giving his side the lead in the 31st minute. Making space 25 yards out, the winger drove powerfully at goal, clearing the crossbar by inches.
Notts were dealt a blow late into the half, when Smith landed awkwardly and immediately clutched at his hamstring. Following a lengthy period of treatment, the defender was removed from the action on a stretcher and replaced by Hamza Bencherif.
In the final minute of regulation time, Arquin thought he had put County ahead, when he connected with Judge’s driven centre at close range. Duke reacted sharply, diving low to his left, and somehow directed the ball around the post.
As the Bantams struggled to escape their own box, Bencherif nodded Tom Williams’ cross from deep towards Sheehan. The advanced left-back wasted no time in firing towards the bottom-right corner but was denied by the woodwork.
City started the second half brightly and Jones placed wide of the mark inside the opening minute. Reid later forced Bialkowski into a superb, reaching save with a strong cross-come-shot that would have crept under the bar.
Francois Zoko was introduced at the expense of Joss Labadie in an attempt to give Notts more attacking potency. This move saw Zoko take up a wide berth in a three-man attack, with Judge switching to a central role.
On 67, Bencherif’s hammered free-kick from 30 yards flew wide of the target. Arquin also latched onto a Sheehan cross to loop a header onto the roof of the net and Regan drilled high into the unoccupied Kop Stand behind the goal.
As extra time loomed, Reid’s deflected hit from outside the area troubled Bialkowski, who had to touch the ball over. From the subsequent corner, substitute Nahki Wells held up play inside the goalmouth and worked the ball into a dangerous area, where Bialkowski eliminated the threat with a courageous, smothering save.
Added time was where the Magpies should have stolen victory, as a link-up between Arquin and Lee Hughes into the left channel led to the latter striking forcefully towards the far corner. A low parry by Duke saw the ball fall to Arquin with an open goal but his instinctive, first time finish deflected back off the bar.
The Frenchman almost made amends with the last attempt of the 90, a header that found its way into the clutches of Duke. A place in Round Two of the Capital One Cup was to be decided in extra time or, failing that, by a penalty shoot-out.
Five minutes into extra time, the visitors moved in front, after Reid dispossessed Regan to protests from the home support that a foul had been committed. Quick, cross-field passes across the 18-yard box allowed Hanson room to sweep into the top-left corner, leaving Bialkowski with no chance whatsoever.
Judge nearly pulled County back onto even terms, after a clever back-heel by Lee Hughes but he was unable to keep his grounded effort on target. The visitors could equally have doubled their advantage as well, only an unmarked Reid blazed over.
Arquin, determined to get his name on the scoresheet, continued to work hard and was unlucky not to find the net on two further occasions. First he slammed a into the side-netting, after being teed up by Judge, and then wide from a Bencherif knockdown.
Bialkowski kept Notts in the game deep into the second half of extra time with a composed block to shut out Wells, who had raced clear of the backline. Lee Hughes almost made the save pay with two decent attempts in the remaining minutes but was unlucky not to find the net.