Notts County booked a place in the second round of the FA Cup with Budweiser with a 2-0 win over Portsmouth. The Fratton Park fixture proved to be a lively affair but Notts fully deserved to dump their npower League 1 rivals out of the tournament.
Zoko gave the Magpies a one-goal lead in first half stoppage time, when he nodded home from Judge’s lofted centre. On 56, Arquin doubled Notts’ lead with a superb headed finish that was as impressive as Jamal Campbell-Ryce’s cross.
Tempers flared in the second period, with Pompey’s Scott Allan and a member of their coaching team sent off. However, County were unfazed and never looked like letting the lead slip.
Damion Stewart came straight into the starting 11 after signing a short-term deal with the club on the Friday before the game. The defender had been training with the Magpies for some time but had been waiting for his work permit to be processed.
The signing of Stewart provided a huge boost for County boss Keith Curle, as further injuries to his already thin looking defensive unit saw Alan Sheehan and Jordan Stewart sidelined for the fixture. The Jamaican’s inclusion alongside Dean Leacock at the heart of defence allowed Gary Liddle to return to right-back, with Jeff Hughes moving from midfield to left-back.
Alan Judge also returned to the starting line-up in an attacking midfield role, following a substitute appearance in the Bournemouth encounter seven days prior. On the bench, Tom Williams and Joss Labadie were surprise inclusions, having sat out recent weeks through injury.
The match started at a slow pace but Portsmouth were able to threaten on two occasions. Former Magpies’ frontman Luke Rodgers forced Bartosz Bialkowski into a smart block from an offside position, before Akos Buzsaky made space on the right to fire narrowly wide of the bottom-right corner.
Beyond the opening stages, Notts saw the better of the game, with Campbell-Ryce the main outlet. On countless occasions, the ball was swept out wide and the winger was able to run at the full-back, Adam Webster, to great success.
On 18, Campbell-Ryce tricked his way into the area by beating two men. His low cross then found Yoann Arquin, who fired against the crossbar with a first-touch finish.
In quick response, Scott Allan created a fine opening for Pompey with a pacy cross from the right flank. Izale McLeod attacked the cross with force and sent Bialkowski sprawling as he headed against the frame of the goal.
Moments later, Notts were nearly punished for a poor set-piece that allowed Portsmouth to break through McLeod. However, Hughes managed to retreat in time to deflect the striker’s effort wide of the mark.
Zoko cleared the bar with a long-range volley, as the chances continued to flow at both ends of the pitch. The Ivorian later found Arquin with a perfectly weighted through pass, only for centre-back Gabor Gyepes to produce a superb, saving block.
On 30, Gyepes’ defensive partner, Lubomir Michalik almost broke the deadlock in spectacular style. After roaming out of defence, he cleared the bar with a stunning 35-yard hit.
A goal did come during one minute of added time, after the home defence had struggled to clear their lines. This gave Judge an opportunity to capitalise with a chipped cross from inside the area that was nodded into the bottom-left corner by Zoko.
Early into the second half, McLeod had a great chance to equalise, when Michalik played him into space with a low pass out of defence. The former Barnet man unleashed a low finish inside the near post, which Bialkowski kept out with an outstretched palm.
Notts looked the more dangerous of the two sides and Pompey goalkeeper Simon Eastwood had to be at his best to prevent his team from going two behind. Judge’s arrowed corner towards the back post ended up with Bishop forcing the stopper into a reaction save.
The Magpies did not have to wait much longer for their second, which was created by Campbell-Ryce’s floated delivery. Arquin rose with grace and generated great power with his header to direct the ball across goal, into the bottom-left corner.
Portsmouth were down to 10 men in the 74th minute, after Allan was shown a second yellow card for a reckless challenge on Andre Boucaud. The foul sparked a series of altercations in front of the dugouts, involving staff and players, but only two of those involved were reprimanded, with Campbell-Ryce booked and Pompey assistant manager Ashley Westwood sent to the stands.
In the closing stages, Notts searched for a third. Judge curled a free-kick marginally over and also gave the home backline a scare with a whipped set-piece delivery from the right wing.
Bialkowski prevented a nervy finish with a top save to deny home skipper Brian Howard. The midfielder’s hit was destined for the top corner but the County number one leapt to his right to parry clear.