Notts County suffered a disappointing defeat at the hands of in-form Doncaster Rovers this afternoon. Following an uneventful first half that saw little created, the visitors struck twice after the break to claim maximum points.
Neither outfit offered much of an offensive threat during the opening 45. Rovers frustrated Notts by getting men behind the ball and it was no surprise that the teams went into the break at 0-0.
The opening goal came in the 61st minute when Paul Keegan escaped his marker to find the net with a downward header. Two minutes later, substitute Chris Brown made it 2-0 with a low drive into the bottom corner.
Notts threw men forward in the dying stages in search of a way back into the game. Doncaster remained solid at the back and County dropped to sixth in npower League 1.
Keith Curle stuck with the same team that faced AFC Bournemouth in midweek. The only change was on the substitutes’ bench, with Alan Judge returning from injury after missing the last two matches.
The early stages of the game saw little in terms of goalmouth action. Wideman Kyle Bennett provided one of very few attempts on goal with a long-range hit, which flew high and wide.
On 23, Iain Hume had a fantastic opportunity to make it 1-0 to Doncaster when he capitalised on a defensive slip by Ashley Eastham. The forward raced clear with the County defenders in pursuit but his finish found the wrong side of the post.
Notts enjoyed most of the possession but struggled to break down an organised away unit. With Doncaster positioning two banks of four behind the ball at all times, the Magpies struggled build attacks in opposition territory, though they did enjoy some success from the wide areas, with Jamal Campbell-Ryce and Yoann Arquin firing in a number of difficult deliveries.
County’s first attempt arrived in the 25th minute following fine work on the right wing by Andre Boucaud. The midfielder’s clever pass inside allowed Gary Liddle to cut the ball back into the path of Neal Bishop, whose shot was deflected wide.
Moments later, Yoann Arquin burst into space on the edge of the box with an unexpected Maradona turn. However, the Frenchman’s low drive lacked accuracy.
Bartosz Bialkowski was called into action for the first time by Paul Keegan’s 25-yard free-kick. The midfielder’s shot saw the ball bounce awkwardly in front of the stopper but he was able to gather on his goal-line.
The most exciting moment of the half came in the final minutes, when the referee appeared to point to the penalty spot. Home fans’ cheers were soon cut short when it became clear that a goal kick had been issued, after Campbell-Ryce’s corner had swerved out of play.
Lee Hughes was introduced at half time in place of Dean Leacock and took up his natural position in attack, with Arquin moving out wide. At the back, Gary Liddle shifted inside to fill the vacant centre-back slot and Campbell-Ryce dropped to right-back.
In a much livelier start to the second period, Zoko was unfortunate not to find Jeff Hughes at the back post with a lofted centre that was headed behind by towering centre-back Rob Jones. Jeff Hughes later nodded down a Campbell-Ryce cross into the path of Lee Hughes but goalkeeper Gary Woods made a brave save to keep the game at 0-0.
Rovers should have taken the lead when Keegan’s diagonal free-kick was nodded across goal by Tommy Spurr. Bennett looked certain to score with a free header two yards from goal but he was unable to keep his effort down.
On 61, Doncaster moved in front after winger David Syers delivered a wonderful, floated delivery onto the head of Keegan. The midfielder nodded downwards and there was nothing Bialkowski could do to prevent the ball from crossing the line.
Judge replaced Zoko following the goal but before he could gain a touch, Rovers doubled their advantage. Hume found Brown with space inside the area and the striker made good use of it by squeezing the ball into the bottom-left corner.
The Magpies’ third and final substitution saw Romello Nangle replace Boucaud. The fleet-footed striker had netted twice in the FA Youth Cup in midweek and Notts desperately needed a goal.
County were dealt another blow when Jordan Stewart limped off injured. With no further substitutions available, Curle's side had to play out the rest of the match with 10 men.
In the final 10 minutes, Judge watched a hopeful shot from distance bounce into the side netting and Neal Bishop headed wide from a Jeff Hughes cross. It was not to be Notts’ day and the team will be hoping for improvements in the FA Cup with Budweiser clash against Pompey next weekend.