Notts County recorded a 3-0 victory over Portsmouth in an entertaining afternoon at Meadow Lane. The Magpies were good value for the three points and climbed to second place in npower League 1.
Yoann Arquin opened the scoring inside the fifth minute, when he found the net with a close-range volley. The provider, Alan Judge, caused the Pompey defence plenty of problems and doubled Notts’ lead two minutes into the second period with a stunning, long-range drive.
Judge then set up Arquin’s second and County’s third of the match in the 56th minute, which put Keith Curle’s side out of sight. The result made it six games without defeat for Notts, who head into next weekend’s clash with Sheffield United with plenty of momentum.
Prior to kick-off, Paralympic gold medalist Richard Whitehead was introduced to the spectators and received a rapturous reception. The T42 200-metre world record holder had given the Magpies squad a motivational talk earlier in the afternoon he will have been pleased to see how they came out of the traps.
Akin to the first half performance away at MK Dons, Notts oozed confidence and attacked with pace at every opportunity. However, the first opportunity of the game came from a set-piece, with Jeff Hughes, who had replaced Jamal Campbell-Ryce in the starting 11, heading over from a Judge corner.
Judge’s next corner, in the fifth minute, saw Notts take the lead through Arquin. The Frenchman appeared to be dragged to the ground by his marker but it did not stop him from volleying home inside the six-yard box.
Portsmouth could have equalised shortly after the opener, when Jack Compton capitalised on a stray pass out of the home defence. The wideman’s back-post cross found Lee Williamson but the midfielder’s shot was blocked by Gary Liddle.
County looked the most likely to score next and Judge seemed determined to gain another assist. An intelligent, short free-kick by the Irishman allowed Joss Labadie to unleash a low drive that was blocked, before Hughes touched over from another dangerous corner delivery.
On 20, Judge picked out Hughes’ offside beating run from deep with a delightful overhead pass. Last season’s top scorer seemed certain to score but was unable to gain a strong enough touch to beat away goalkeeper Mikkel Andersen.
Two minutes later, another lofted pass, this time by the visitors’ Darel Russell, allowed Izale McLeod space to get a shot away. Out of nowhere, Julian Kelly produced a superb goal-saving challenge, which was followed up by another excellent block from Liddle to deny former Meadow Lane favourite Luke Rodgers.
Notts supporters were on their feet in celebration moments later, when they thought that Arquin’s header from Judge’s left wing cross had found the net, only a slight touch by away skipper Brian Howard deflected the ball narrowly wide. Judge then produced another wonderful, in-swinging cross that evaded everyone and bounced past the back post.
Keeping up the pressure, Judge had a shot of his own, following a delightful lay-off by Labadie, but Andersen’s outstretched leg kept out the low attempt. The save was nearly followed by a Pompey equaliser, when, in a breakaway move, Compton escaped Liddle on the right flank and drilled wide.
Ahead of the interval, Howard also came close. The former Reading man’s low drive from the edge of the box skidded narrowly wide of the bottom-right corner.
Campbell-Ryce was introduced at the break at the expense of Neal Bishop, who had been struggling with a neck injury. The switch saw Hughes move into a central midfield role, with Campbell-Ryce taking up a place on the right side of a three-man frontline.
Within two minutes of the restart, the Magpies doubled their lead through Judge and what a goal it was. 25 yards out, the Irishman was given time to produce a stunning punt that flew unstoppably into the corner, leaving the fully-stretched Andersen clawing at thin air.
An under-hit back-pass by Liddle nearly led to Rodgers pulling a goal back for Pompey. Bartosz Bialkowski made sure that was not the case and managed to make a sliding clearance.
On 56, County effectively killed off the game by making it 3-0. Judge was again the orchestrator and won possession in the final third before delivering a low centre to Arquin, who placed calmly into the bottom-left corner.
The Magpies’ biggest ever win over Portsmouth was a 4-0 scoreline, achieved in 1974. In the 62nd minute, Labadie came within inches of matching that, when he rifled marginally wide of the right post.
Keith Curle gave promising young defender Jake Wholey a chance to impress off the bench, when he replaced Carl Regan. Either side of the change, Gabor Gypes threatened, first heading wide from Howard’s corner and then skewing off target with a hopeful effort.
In the dying stages, Zoko fired over and Arquin, in search of his hat-trick finish, curled into the arms of Andersen. Although he did not find his third goal, County gained another three points and put in another performance worthy of the side’s lofty league position.