Notts County put in a gutsy performance to equal a club record of 10 away games without defeat this afternoon. Despite playing 68 minutes with 10 men, Notts came away from Boundary Park with a share of the spoils, following a 2-2 draw with Oldham Athletic.
County were up against it from the 22nd minute, when Andre Boucaud was given his marching orders for a double-footed challenge. However, against the odds, the Magpies moved in front just a minute into the second period, when, Joss Labadie found the bottom corner with a tremendous strike.
It did not take long for Oldham to draw level and, three minutes later, on-loan Forest striker Matt Derbyshire grabbed an equaliser - the first of three debut goals across the 90 minutes. The hosts should have gone on to gain the upper hand on 68 minutes but Robbie Simpson fired over from the penalty spot.
With only eight minutes remaining, Notts went ahead again through Jamal Campbell-Ryce, whose cross-come-shot found it’s way into the net. It was a great way for the wideman to mark his debut in the black and white stripes but it was not enough to clinch maximum points.
On 85, Oldham equalised for the second time, when Jose Baxter found the corner with a close-range header. Although they were unable to hang on for the win, it can be considered a very good point for County, who are now second in npower League 1, behind Tranmere Rovers.
First team manager Keith Curle was forced into two changes, following injuries to defender Alan Sheehan and midfielder Jeff Hughes. Carl Regan came straight in at left-back and Lee Hughes took on the role of central striker in a flexible 4-3-3 formation that saw Yoann Arquin and Francois Zoko populate the wide berths.
In a quiet opening to the first half, the hosts provided efforts through giant centre-back Jean Yves M’Voto and James Wesolowski. M’Voto produced a strong header from Lee Croft’s corner that Neal Bishop directed clear with a sliding block inside the six yard box, and Wesolowski powered an ambitious volley narrowly wide of the bottom-left corner from 25 yards.
The 22nd minute saw the game burst into life, when Boucaud was shown a straight red card for a challenge on Byrne. Mr Sarginson, the referee, felt that the midfielder had dived in with both feet, though the Magpies’ players saw the decision as harsh, as the midfielder had taken the ball.
As a result of the sending off, Zoko was withdrawn and Labadie introduced. Labadie filled the void left by Boucaud in the centre of midfield and Notts switched to a 4-4-1 formation that had Alan Judge and Aquin operating on the flanks.
Notts coped well being a man down and limited Athletic’s advances, though Reece Wabara was able to find a way into the right channel on one occasion. The full-back picked out Simpson with a pin-point cross but the frontman’s looping header dipped over.
On 32, a quick passing move involving Judge and Hughes allowed Arquin to charge into the area unmarked, only the Frenchman’s prodded effort was batted behind by home goalkeeper Alex Cisak. From the following corner, Judge picked out Gary Liddle, whose effort was deflected over.
Attention returned to the referee at the end of the half, when former Magpie Cristian Montano skipped past Bartosz Bialkowski on the wing, after the Notts’ stopper had charged out of his goal in attempt to clear. Julian Kelly then upended Montano but escaped with a caution, prompting heated protests from the home crowd.
During added time, calls for a red were emanating from the away section, following a collision between Wesolowski and Labadie, which left the latter clutching his face. Again, Mr Sarginson brandished a yellow card.
Within a minute of the restart, the Magpies moved in front, when Arquin delivered a delightful ball from the left flank for Labadie. The energetic midfielder timed his run perfectly and found space between two defenders to find the bottom-right corner with a first touch finish on the slide.
It took only three minutes for Oldham to draw level through Derbyshire. The debutant striker found room behind the County rearguard thanks to Croft’s pass and rounded Bialkowski prior to slotting home.
The Latics were lifted but Labadie almost silenced the crowd when he wriggled free of Montano and Jonathan Grounds on the right wing. The goal-scorer then fired in a low cross that was smartly intercepted by Cisak at his near post.
A moment of hesitation in the 60th minute could have seen Oldham take the lead, as Wabara nipped between Liddle and Bialkowski to lift over the County stopper towards Derbyshire. Derbyshire looked certain to score his second of the match with the goal gaping in front of him but Bishop came to the rescue with a superb, last-ditch clearance.
Montano later forced Bialkowski into a strong parry, after a short corner routine involving Dean Furman and Croft presented him with space inside the area. But, an even better opportunity was to follow in the 68th minute.
More fine work by Wabara on the right saw him deliver a lofted back-post cross, which led to Kelly fouling Derbyshire inside the six-yard box. Instead of making it 2-1 from the spot, Simpson blazed over.
With 18 minutes remaining, Curle made a double switch, adding fresh legs to his attack force. Arquin and Hughes made way for Enoch Showunmi and Campbell-Ryce.
Again, it was a substitute to score for the Magpies and in spectacular style. On the counter, Campbell-Ryce carried the ball the length of the pitch and, from the right wing, the exciting winger curled over Cisak and into the far corner.
As with Notts’ first goal, Oldham drew level within three minutes, this time through Baxter, who had been introduced earlier in the half. Croft’s out-swinging corner had picked out Montano, whose header was nodded into the corner at close range by the former Everton man.
Both sides wanted all three points and continued to push for a winner. Campbell-Ryce and Labadie tore apart the home backline with a smart interchange but Judge was unable to gain a strong enough touch from the resulting low cross, whereas, for Athletic, substitute Matt Smith headed over from Wabara’s deep centre.
Deep into six minutes of stoppage time, Oldham celebrated what they thought was a winning goal, when Baxter headed into the bottom-left corner. However, the finish was ruled out for offside and the 10-man Magpies came away with a much-deserved point.