10-man Notts County were defeated 3-1 by automatic promotion chasing AFC Bournemouth in an action packed encounter at Dean Court. Jeff Hughes had given Notts an early lead but a Matt Ritchie double and another from Brett Pitman gave the impressive Cherries maximum points.
Joss Labadie was thrown straight into the starting 11, following his recall from a loan spell with Torquay United. The midfielder had scored four goals in seven league starts for the Gulls and first team manager Chris Kiwomya had hoped that he would continue that form in the black and white stripes.
Labadie filled the void left by Alan Judge, who served the first part of a two-game ban, as part of a five-man midfield. Hughes also returned to the left side of the midfield unit, Enoch Showunmi took on the role of lone striker and Bartosz Bialkowski was back in goal, after recovering from an illness.
Notts got off to the best possible start from a breakaway attack started by Jamal Campbell-Ryce’s excellent cross-field pass to Kelly on the right wing. Play was then fed to Labadie, whose lofted centre from the byline was met by Hughes’ firm header and home goalkeeper Ryan Allsop could only palm the ball into the corner of the net.
County continued to push forward and Neal Bishop had a low drive well blocked, though it was the hosts that produced the more threatening offenses. Full-back Simon Francis roamed forward to have a low hit gathered by Bialkowski and Pitman dragged wide, following a surging run from midfield.
On 11, former Magpies’ loanee Ritchie made his presence felt with an unexpected punt from the corner of the penalty area. The effort took a strong deflection off Bishop and was only prevented from dipping under the crossbar by Bialkowski’s vital fingertip touch.
The Pole was beaten six minutes later, after a fast-paced attack, started by Allsop’s intelligent throw, saw Charlie Daniels’ low centre force Dean Leacock into a prodded interception. The clearance made it’s way as far as Ritchie, who, from just inside the box, drove powerfully through a crowd of defenders and under Bialkowski.
The Cherries looked particularly dangerous in the wide areas and Pugh was next to cause Notts problems with a tricky run in the left channel. His cross found Steve Cook but his nodded finish was directed wide of the mark.
Shortly after, a long ball over the top allowed Matt Tubbs through on goal. Although the away defence managed to regroup, the striker still managed to get a shot away, though Bialkowski reacted quickly to gather down to his left.
There was nothing the stopper could do to keep out Bournemouth’s next effort, which put them 2-1 up, much to the protests of the County players who felt that Tubbs had handled in the build-up to the goal. However, Pitman was still given too much space on the edge of the box and he made no mistake by rifling ferociously into the bottom-left corner.
Pitman, who had scored in his sixth consecutive match, nearly netted again before the break, following Francis’ determined run down the right flank. The defender eventually managed to work the ball inside to Pitman but the frontman’s 20-yard attempt bounced inches past the left-hand upright.
Deep into first half added time, Notts’ hopes of getting back into the game took a significant blow when Andre Boucaud was dismissed. The ball-playing midfielder was shown a harsh second yellow card for a trip – a decision at which away support vented their frustration when the half time whistle sounded.
Despite the numbers advantage, Notts started the second half brightly and had two free-kicks in good goal-scoring positions. Alan Sheehan found the wall with the first but Labadie looked certain to find the top-right corner, only for Allsop to claw behind to safety.
As the Magpies maintained the pressure, Sheehan picked out Enoch Showunmi with a delightful diagonal cross to the back post. The striker controlled well but pressure from Daniels saw him resort to an overhead centre that Hughes was unable to tame six yards from goal.
On 63, Harry Arter unleashed a stern swept effort, which forced Bialkowski into a terrific save, at full reach to his left. At the other end, Notts had a penalty call turned down, as Showunmi was sent tumbling, before Bishop cleared the bar with a placed effort.
Kiwomya made two changes in quick succession, with Labadie and Showunmi replaced by Greg Tempest and Tyrell Waite respectively. With one goal in the game, there was still hope of snatching a point.
The 85th minute saw those hopes shattered, as substitute Lewis Grabban made great use of the right wing to provide a cutback for Ritchie. The npower League 1 Player of the Year fired inside the right-hand post without hesitation to make it 3-1.
Julian Kelly was withdrawn immediately following the goal and Yoann Arquin introduced. The Frenchman partnered Waite in attack and made an immediate impact by winning a free-kick on the edge of the box, which Sheehan drilled agonisingly wide.
The last time Notts were 3-1 down at Dean Court heading into added time, two last-gasp goals from Craig Westcarr and Kevin Smith stole a share of the spoils. However, that was not to be on this occasion and Bournemouth came closest to scoring again, when Pitman swerved wide of the bottom-right corner with the final attempt of the match.