Notts County booked a place in Round 2 of the Capital One Cup with a 3-2 win over Fleetwood Town. Enoch Showunmi, Danny Haynes and new signing Callum McGregor registered for the Magpies on an entertaining evening at Meadow Lane.
Fleetwood, one of Sky Bet League 2’s promotion favourites, took a 16th minute lead after Gareth Evans capitalised on a defensive error to find the net with a delightful lob. This prompted Notts to dominate the remainder of the half to take a deserved 2-1 lead into half time.
Showunmi found the top corner with a forceful header that marked his second goal in as many games. This was followed up by a goal from his strike partner, Danny Haynes, who reacted to a loose ball inside the box to make it 2-1.
McGregor, who had signed on loan from Celtic just hours before kick-off, had a senior debut to remember. Not only did he set up Showunmi’s opener, he added the Magpies’ third with a brilliant finish from distance.
Manny Smith was sent off for a second yellow card late on and the visitors managed to get back into the game through striker David Ball. However, they held on to put County in the draw for the next stage of the competition, where the potential of a Premier League fixture awaits.
With Gary Liddle suspended following his red card against Sheffield United on Friday night, Smith was handed a start at the heart of defence alongside skipper Dean Leacock. This was one of four changes to the starting 11, as Greg Tempest, Showunmi and McGregor replaced Andre Boucaud, Jamal Campbell-Ryce and Yoann Arquin.
Tempest looked a big threat in a central role and gained plenty of success with a number of diagonal passes in behind the away backline. One of these saw Danny Haynes touch into the path of McGregor, whose 20-yard effort lacked accuracy.
Town dealt the first blow in the 16th minute, when a defensive slip allowed Evans space on the edge of the box. The winger still had plenty of work to do but, before the home defenders could react, he lifted the ball over Bartosz Bialkowski with a terrific chipped finish.
Joss Labadie had an opportunity to level inside two minutes of the goal with a well-positioned free-kick but he failed to keep his shot down. At the other end of the pitch, Fleetwood could easily have doubled their lead when Liam Hogan was allowed to roam into space, only his rifled strike was bravely blocked by Sheehan.
In search of a leveller, Notts dominated the majority of play and began to open up the Cod Army defence. On 25, Haynes nodded wide after Showunmi had flicked on Mustapha Dumbuya’s long throw and then, on 27, Showunmi had a go himself when he directed Sheehan’s cross narrowly wide with a diving header.
The County number nine only had to wait another minute to get onto the scoresheet and it was the new boy from north of the border that provided the assist. McGregor gained a yard on his marker in the left channel to whip a pacy cross into the six-yard box, where Showunmi applied a thumping header into the top-right corner – an excellent goal.
The striker was hungry for more goals and was unlucky not to add a second, as his low, near-post centre from the left was diverted narrowly over by centre-back Mark Roberts’ uncertain clearance. From the resulting corner, Town struggled to clear and Showunmi pounced on a Smith flick-on to hook marginally wide of the top-left corner.
Notts made their dominance pay off six minutes ahead of the interval, after Dumbuya’s great work down the right flank allowed Mark Fotheringham to pick out Labadie with a curled cross. The midfielder hit the foot of the post with a header across goal but Haynes pounced to smash into the roof of the net on the rebound.
After the break, Fleetwood came out of the traps early and threatened early on through Antoni Sarcevic’s low attempt that skidded away from goal, wide of the mark. David Ball later had a decent strike on the turn deflected over and Matty Blair forced a parry from Bialkowski.
Sheehan provided the Magpies’ first effort of the second period, when he charged out of defence. Space opened up in front of the left-back but his 30-yard hit flew high into the empty Kop Stand behind the goal.
On 74, Notts extended their lead to 3-1 through McGregor but much of the credit was handed to Dumbuya, following his surging run from right-back that saw him beat four men. The former Crawley Town defender rounded off his run by laying the ball to McGregor, who found the top-left corner with a fantastic placed finish.
The visitors took hope from Smith’s second yellow card of the evening and his subsequent dismissal. Fleetwood had seven minutes to hold onto their place in the tournament.
With just two minutes to spare, a low cross from the left fell nicely for Ball. The striker drove powerfully into the bottom-right corner with a fantastic drive that left Bialkowski with no chance whatsoever.
Three minutes of added time brought a couple of scares, including a header by substitute Jamille Matt and a low strike by another, Ryan Crowther, which Bialkowski instinctively turned away. Chris Kiwomya’s men held on with 10 men and gave the home faithful plenty of reasons to be positive heading into the weekend’s tie with Peterborough United.