Notts County climbed off the foot of the table after they made it back-to-back victories for the first time this season with a 4-0 triumph over Colchester United. It was also the Magpies’ first away league win of the campaign, which was fully deserved following a 90 minutes full of desire and a touch of style.
Man of the Match Jack Grealish opened the scoring in the 29th minute with his second goal in as many games. Morgan Fox then doubled County’s advantage two minutes before the break with his first senior goal.
Callum McGregor found the net again with his 11th of the season to ensure a comfortable close to the game. To complete the scoring, Gary Liddle put Notts out of sight with a composed fourth.
An injury to Danny Haynes meant one change to the Magpies’ squad, as Callum Ball was handed a place in the starting-11, having impressed off the bench in the previous weekend’s 3-1 win against Gillingham. Ball spearheaded the County attack, with top-scorer Callum McGregor positioned just behind in his favoured attacking midfield berth.
McGregor was influential in Notts’ first opening, which saw Kieron Freeman squirm free on the right before feeding possession inside to the Scotland Under-21 international. McGregor quickly shifted play to Gary Liddle, whose placed effort was gathered by home goalkeeper Sam Walker, down to his right.
Walker’s opposite number, Bartosz Bialkowski, was presented with a tougher save, when Clinton Morrison strode into a half-clearance to deliver a snapshot from 10 yards. The striker appeared destined to find the bottom-right corner but Bialkowski somehow got across his line to parry clear with an outstretched palm.
The hosts looked most dangerous from long throw-ins and they nearly found the net when Alex Gilbey latched onto a high dropping ball into the box, courtesy of Ben Tozer. The midfielder’s header was well placed through a crowd of players, though Bialkowski reacted well to get his body behind the ball.
On 25, County had a great opportunity to break, after McGregor won possession on the half-way line and fed Ball into space with the U’s pushed high. The on-loan Derby County frontman then found Grealish with a through pass, which saw the winger set up Fox to fire into the stand behind the goal.
The Magpies did manage to move in front four minutes later, thanks to Jamal Campbell-Ryce’s excellent low centre from the right. Grealish gathered at the back post and skipped past two defenders before striking powerfully beyond Walker.
United caused problems with another long throw, this time from Ryan Dickson, and should have levelled shortly after the opener. A missed clearance led to a scramble inside the box, which was concluded when Jabo Ibehre prodded narrowly wide.
Aside from the slip, Notts appeared to be the more confident of the outfits and nearly doubled their lead from a quick free-kick into the left channel. Grealish found room to provide a dangerous cross towards Gary Liddle, whose header was blocked by the back of defender Craig Eastmond.
A second County goal arrived just ahead of the interval, as the U’s were forced to defend a number of top deliveries into the box. Eventually, the Magpies made one pay, when Ball’s low cross from the left was touched over the line at close-range by Fox.
Either side could have registered the game’s crucial third goal in the opening stages of the second half. An Ibehre knockdown was driven over from eight yards by Magnus Okuonghae, before Ball cleared the bar with a prodded finish, following a deflected Campbell-Ryce cross.
The vocal away supporters could see what the three points meant to their players based on their determination out of possession and their willingness to put bodies on the line. Liddle highlighted this with a crunching last-ditch challenge to prevent a certain goal, after Macauley Bonne had fired powerfully across goal.
Although tense at times, Notts zipped the ball around confidently and injected touches of flair that even gained the appreciation of the U’s fans. In contrast, County’s frustration of the hosts resulted in the home fans expressing their dissatisfaction with their own team’s showing.
More trickery from Grealish on the left saw him glide through Colchester backline in the 79th minute. The on-loan Aston Villa wideman drilled powerfully across goal and was unfortunate to see his cross-come-shot cannon back off the woodwork.
McGregor added Notts’ third in the 86th minute, after Andre Boucaud stretched the home rearguard. From the corner of the box, the forward rifled inside the right-hand post to put the points out of the question.
If the goal was the icing on the cake, Liddle added the cherry with a wonderful fourth. Grealish gracefully drifted forward to provide a delicate, defence-splitting pass for Liddle, who opened up his body to get around Walker, leaving him with the easy job of placing over the line.
Credit also went to Bialkowski for keeping hold of the clean sheet, as he remained alert to produce an outstanding save to deny Bonne. Still, Notts may have added a fifth as Ball, Campbell-Ryce and the substitute Ronan Murray all came close in the dying stages.
It was another impressive performance by the Magpies that, again, delivered the points to lift them to 22nd. If Notts fans needed any further motivation than the reduced entry for the game against Bristol City, this was it, as Shaun Derry’s side now head into the Christmas fixture with a chance of climbing out of the bottom four.
A threat every time he received the ball. Another great goal and a superb assist.