Notts County put on a show for the Sky television cameras on Friday evening but, again, they only delivered the second half. Still, it was enough for the Magpies to come from behind to claim a 4-1 win over npower League 1 strugglers Bury.
The Meadow Lane faithful made their frustrations clear at the break, following another quiet first half from their side. The visitors created little themselves but a poor pass out of defence by Julian Kelly led to midfielder Steven Schumacher finding the net with a spectacular finish.
Kelly made amends after the interval, when he got forward well to grab an equaliser. This got County going and they proceeded to strike twice more in the next seven minutes.
The double came from substitute Francois Zoko, who on both occasions showed great strength in holding off his marker to place home. The final goal of the match came from the penalty spot through Jamal Campbell-Ryce.
Caretaker boss Chris Kiwomya made two changes to the side that claimed a 1-1 draw with Walsall six days prior and switched to a 4-4-2 formation. Jeff Hughes and Jacob Blyth dropped out of the starting 11, which gave Kelly and last weekend’s goal-scorer Yoann Arquin a chance to impress from the first whistle.
Kelly was involved Notts’ first opening in the 14th minute, when Jamal Campbell-Ryce fed him into the right channel. The full-back delivered a superb cross into the six-yard box that was a fraction too high for Arquin, who looked certain to score.
The game lacked goalmouth action at both ends but that changed on 24, when Schumacher intercepted Kelly’s poor pass out of defence. The Shakers’ top-scorer carried the ball into space and rifled inside the right-hand post, leaving Bartosz Bialkowski with no chance.
Two minutes after the opener, Arquin nearly had Notts back on level terms with a hopeful shot from the edge of the box that away stopper Trevor Carson nervously spilled behind for a corner. Moments later, Alan Judge tested Carson again with a long-range hit but, on this occasion, the goalkeeper gathered tidily.
On 35, Arquin was able to prod the ball towards Judge from the right wing, despite being harassed by a number of Bury players. Judge targeted the bottom-left corner from the edge of the box, only for Carson to deny him with a smart save down to his right.
Bury could easily have doubled their lead, after David Worrall created space for himself on the right to deliver a pin-point near-post cross. Ethan Ebanks-Landell met the delivery with a forceful header that flew inches wide of the mark.
At the other end, Notts came even closer, following fine work on the left channel by Campbell-Ryce, who cut inside to deliver a pacy, in-swinging centre onto the head of John Cofie. The on-loan Manchester United frontman applied a glancing header, which beat Carson but found the wrong side of the upright.
In the dying moments of the first half, forward Nicky Ajose tricked his way into the box from the left flank and curled wide of the far post. From Notts’ next attack, Campbell-Ryce surged infield from the left to fire straight at the goalkeeper.
Kiwomya made one alteration at the interval, as Zoko took the place of Arquin in attack. It proved to be a highly worthwhile switch, as the Ivorian caused the away rearguard problems every time he got near to the ball.
The visitors started the second half as the brighter of the two outfits. Worrall drove wide and Ajose had a low hit smothered by Bialkowski.
However, on 58, the game changed dramatically in the Magpies’ favour, as Kelly made amends for his early mistake with an equalising goal, made possible by an incisive pass from Cofie. The defender’s improvised first touch took him past his marker, before he applied a finish on the slide, which deflected into the net off Joe Skarz.
Three minutes later, County were 2-1 up, following Andre Boucaud's hopeful chipped pass over the away backline. Zoko showed wrestled past a defender and placed accurately across goal, into the bottom-left corner.
Schumacher tried his luck with another strike from distance, though this time Bialkowski batted clear. Shortly after, Bishop nearly added Notts’ third with an effort that bounced inches wide.
It did not take much longer for County to find the third and it arrived via another accurate Boucaud lob. Zoko was able to get the better of former Magpies’ loanee Ashley Eastham and prodded between Carson’s legs before slotting home.
On 68, Gary Liddle was unfortunate not to find the corner of the goal with a stunning side-volley from 30 yards. Carson was beaten but shot found the wrong side of the post – by inches.
The fourth was added after Eastham upended Judge inside the box. Campbell-Ryce made no mistake with the spot-kick, which he placed down the centre of the goal.
Zoko almost got his hat-trick late on but a near-post save prevented him from taking the matchball home. In the end, it was the three points that mattered and Kiwomya was able to celebrate his first victory as caretaker manager.