Notts Co 1-1 Leyton Orient
Notts County moved another point closer to the Play-Off places, after battling out a 1-1 draw with Leyton Orient at Meadow Lane. The Magpies went a goal up but were unable to hold on in a game that they arguably should have won.
Despite a poor start to the game, Notts went into half time a goal to the good thanks to Neal Bishop. The skipper found the corner with an excellent 32nd minute finish.
After the break, County looked solid but failure to defend a direct punt forward led to the visitors being awarded a penalty. Substitute Kevin Lisbie made no mistake with the finish and it was enough to earn his side a share of the spoils.
Despite claiming three points from the weekend’s fixture, manager Chris Kiwomya made a surprise change to his starting 11. Inexperienced centre-back Haydn Hollis replaced Jeff Hughes to accommodate the Magpies’ switch in shape, from 3-5-2 to a 4-4-2 formation.
Hollis’ inclusion at the heart of the backline, alongside Dean Leacock, saw Gary Liddle shift to right-back – a position he has carried out on numerous occasions throughout the season. This allowed Jamal Campbell-Ryce, who had performed as a wingback in Saturday’s win over Carlisle United, to place a greater emphasis on the attacking side of his game from the right flank.
Most of the offensive play in the opening stages came from the visitors and they had the ball in the back on the net in the 10th minute, following Bartosz Bialkowski’s poor kick, which allowed midfielder Martin Rowlands to get a shot away from 30 yards. The Pole could only bat the ball towards frontman Charlie MacDonald, whose rebound finish was ruled out for offside.
The Magpies had to soak up a lot of pressure, as they struggled to get out of their own half for sustained periods, but the visitors were restricted to long-range attempts. Rowlands had another long-range hit kept out by Bialkowski and defender Leon McSweeney watched a powerful drive blocked by his own teammate.
Notts’ first effort on goal came in the 32nd minute. However, it was worth the wait for the home fans.
Andre Boucaud won possession with a strong challenge and Bishop started off a fluid attack with a forward pass into the feet of Zoko. The Ivorian quickly shifted play to Judge, whose clever touch inside saw Bishop sweep inside the left-hand upright with a superb left-footed shot.
The O’s came within inches of making it 1-1 inside a minute, when midfielder Jimmy Smith rattled the crossbar with a powerful prodded attempt. He later cleared the bar with a hopeful volley from the edge of the box.
On 40, Notts suffered an injury blow, when John Cofie suffered a facial injury that required him to be withdrawn. As a result, Yoann Arquin was introduced in a like-for-like swap.
Dean Leacock almost doubled County’s lead ahead of the interval when Alan Judge’s near-post corner narrowly evaded him. For the visitors, tricky wideman Moses Odubajo also came close during four minutes of added time, after he roamed inside and drove wide of the bottom-right corner.
Jeff Hughes replaced Zoko at half time and Notts matched Orient’s five-man midfield. Judge was handed more offensive freedom with an advanced role behind Arquin in attack and Hughes lined up on the left flank.
The Magpies’ first serious chance of the second half was made possible by Hughes’ energy, as he burst out of defence on the counter attack, via an interchange with Arquin. The Northern Ireland international completed his run with a neat pass inside to Arquin, who curled into the arms of away goalkeeper Jamie Jones.
On 63, Arquin directed into the side-netting, when he latched onto Judge’s lofted back-post cross. Shortly after, Judge fired into the arms of Jones with a well-hit 25-yard strike.
Three minutes later, the O’s drew level from the penalty spot, following Leacock’s last-ditch foul on MacDonald. Lisbie, whose aerial presence had enabled MacDonald to break free into the area, made no mistake from 12 yards and rifled into the bottom-right corner.
Three points was massive for both teams in the race for the Play-Offs and it began to show, as the game opened up. On 71, Arquin nodded wide from Campbell-Ryce’s floated centre and, five minutes later at the other end, Romain Vincelot cleared the bar with a guided header, following fine work on the left by McSweeney.
Arquin was involved again, when he showed good strength to get the better of defender Mathieu Baudry but his shot flew well wide of the target. Campbell-Ryce then broke free on the right wing to force Jones into a tidy save down to his right.
Notts looked the most likely to win the game, as they upped the pressure in the dying stages. Alan Sheehan drilled wide and Boucaud had sent a decent 25-yard hit fractionally past the right-hand post.
In the final minute, Campbell-Ryce raced onto Judge’s chipped pass into the right channel but was denied by Jones, who made a smart save down to his right. During added time, Hollis had to produce a remarkable block on Romain Vincelot to ensure the game remained tied at the final whistle.
The Magpies head into the weekend’s trip to Crawley seven points adrift of the Play-off places. Leacock will not make the trip, having picked up his 10th caution of the campaign.
Attendance: 4,004 (including 172 away supporters)
Watch match highlights and post-match reaction on Magpie Player.