Notts County made up for the midweek loss to Preston with a much improved performance against Scunthorpe United. Dean Leacock’s first goal in a Magpies shirt was enough to secure the points in a 1-0 victory for Chris Kiwomya’s team.
Notts were boosted by the return of influential duo Alan Judge and Dean Leacock from injury and suspension respectively. Both were drafted straight into the starting 11 in place of Jamal Campbell-Ryce, who was withdrawn in midweek due to a groin injury, and Manny Smith, who dropped to the bench.
In the final of the three changes, Yoann Arquin replaced Francois Zoko up front. The Frenchman was handed the freedom to roam behind the leading striker, Enoch Showunmi.
Iron provided the first attack of the game, as away skipper Paul Reid produced a fine effort inside the box that was deflected narrowly wide. From Mark Duffy’s resulting corner, frontman Akpo Sodje directed a header inches past the right-hand upright.
Notts also started brightly and moved the ball forward at a much greater pace than on Tuesday night. Jeff Hughes cleared the bar with the 20-yard hit and Arquin watched a dangerous delivery into the six-yard box narrowly evade the head of Showunmi.
Bartosz Bialkowski was the first of the goalkeepers to be tested, when, in the ninth minute, Duffy sliced open the home rearguard with an incisive pass. Sodje progressed into the area but the County stopper charged down his low drive.
On 22, a searching cross from the left found Hughes eight yards from goal. The midfielder held off his man, though his shot on the turn lacked power and was easily gathered by Scunthorpe custodian Eirik Johansen.
United may have been down to 10 men in the 38th minute, when Reid caught Arquin with a late challenge on the right wing. The away skipper escaped with a booking but Notts almost found an opener from the free-kick.
Neal Bishop met Alan Sheehan’s in-swinging delivery with a forceful downward header that appeared destined for the corner of the net. Johansen was caught in a poor position, but quickly adjusted his feet and got across his line to make a tremendous parry.
From the corner, Sheehan then whipped in another impressive delivery that Judge nodded wide of the far post. As Iron failed to clear, Hughes applied a headed touch to a right-wing Judge cross, which the unmarked Arquin nodded over at close range.
Eager to make amends for the miss, Arquin later met Showunmi’s chested lay-off with an ambitious half volley that dipped a little too late. With the final attempts of the half, Hughes drove wide from a tight angle and, for the visitors, former Magpie Karl Hawley managed to strike wide of the bottom-right corner, after holding off Haydn Hollis on the edge of the box.
Scunthorpe started the second half as the better of the two sides and Sodje had two opportunities to break the deadlock. First, he wriggled free in the final third to strike over and then, moments later, he would have nodded home at the back post, had Duffy’s free-kick delivery been a foot lower.
On 60, Hawley escaped the County backline in the final third and lifted the ball over Bialkowski with a delightful lobbed finish. However, the home fans breathed a collective sigh of relief, as the ball bounced the wrong side of the post and behind for a goal kick.
A minute later, Iron had an even better chance, when Hollis was dispossessed inside his own box, following an exchange with his goalkeeper. Sodje squared to Hawley, whose first-touch shot from eight yards out swerved wide far post.
The home fans dusted off the old ‘Hawley, Hawley, Hawley’ chant in celebration of the miss but they were nearly cut short, when the striker threatened again, after a County attack broke down on the right flank. A quick switch of play saw Hawley race clear but he was unable to hit the target.
On 70, Judge latched onto Sheehan’s well-hit Sheehan corner to head over. The Irishman then made the most of strong hold-up play by Showunmi to drill past the top-right corner.
A goal was not far away for the Magpies and it arrived from Judge’s deep corner, which Hughes nodded back across the face of goal. Bishop gained a touch but it was Leacock that finished off the job with a low strike inside the six-yard area.
Before play was restarted, Andre Boucaud was withdrawn and youth team graduate Greg Tempest was handed his Football League debut. The midfielder followed in the footsteps of his grandfather Bill Corkhill, who made 250 appearances for Notts County either side of World War Two.
In the closing stages, Scunthorpe searched for a leveller and Hawley again came close, when he nodded wide from Sodje’s headed cross. Sodje almost capitalised on a defensive mix-up as well but Bialkowski made a vital clearance, via an unorthodox save.
Another late switch saw Showunmi given a standing ovation by the home faithful and Tyrell Waite introduced. Only one more effort followed, as Sheehan was denied at the near post following a short corner routine, and Notts secured three points.