Notts County were unfortunate not to gain a point after a committed performance against Brentford at Griffin Park. Goals from Toumani Diagouraga gave the Bees a two-goal lead before Alan Judge pulled gave the Magpies hope with a 73rd minute rebound finish.
Following his return from a groin injury, Jamal Campbell-Ryce was drafted straight into the starting 11 on the right side of a 4-5-1 formation. Greg Tempest, seven days after making his full Football League debut, dropped to the bench, along with Enoch Showunmi, who was replaced by Yoann Arquin as the lone striker.
The two new inclusions combined to great effect in the second minute and almost got Notts off to the perfect start. Campbell-Ryce laid the ball to Arquin on the edge of the box, only the Frenchman’s powerful hit flew high and wide.
Brentford’s first effort arrived three minutes later, when Bradley Wright-Phillips was allowed to run at the County backline in the final third. The on-loan Charlton Athletic striker targeted the bottom-right corner with a low left-footed drive but the was denied by the foot of the post.
The high-flying Bees justified their league position in the opening stages and continued to push for an opener, next through Tom Adeyemi, who rose well to head over from Jake Bidwell’s lofted left-flank cross. Moments later, the wideman turned provider with a tidy pass inside to Clayton Donaldson, which resulted in the imposing striker firing across goal and narrowly wide of the left-hand post.
Wright-Phillips threatened again, following a series of flicks from the confident home side, but his finish deflected wide off Gary Liddle. It was a similar backs against the wall job to the Swindon match and Julian Kelly and Neal Bishop also had to put their bodies on the line to keep out efforts from Diagouraga and Jonathan Douglas respectively.
Diagouraga got his goal in the 21st minute with a feeble effort through a crowd of players. Bartosz Bialkowski’s vision was impaired but was disappointed to see the ball slip past him, as he stooped to collect.
Notts were limited to long-range attempts when they did manage to get forward. Both Alan Judge and Alan Sheehan tried their luck but were unable to test the goalkeeper, Simon Moore.
Judge later provided a superb back-post delivery from the left wing, which was met by the run of Bishop. However, the skipper, supervised closely by imposing centre-back Tony Craig, was unable to gain a strong enough connection with his outstretched boot.
On 41, Campbell-Ryce provided County’s best effort of the half, when he got the better of Craig by tricking his way into the box from the right wing with an assortment of step-overs. The winger rounded off the run with a curled shot, which would have crept under the crossbar had Moore not gained a vital fingertip touch.
First team manager Chris Kiwomya made one change at the break, with Bialkowski withdrawn and Kevin Pilkington introduced. It was a landmark 150th Magpies’ appearance for the player-goalkeeping coach and his first since rejoining the club last February.
Notts started the second half well and Judge immediately found Arquin with an overhead pass. The frontman applied a first-touch shot but it lacked power and Moore was not troubled.
In the 55th minute, a quick interchange between Shaleum Logan and Wright-Phillips saw the former race clear, though Jeff Hughes came to the rescue with an outstanding saving challenge. Shortly after, Wright-Phillips controlled well 20 yards from goal and turned to strike wide of the left-hand upright.
Pilkington was called into action for the first time in the 63rd minute, after Donaldson had faced a one-on-one with Dean Leacock. The former Crewe Alexandra man got wide of the defender and forced Pilkington into a reaction stop with a powerful drive.
Brentford added a second goal seven minutes later, following a clever flick by Adeyemi that enabled Wright-Phillips to progress into the area unopposed. He made no mistake with the finish and slotted inside the bottom-left corner, far out of Pilkington’s reach.
The Magpies were handed a lifeline, when Judge was pulled to the ground inside the box and awarded a penalty. Campbell-Ryce’s finish into the bottom-right corner was well saved but Judge followed up on the rebound to make it 2-1 in front of the away supporters.
From this point onwards, Brentford looked edgy and County grew in confidence. Showunmi, who had replaced Jeff Hughes to allow a switch to 4-4-2, had a header from Sheehan’s corner cleared off the line, before he sent another off target less than a minute later.
Judge then watched a 25-yard hit bounce awkwardly in front of Moore but the stopper coped well with a save down to his right. The Notts fans and players believed that an equaliser was on the way and they had an additional five minutes to find it.
Showunmi came closest for County in the final stages, when he strived to get on the end of an Arquin flick-on, only for Moore to make a brave save at his feet. The away fans applauded their side’s efforts at the final whistle, because, although disappointed not to take anything, Notts gave everything they had in a late effort to claim something from the match.