It proved to be another frustrating afternoon for Notts County as an encouraging performance against Sky Bet League 1’s form side Brentford ended in a 1-0 defeat. The Bees had won seven out of eight heading into the fixture but Notts at least matched them over the 90 and were unfortunate to be beaten by Will Grigg’s 44th minute strike.
Notts were boosted by the return of Alan Sheehan, who returned from a knock after missing the midweek draw with Bradford City. This meant that new loan left-back Morgan Fox was named among the substitutes alongside another new arrival, Derby County striker Callum Ball.
Marcus Haber’s red card at the Coral Window’s Stadium meant that he was suspended for the visit of the Bees. This resulted in Callum McGregor lining up in attack with Danny Haynes.
Boosted by the Tuesday night result, the Magpies started well and, in the fourth minute, Jack Grealish cut inside, away from his marker, to get a shot away. Goalkeeper David Button spilled the winger’s initial shot and made an excellent recovery save to deny Haynes’ close-range follow up effort.
County maintained the pressure with numerous deliveries into the box during the early stages but the visitors were next to threaten. On the edge of the box, Adam Forshaw found space to curl narrowly wide of the right-hand post.
As Notts continued to push forward, Jamal Campbell-Ryce almost watched one of his crosses from the right dip into the far top corner. Then, in quick response at the other end of the pitch, a Clayton Donaldson flick-on allowed Forshaw to send a volley bouncing wide of the mark.
On 25, Gary Liddle thought that he had netted his second goal in as many games, as the away rearguard struggled to clear from a Sheehan corner. The midfielder connected with a spectacular scissor kick that looked certain to find the net but Donaldson saved the Bees with a vital goal line block.
McGregor was next to ask questions of the Brentford backline, after Sheehan picked out his run into the left channel. The on-loan Celtic forward delivered a dangerous low cross towards Haynes, only for centre-back Harlee Dean to gain a crucial touch at the near post before the frontman could apply the finish.
The Magpies were almost rewarded with a goal in the 42nd minute, following an exciting attack down the right. McGregor’s clever pass allowed Haynes to deliver a low centre, which Campbell-Ryce placed over from a difficult angle.
Against the run of play, Brentford gained the lead with their first shot on target. Toumani Diagouraga won possession for the Bees deep into the Notts half and provided an incisive through pass for Grigg to slot home.
The goal so late into the half was a huge blow for County but in the early stages of the second period they saw plenty of the ball in the Bees’ half. From this pressure, Haynes was unfortunate not to win a penalty when his cross from the left appeared to be handled by away skipper Tony Craig.
The decision only motivated the Magpies, as they resumed the hunt for an equaliser, which nearly arrived when Grealish had a stern hit charged down after being fed into the box by McGregor. The duo combined again when McGregor found Grealish in the left channel, but Craig diverted the Republic of Ireland Under-21 international’s curved finish away from goal.
On 58, Forshaw forced Bartosz Bialkowski into an impressive save down to his right with an attempt from 25 yards. Then, from a direct punt, Donaldson escaped the home defence but slotted inches wide of the bottom-right corner.
Donaldson had another golden opportunity to make it 2-0 from a Jake Bidwell free-kick on the left wing. The powerful frontman rose well at the back post but nodded wide.
A knock to Manny Smith forced him to be withdrawn from the action – a change that saw Sheehan move inside to centre-back and Fox introduced at left-back for his Football League debut. Ball later replaced Campbell-Ryce, who had worked tirelessly throughout.
Shortly after the changes, lively winger Kadeem Harris unleashed a low drive from a narrow angle, which Bialkowski blocked with his legs inside his near post. The next goal was crucial but nobody was writing off Notts as the game opened up in the dying stages.
Ball nearly got his Magpies career off to the best possible start when he curled over from the edge of the box. Then, at the back, Bialkowski made an outstanding one-handed save to keep out Brentford’s Grigg, who had latched onto defence splitting pass.
Six minutes of added time was shown by the fourth official and the belief in the home sections increased. They nearly had their goal as well, when, from a Liddle cross, McGregor had a strong strike parried by Button and another blocked by Harlee Deen.
Grealish won countless free-kicks for his side and another gave Sheehan a chance from the corner of the area. Rather than setting up one of his teammates, the defender curled around the wall but was prevented from finding the net by a stooping Button save.
Sheehan nearly scored again a minute later, as he collected a clearance to send a half volley skidding narrowly past the right-hand post. It was not to be and on a day where the Magpies should have taken at least a point, they were left disappointed at the final whistle.