Wolves 0-0 Notts Co [1-3 On Pens]
Wolverhampton Wanderers’ goalkeeper Carl Ikeme may have been the star of the show in the 90 minutes but it was his opposite number Fabian Spiess that had the final say, as Notts County booked a place in the Northern Section Quarter Final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. After a goalless scoreline, Notts were ruthless from 12 yards and a combination of poor finishing and a superb Spiess save made sure that they continued on the Road to Wembley.
Manager Chris Kiwomya made five changes to the side that thumped Crewe Alexandra three days prior - most of them forced. With in-form duo Callum McGregor and Jack Grealish away on international duty with Scotland Under-21s and Republic of Ireland Under-21s respectively, Adam Coombes and Jamal Campbell-Ryce, who returned from a foot injury, stepped into the starting 11.
Alan Sheehan had limped off in the weekend’s fixture, meaning Mustapha Dumbuya switched to left-back and Curtis Thompson deputised on the opposite side of the back four. The two final alterations saw Spiess take up the spot between the sticks and Yoann Arquin line up at the spearhead of 4-3-3 formation, as Bartosz Bialkowski and Danny Haynes dropped to the bench.
The neutrals watching live on Sky Sports were treated to a lively opening that saw both sides produce decent attempts. For the hosts, Jake Cassidy drove narrowly wide from the edge of the box and, at the other end, Joss Labadie cleared the bar with a header, after connecting with Campbell-Ryce’s floated free-kick from deep.
In the 10th minute, Coombes crafted a fine opportunity for himself when he skipped away from his marker in the final third. However, his low shot was pushed clear by home goalkeeper Ikeme, down to his right.
Moments later, following a foul on Coombes, Boucaud set Arquin free inside the box with an unexpected quick free-kick. The Frenchman placed across goal, only Ikeme was again equal to the effort with a strong parry.
Leigh Griffiths had netted three goals in his last two appearances prior to the fixture and almost added another when he curled over with a 25-yard free-kick. In quick response, Campbell-Ryce nearly marked his comeback with a goal, when he roamed inside to strike past the foot of the right-hand post.
Despite being at full stretch, Mark Fotheringham came even closer with an improvised finish that skidded marginally wide of the mark. Coombes and Dumbuya later tested Ikeme with near-post shots, as County continued to create the better of the first half openings.
Ahead of the interval, Coombes tricked his way into the box and went to ground – a strong call for a penalty. His reaction suggested a foul and that of the home defence indicated a dive, though the referee refused to commit to either scenario.
The Magpies continued to look dangerous in attack straight after the restart and Labadie carved open the home rearguard within a matter of 22 seconds. As he held off his marker, Coombes fired low at goal and denied by Ikeme’s outstretched boot.
Arquin should have given Notts the lead in the 54th minute, after Fotheringham and Labadie had come out on top in midfield battles for possession. Labadie raced into space and sliced open the defence with a superb through-pass, but Arquin’s attemped finish through Ikeme’s legs was well blocked by the stopper and Coombes was unable to follow up on the rebound.
Wolves then had another let-off, as Campbell Ryce’s pacy corner was glanced wide of the far post by Dean Leacock. Maintaining the pressure, Dumbuya showed great acceleration to cut inside from the left but his shot was deflected wide of the near post.
On 64, Liam McAlinden, a second half substitute, drove over, following a mistake in the Notts defence. Three minutes later, a sharp passing move resulted in Scott Golbourne beating Spiess with a low effort but Gary Liddle came to the rescue with an outstanding goal-line clearance.
This proved to be the hosts’ best spell of the game and Griffiths came close once more from a free-kick on the corner of the box. The striker had the home fans on their feet but his powerful shot crashed into the side netting.
It looked as though Boucaud was going to be the County player to finally beat Ikeme with a well-placed strike towards the bottom-left corner, only for the goalkeeper to gain a vital fingertip touch down to his right. Labadie also tried his luck from distance but found the Wolves fans in the stand behind the goal.
During two minutes of added time, Wanderers came within a whisker of booking their place in the third round. A hopeful punt out of defence looked certain to find James Henry but Spiess raced off his line to make a brave save at the wideman’s feet.
No goals at the final whistle meant that a penalty shoot-out would decide the tie. For the Magpies, Danny Haynes, Labadie and Fotheringham made no mistake, but poor finishes by Bjorn Sigurdarson and Kevin Foley, in addition to a tremendous Spiess save, ensured that County were in the hat for the third stage of the tournament for the first time since 2001.
ATTENDANCE: 7,166 (including 102 Notts County supporters)
MAGPIE PLAYER MAN OF THE MATCH | MUSTAPHA DUMBUYA
Out of position at left-back but still looked a threat going forward and did not put a foot wrong defensively.
Look out for full reaction and post-match highlights on Magpie Player.
NEXT: Swindon Town V Notts County - Friday 18 October (7.45pm Kick-Off) @ The County Ground (BUY TICKETS)
Photos by Dan Westwell.