Notts County were beaten 2-1 by Gillingham at the Priestfield Stadium this evening. It was again preventable goals again that cost the Magpies and even a second half wonder-strike from Callum McGregor was not enough to earn a share of the spoils.
The impressive Chris Whelpdale opened the scoring with an outstanding 23rd minute finish against the run of play. Danny Kedwell then smashed home his sixth goal of the campaign to send the hosts into the break two goals up.
Notts sparked into life in the 79th minute, when McGregor added another spectacular finish to his collection of seven goals. This prompted a nervy ending for the Gills, as County mounted a late onslaught, which, despite a big effort, failed to bring a second goal.
Four changes were made from the starting 11 that faced Swindon Town on Friday night, as Dean Leacock (illness) and Joss Labadie (suspended) dropped out of the squad, whilst Adam Coombes and Danny Haynes were named on the bench. The four players to come into the side were Manny Smith, Greg Tempest, Jamal Campbell-Ryce and Yoann Arquin.
In a lively opening, former Magpie Myles Weston was the first to provide an effort at goal. The fleet-footed wideman found a pocket of space behind the Notts’ defence but his early volley flew harmlessly wide of the mark.
In quick response, strong hold-up play by Arquin presented Campbell-Ryce with space from the right but his driven shot found the home fans behind the goal. Moments later, Alan Sheehan did manage to test ex-County stopper Stuart Nelson with a stern volley that was smartly held inside the near post.
On 15, Bartosz Bialkowski was the first of the goalkeepers to be seriously tested, following a misplaced pass out of defence. Charlie Lee collected, only his low drive was well anticipated by the Pole, who reached down to his right to make the save.
The Magpies gradually gained the upper-hand and Campbell-Ryce came close again, when he twisted full-back Michael Harriman inside out from the left and curled narrowly wide of the right-hand post. Tempest and Mark Fotheringham later tried their luck from range but both had decent attempts bravely charged down.
Against the run of play, Gillingham delivered the first blow, following a quick break down the right, which saw Weston deliver a searching cross towards Whelpdale. Rather than attack the ball, the midfielder escaped his marker with a superb piece of chest control and proceeded to drive into the bottom-left corner.
On 28, Whelpdale turned provider with a headed flick-on that caught out the away backline. The hosts’ top-scorer Kedwell raced clear into the box and struck powerfully past Bialkowski.
Campbell-Ryce almost reduced the deficit inside a minute, as McGregor spotted his run into the left channel with an incisive through-pass. The lively winger, again, cut inside past two men and was unfortunate to see a thumping effort cannon back off the crossbar.
The home danger man Whelpdale continued to threaten as the game edged towards the break and provided an unexpected back-heel into the path of Weston, whose 20-yard hit was smothered by Bialkowski. Following a tussle with Dumbuya, Whelpdale then unleashed another shot of his own but Bialkowski stood in the way once more with a reaction parry.
With the final attempt of the opening 45, Campbell-Ryce had another decent strike from the left. This time, the ball deflected wildly and dipped just over the uncertain Nelson’s bar.
With the final attempt of the opening 45, Campbell-Ryce had another decent strike from the left. This time, the ball deflected wildly and dipped just over Nelson’s bar.
Gillingham started the second period brightly and could have added a third from a corner, as centre-back Adam Barrett’s header across the six-yard box was nodded into the arms of Bialkowski by Lee. From another dangerous corner, another centre-back, Leon Legge, volleyed marginally wide of the left-hand upright.
Capitalising on a Liddle slip, Harriman was next to get into a dangerous position, as the right-back cut inside from the wing. Boucaud superbly charged his shot down, before Bialkowski gathered Weston’s follow-up effort.
On 61, Tempest carved open the Gills’ defence with a delicate pass that resulted in Callum McGregor having a shot blocked. Alan Sheehan attempted a chip on the rebound but put too much behind his finish.
Bialkowski pulled off the save of the match shortly after to keep the Magpies in the game. A poor clearance led to Whelpdale finding space 25 yards from goal and his stunning shot would have nestled in the top-right corner had Bialkowski not tipped behind with an acrobatic stop.
In the 66th minute, manager Chris Kiwomya made a double switch, as Danny Haynes and David Bell replaced Arquin and Campbell-Ryce. Haynes almost made an immediate impact, when he connected with Sheehan’s pacy centre from the left to head over.
Notts huffed and puffed and arguably should have netted on at least one occasion. Tempest came close on two occasions, with a volley that cleared the bar and curled shot that was well saved by Nelson, and Smith latched on to an in-swinging Sheehan free-kick to head straight at the goalkeeper.
Notts’ leading scorer was the man to give the away fans hope of a point, with a trademark finish. McGregor, out of nothing, nipped into a pocket of space and rifled unstoppably inside the right-hand post from 25 yards.
The Gills looked edgy after the goal and the Magpies pushed forward in droves. Countless crosses were delivered into the box but the hosts managed to escape on each occasion, despite a few uncertain moments.
The County backroom staff and players became increasingly frustrated as the game edged into added time, largely due to the time-wasting tactics that required the likes of Haynes and Haber to take on ball boy duties. Four minutes of added time saw Bell provide the best of the efforts but Gillingham showed a determination in the final stages to hold onto the three points.