Notts County failed to build on a positive opening day result back home at Meadow Lane following a disappointing 1-0 loss to Fleetwood Town. Jamie Proctor’s 45th minute header proved to be the difference as the newly-promoted visitors made it six points from six.
Before kick-off, the teams, backroom staff and supporters were joint by a host of club legends to pay their respects to former vice-chairman John Mounteney, who had sadly passed away earlier in the week. A moment of silence was followed by a rapturous applause for a man that had played a vital part in ensuring that the club still exists to this day.
Notts were without the experienced Alan Smith for the first home game of the campaign after the midfielder took a knock in the midweek Capital One Cup encounter with Sheffield Wednesday. Liam Noble, who had been named Man of the Match for his performance at Hillsborough, came into the side to line up alongside Gary Jones in the middle of the park.
The Magpies had taken up a 4-2-3-1 formation at Deepdale but opted for a 4-4-2, which had worked so well on home turf at the end of 2014.15. Ronan Murray partnered Jake Cassidy in attack, with Nicky Wroe and Adam Dawson on the wings.
The first opening of the match arrived in sixth minute, when Haydn Hollis kept a corner alive with a brilliant slide tackle. The centre-back found Murray with a cutback but the Irishman cleared the bar with his shot.
Three minutes later, the visitors threatened after their opening day match-winner Proctor found a pocket of space on the edge of the area. The striker targeted the top-right corner with a curled effort that flew wide of the mark.
Roy Carroll was forced into his first save of the afternoon by a stern Gareth Evans drive. At the other end, Nicky Wroe let loose with an ambitious volley that cleared the bar.
Fleetwood had two further opportunities to move in front, first from a Josh Morris corner that Stephen Jordan nodded wide. Proctor also unleashed a pacy cross from the left, which skidded inches past the outside of the far post.
On 28, Cassidy held up play well before turning to run at the away defence. The on-loan Wolverhampton Wanderers striker tried his luck from 25 yards but failed to hit the target.
Moments later, Carroll was called into action by a powerful Drive from Morris. The winger’s attempt looked certain to creep into the bottom-right corner, only for the Northern Ireland international to tip behind with a one-handed finger-tip save.
Notts suffered a blow in the final minute of the half when Blair Adams was withdrawn due to an injury. He was quickly replaced by Curtis Thompson.
Two minutes of added time were shown by the fourth official and this was when the Cod Army moved in front. A Morris cross was floated from the right wing and Proctor rose well to find the inside of the right-hand post with a downward header.
County almost pulled a goal back in the 53rd minute following a long throw into the box by Murray. A flick-on saw the ball land at the feet of Noble, whose low strike across goal bounced wide.
The home sections were on their feet shortly after, when Hayden Mullins picked out Dawson’s forward run with a tremendous 50-yard diagonal pass. The wideman progressed into the box but his fierce drive was diverted behind by a fantastic Chris Maxwell parry.
A head injury to Noble led to his withdrawal as part of a double change. Dawson also came off, as Jeremy Balmy and Zeli Ismail lined up out wide.
It looked as though Notts were going to have to play out the last 20 minutes with 10 men after Hollis sustained a nasty injury to his shoulder. However, after a lengthy period of treatment with the medical staff, he returned to the action.
On 71, Balmy turned cleverly on the wing to set up Gary Jones, whose thumping hit was tipped over by Maxwell. Ismail later delivered a chipped centre that the goalkeeper fumbled and Cassidy was almost able to pounce.
As the Magpies continued the search for an equaliser, Murray completed a run with a 20-yard hit past the right-hand upright. Ismail then turned away from three Fleetwood players to fire over.
Town went in search of a second and Antoni Sarcevic placed over from the edge of the area. A short corner to Evans could have caused trouble as well but his whipped cross was nodded behind by David Ball.
Two minutes from time, Mustapha Dumbuya’s forward surge resulted in a series of quick passes and space on the edge of the box for Cassidy. The striker turned to shoot but Maxwell gathered to prevent the ball from finding the bottom-right corner.
It should have been game over before the six minutes of added time when Sarcevic’s lobbed centre left Ball with only the goalkeeper to beat. The frontman struck powerfully at goal, though Carroll somehow gained a touch to guide the shot over.
County struggled to find a breakthrough in the closing moments and the full time whistle meant defeat. Much better will be required when Colchester United are in town on Tuesday evening.