A Shaun Harrad header earned Notts County a well-deserved three points at home to Gillingham at Meadow Lane on Saturday.
The first half header was enough for the Magpies as they now go seven unbeaten, despite late pressure from the visitors.
McDonald came closest for Gillingham but Laing was there to clear the ball of the line after the striker’s shot had beaten Carroll.
The win saw Notts climb to eighth in the league.
The Magpies made two changes to the starting eleven that sealed an impressive 3-0 away win at Crewe in midweek, with Blair Adams and Gary Jones coming into the side, replacing Jordan Cranston and Nicky Wroe, who both took their place on the bench. Alan Smith was also included amongst the substitutes having not featured in the 18 that went to Crewe on Tuesday night.
The side were put under pressure right from the off. Gillingham got the ball forward after a flick from McDonald sent them away. The ball eventually fell to captain Doug Loft, whose shot from the edge of the area flew over the bar, giving Carroll no trouble.
Seven minutes into the game and Notts had their first opportunity to test Gillingham keeper Stephen Bywater. Stephen McLaughlin, making his first appearance at Meadow Lane for the Magpies, found himself in space on the left before unleashing a powerful strike towards the visitor’s goal. The shot stung the hands of the Gillingham keeper before they got the ball away.
Notts had the better of the opening fifteen minutes of the game, looking controlled in defence, whilst both Harrad and Cassidy got in behind the opposition on numerous occasions. A Garry Thompson cross was intercepted but only into the path of a lurking Cassidy, however he scuffed his shot as it was easily collected by Bywater.
Another chance fell to the home side only minutes later, with Shaun Harrad fouled on the edge of the box. Noble stepped up but his strike went straight into the wall. Thompson tried to navigate the ball back into the box, but his cross missed the on running Louis Laing as the chance fell to nothing.
Chances continued to fall to the Magpies as they took complete control of the opening quarter of the game. Harrad nearly connected with a fantastic Dumbuya cross which lead Thompson having the best chance of the afternoon so far. He collected the ball inside the Gillingham box before his left footed shot narrowly missed the bottom corner of the net, with Bywater left scrambling across his goal.
Notts looked to be a threat from set-pieces as Hollis nearly opened the scoring for County. A Gary Jones corner fell right onto the head of Hollis, who directed it well towards goal, only for two Gillingham defenders to be stood on the line to clear the danger once again.
Gillingham didn’t sit back however and looked to get at Notts as much as possible. Loft set up Dickenson on the edge of the area, but his curling shot went wide of Carroll’s goal. Pritchard too had an opportunity moments later but his shot didn’t trouble the home side.
Harrad, who had looked lively all afternoon, opened the scoring for Notts on the 35th minute. Good play from McLaughlin down the left opened up space to cross the ball onto Cassidy, who flicked his header towards the back post, where Harrad was waiting. The striker got to the ball first and headed it beyond Bywater and into the near corner of the net, giving Notts the lead.
One wasn’t enough for the Magpies, as Thompson wasn’t far off making it two, however his header narrowly went wide of the goal. Thompson was creating all sorts of problems down the right, firing a shot over the bar with only minutes left until the half-time whistle.
On the announcement of two minutes added time, Gillingham had their best opportunity of the first half. Doug Loft found himself with plenty of space 25 yards out from goal. His shot lacked power but was only inches away from equalising for the away side as it clipped the corner of the bar. Notts saw out the final minutes as they went into the break 1-0 up.
HT: Notts County 1 - 0 Gillingham
Derry’s side were on the back foot after the break with Gillingham starting the second half brightly, much like they did the first half. McGlashan got a good cross into the box, which McDonald did well to connect with, but his header went wide of the far post.
The fans were in good voice throughout the game and had good reason to be, with Notts getting back into the second half and playing some very good football. Dumbuya eased past Joe Martin and put an excellent cross into the path of Harrad. Harrad’s touch was faultless but he couldn’t get his shot away as cleanly as he would have liked, Bywater getting across his goal to tip the ball wide.
Down the other end, Gillingham were inches away from making it 1-1. McDonald broke into the box and squeezed his shot underneath an on-rushing Roy Carroll, who hadn’t had much to do until the 54th minute. Louis Laing came to the rescue though as he cleared the shot off the line to keep the Magpies ahead.
Good work from the forward line of Notts nearly made it 2-0 to the home side. Cassidy, Harrad and Jones combined to earn Notts a corner. The corner was aimed to the back post where Thompson was running onto, however he couldn’t make good enough contact with the ball as he slid with the ball into the side netting.
Gillingham put the Notts defence under increasing pressure during parts of the second, allowing Carroll to make his first save of the afternoon. A succession of corners were dealt with well by the Magpies. Substitute Bradley Dack did manage to get his head on a cross but his header was straight at Carroll who clutched onto the ball with relief.
With 15 minutes left, Notts continued to attack the visiting full-backs and the introduction of Zeli Ismail only added to that. McLaughlin skilfully skipped past two Gillingham defenders and put an extremely dangerous ball into the box, but the on running Harrad and Thompson couldn’t get on the end of it.
Gillingham who were definitely looking more dangerous since the break won a penalty with ten minutes left on the clock. Bradley Dack burst into the box before being fouled by Laing for a penalty.
Carroll was booked during the build up to the penalty, a yellow he believed he didn’t deserve. However, it’s not something that concerned him as he brilliant saved the penalty after Norris struck low and hard into the bottom left corner, but Carroll guessed the right-way, getting his body behind it and keeping hold of the shot.
Carroll was certainly the busy of the two goalkeepers during the closing stages of the game. Norris again tested the keeper but Carroll was a match for his shot yet again. The follow up could have beaten the keeper but Laing was there to block as Notts cleared the ball away.
With seven minutes added time announced, Notts were incredibly close to making it 2-0 and sealing the three points. A misplaced pass from Aaron Martin was put straight into the path of Garry Thompson, who was one on one with Bywater. Bywater did brilliantly however to close the gap and save well from Thompson���s shot.
It was certainly a nervy ending to the game with Gillingham coming close to equalising late on. Substitute Antonio German was very close to earning a point for his side, but Roy Carroll was there again to ensure the score remained 1-0 to Notts.
That turned out to be the last chance of the game as Notts held on to a much deserved three points and continued their unbeaten run, making it seven in all competitions without defeat. The final whistle bringing cheers of relief after another solid performance from the Magpies.
It was certainly a performance Derry could be proud of as his side battled hard and stayed strong at the back when the Gillingham forwards put them under pressure.
FT: Notts County 1 - 0 Gillingham
Notts County: Carroll, Dumbuya, Adams, Hollis ©, G Thompson, Cassidy (Ismail 71), Jones, Noble, Harrad (Smith 86), McLaughlin, Laing.
Substitutes: Spiess, Smith, Ismail, Wroe, Murray, McKenzie, Cranston.
Gillingham: Bywater, Martin, Egan, Hause, Loft ©, Hessenthaler (Norris, 46), McDonald, McGlashan (German 82), A Morris, Pritchard, Dickenson (Dack, 61).
Substitutes: G Morris, German, Linganzi, Norris, Davies, Dack, Hoyte.