Stead the Difference as Notts Defeat Hartlepool
Notts County made it two successive wins with an impressive victory over an in-form Hartlepool side.
Jon Stead’s goal was the difference between the two sides as the Magpies’ defence stayed resolute to keep another clean sheet against a free-scoring Hartlepool side who put five goals past Morecambe at the weekend.
It was Hartlepool who started the strongest of the two sides winning a corner in the second minute after Thierry Audel blocked Michael Duckworth’s shot.
A minute later Notts broke strongly, and following quick footwork from Stanley Aborah, the Notts midfielder found Liam Noble. He fed Audel, but his touch was too strong sending the ball out for a goal kick.
It was Aborah who was first into referee's book in the fifth minute, bringing down Rhys Oates midway inside the Magpies half after Wes Atkinson gave the ball away cheaply.
Again it was Audel involved in the action as he spread the ball wide to Elliot Hewitt. His cross was headed behind and Filip Valencic volleyed over from the resulting corner.
Audel then showed his defensive capabilities as Jake Gray pushed forward down the Hartlepool right wing. The Frenchman matched Gray for pace and executed a perfectly timed challenge, conceding a corner which the Notts defence played clear.
In the eleventh minute, the Magpies almost fashioned a breakthrough with a quickly worked throw. Noble found Hewitt whose cross was headed back across goal by Stead to Izale McLeod but his shot was blocked the Pool’s defence.
A couple of minutes later, Notts went close again, with Liam Noble’s curling free kick from 30 yards flying narrowly past the top corner of Carson’s goal after McLeod was fouled.
Mid-way through the half, Liam Noble had two chances to put Notts ahead, both provided by Hewitt. The first saw Noble scuff a shot from a Hewitt cross. Another Hewitt cross, following a beautiful cross-field ball by Haydn Hollis was fired over the bar by Noble.
A short-spell of Hartlepool pressure followed, with Mike Edwards clearing Gray’s cross after a slick move from the Pools before Michael Woods and Luke James linked up well, only to fire a tame shot straight at Scott Loach.
Just after the half-hour mark, Hartlepool had one of their best chances of the game, Woods running at the Notts defence and unleashing a shot which Hollis blocked. Rhys Oates was the quickest to follow up and his deflected shot was saved brilliantly by Loach with his legs.
Hewitt put in a strong tackle in the midfield to rob Lewis Hawkins before playing in Stead. He found Noble but his low shot was saved by keeper.
Hartlepool had the last chance of the half as Oates strode forward from half way, beating Edwards but his effort curled wide of the far post.
The second half saw a bright start from Hartlepool as Luke James broke forward before shooting over the bar from edge of the box.
A few minutes later, Atkinson could have put Notts ahead. Aborah played in Valencic, who found McLeod. His effort was blocked with Atkinson’s follow-up shot saved and held by the keeper at second attempt.
Notts were in the ascendancy as McLeod turned Jones, broke down the right and got a powerful shot on target which was saved by Carson.
The 55th minute saw Notts deservedly make the breakthrough. Liam Noble played a beautiful ball over the top to Hewitt. He ran into space on the right and pulled cross back for Jon Stead to finish low from close range.
Ten minutes later, Edwards played a great cross field ball to Audel, who headed into the path of Valencic, but his effort went wide of the post.
Loach then came to the rescue. Woods broke forward for Hartlepool and a shot came in from the edge of box forcing a fantastic save from Loach to his top left. The resulting corner saw Jones’ shot cleared off the line by Liam Noble.
Mark Cooper made his first change in the 69th minute, bringing on Adam Campbell on for Valencic.
Noble again went close in the 73rd minute, curling a shot just wide of the post from the edge of the box with Carson beaten.
With just over 10 minutes to go, Stead chased a long ball over top, forcing a corner. Noble played the ball in and Audel’s header was deflected narrowly wide. Another corner saw a scramble yards from the Hartlepool goal but McLeod and Edwards couldn’t get the ball over the line.
Montel Gibson, a product of the Notts youth academy made his debut for the final 10 minutes, replacing man of the match Jon Stead.
There was still time for a couple of half-chances for Hartlepool. First, Walker hit a hopeful shot from 30 yards out which went over the bar, before he turned provider and fed James, whose low shot from the edge of the box was held by Loach.
The last of the action came deep into added time with a Hartlepool corner taken by Hawkins connecting with Magnay but sailing harmlessly over.
Attendance 3597 (187 away)
Team: Loach, Hollis, Noble (Amevor 90’), Hewitt, Valencic (Campbell 69’), Atkinson, Stead (Gibson 81’), Audel, Aborah, Edwards, McLeod
Unused Subs: Carroll, Murray, Snijders, Sarpong