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Match Reports

Hartlepool v Notts County

20 August 2016

Hartlepool 1-2 Notts County

A goal and an assist from Louis Laing fired Notts County to victory at Hartlepool this afternoon.

The Motherwell loanee, sporting a bandage following an aerial clash in midweek, restored parity for the Magpies in the second half after Toto Nsiala had put Pools in front early on.

And Laing's neat lay-off following a surging run set Jon Stead up to score the winner - his third goal in as many matches.

John Sheridan made one change to the side that faced Plymouth at Meadow Lane on Tuesday. Adam Campbell came into the starting 11 for the first time this season, replacing the bench-bound Thierry Audel.

That move saw the Magpies utilise a 4-4-1-1 formation, with Campbell behind Stead and Jonathan Forte wide left. Matt Tootle went to right back with Stanley Aborah partnering Michael O'Connor in central midfield.

It wasn't the start Notts wanted, however, as Pools took an eighth-minute lead. Lewis Alessandra wriggled away down the right and drilled the ball low into the middle, where Nsiala was on hand to bundle it over the line.

Stead tried to conjure the Magpies' response by playing a teasing low ball across the face of goal two minutes later but it was turned behind well by a defender.

The home side were forced into a change on 22 minutes when Carl Magnay was replaced by Jordan Richards.

And Pools had an opening shortly afterwards when the ball fell kindly for Alessandra in the area. Richard Duffy slid in to deny him.

Notts' Campbell had made a lively start to the match and nearly played a key role in the visitors scoring a 25th-minute equaliser. Following excellent work by Aborah down the right, Campbell played a lovely through ball for Stead to send the forward one-on-one with Trevor Carson. The keeper made an excellent save with his legs, flicking the ball up on to the bar. Notts kept up their pressure but were unable to make it count, Campbell curling the ball just wide from 20 yards.

Sheridan's men had another excellent chance moments later when Aborah played an excellent first-time cross towards the back post. The ball evaded the last defender and dropped at Forte's feet, but he couldn't adjust quickly enough to make contact.

It had been a good spell for Notts but they were nearly hit with a sucker punch when Matthew Bates struck the post with a beautifully executed volley on 35 minutes.

Notts went straight back on the attack, however, and carved out an opportunity following nice build-up involving Rodman and Tootle. It was left to O'Connor to provide the cross for Stead, whose header was well pushed wide by goalkeeper Carson.

As half-time approached the visitors kept going, Campbell scampering towards goal before seeing his cross blocked. The former Newcastle man regained possession shortly afterwards, crossing for Rodman to shoot from eight yards. Two Hartlepool defenders blocked the ball's path to goal, diverting it out for a corner and preserving their side's lead going into the break.

There were no changes at the break and within seconds of the restart Rodman won a free-kick on the edge of the 'D'. O'Connor curled the ball inches wide.

Pools came close to a second on 54 minutes after Nathan Thomas jinked his way into the area. Tootle got across brilliantly to deny the winger an almost certain goal.

Sheridan was forced to make his first change just after the hour when Forte limped off after going down off the ball. He was replaced by Vadaine Oliver, while Alan Smith was also introduced in place of Aborah.

And the fresh impetus almost paid immediate dividends as Stead came close to equalising twice in quick succession. The in-form forward showed lovely footwork 25 yards out before curling the ball low towards goal. It cannoned back off the post but Notts kept the move alive, eventually working the ball back to Stead in the area. He cut inside on his left but could only shoot over.

It wasn't to matter, however, as two minutes later the Magpies had their equaliser. A corner was half-cleared to Smith on the edge of the area, who nodded the ball back into the danger area. It dropped over the heads of every Pools defender and Laing was on hand to finish neatly.

Pools soon set about restoring their lead and were left to curse a heroic piece of Duffy defending when the Notts man slid in at the near post to deal with a dangerous low cross.

The match was there for the taking and Notts nearly took the lead after excellent interplay between Rodman, Stead and Tootle. The latter's cross-cum-shot agonisingly evaded both the far corner and Oliver's head as it flew out for a goal kick.

O'Connor was the next man to go close, curling the ball just over the angle of post and crossbar, before Notts took the lead their second-half display had deserved.

It was an assist for Laing this time as the centre back surged through the middle of the park, reaching the edge of the area before slipping it to his right for Stead. The forward had enough time to compose himself before stroking the ball past the helpless Carson.

A first victory of the season was now well and truly in Notts' sights but they were forced to defend resolutely by the hosts, Smith in particular making a number of crucial interventions in midfield.

Pools substitute Lewis Hawkins stung the palms of Collin with a long-range strike, the goalkeeper collecting at the second attempt shortly before four minutes of added time were indicated.

Stead then came off for Audel as Sheridan looked to shore-up his defence.

And the Magpies held on to claim an impressive victory at the Northern Gas and Power Stadium.

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