Stead's Brace Seals the Points in Five Goal Thriller
Jon Stead's double either side of a Liam Noble strike was enough to give Jamie Fullarton his third win in five games as Notts County manager. Notts took an early lead as first Stead, and then Noble, found the net in the first fourteen minutes. Hartlepool came out strongest after the break, levelling with two goals in four minutes before Stead rose highest to strike again and seal the three points.
Notts County took the lead in the fifth minute as Jon Stead picked his spot with a fine solo effort. The striker won the ball from the home side 35 yards out, driving forwards toward the edge of the box, curling his shot right footed past Trevor Carson and into the top right corner.
The away side had spent the majority of the opening stages camped in Hartlepool’s half, until the hosts fashioned their first chance eight minutes in. Nathan Thomas took a corner short, getting the ball back on the right of the box, whipping his cross in left footed, the ball missing everyone and sailing behind Roy Carroll’s right hand post.
Before the quarter hour mark County had doubled their lead. Elliott Hewitt burst forward from right back, getting to the byline before pulling the ball back, his cross just evaded Izale McLeod but found Liam Noble 16 yards out who side footed past Carson into the bottom right corner.
The home fans were getting restless with Hartlepool misplacing pass after pass and just before half an hour, former Pools loanee Jason Banton should have made it three. Noble chased down the full back in the left channel, getting his chest on the defender’s attempted pass. The ball ricocheted into the area to Banton, the winger sold the defender a dummy but with just the keeper to beat he fired his effort over the bar.
Notts went into the break two goals to the good.
It was the hosts who came out strongest after the interval, Billy Paynter firing over Carroll's crossbar after a route one ball straight from Carson.
Despite the pressure from the home side, Notts County still looked dangerous on the counter attack, Elliot Hewitt winning a corner just before the hour mark. Noble's ball in narrowly missed Gary MacKenzie, whose appeals to the referee for handball were ignored.
Hartlepool reduced the deficit on 62 minutes with a speculative strike, Jake Gray firing in a half volley from the right of the area, the ball beating Carroll and finding the net via the far post.
Four minutes later and the hosts drew themselves level. Thomas found too much space on the left hand side and sent in a low cross to captain Paynter who slid in to meet the ball first and send it into the far corner.
The home side had been rejuvenated since the break, but the leveller was still harsh on Notts County, who had dominated the game for large parts.
It was the away side who thought they had retaken the lead with just under twenty minutes left on the clock. Izale McLeod did well to find space, before sending the ball behind the defence for Stead to race onto, the scorer of the first finishing neatly past Carson, only to turn and see the assistant's flag raised for offside.
Down the other end and Pools had a gilt edged chance to complete the turnaround. Paynter found himself unmarked four yards out, but the striker couldn't get a clean contact on the ball, Carroll reacting quickly on his line to smother the effort.
It was a moment the home side would regret as Notts won the game in the 80th minute. After a brief injury delay, Noble was allowed to take a corner, Jon Stead beating Carson to the ball in the air and send it into the empty net.
Jamie Fullarton's side weren't going to let their lead slip again, Carroll making himself big in the dying stages to block a goal bound effort. The defence stood strong for the five minutes added on in front of the 166 travelling fans to take the three points back to Nottingham.
Att: 3,433 (166 away)
Team: Carroll, Adams, Smith, Hollis, Thompson, Noble (Atkinson 86'), Hewitt, MacKenzie, Banton (Campbell 75'), Stead, McLeod (Murray 83')
Unused Subs: Loach, Sharpe, Burke, Audel