Valencic Secures Victory On The Road
Jamie Fullaton's first match in charge of Notts County ended with victory as Filip Valencic struck a stunning winner in a 1-0 win at Crawley Town.
The Slovenian lashed in from the edge of the area to give the Magpies a first win on the road in League Two since the opening day at Stevenage.
Fullarton's first team selection showed four changes from the 4-2 defeat against Oxford United a fortnight ago. Alan Smith, Stanley Aborah and Graham Burke all dropped to the bench whilst Izale McLeod missed out against his former club with an injury.
In came Valencic, Scot Bennett - his first Notts appearance since August - Curtis Thompson and Ronan Murray.
The hosts had won seven of their previous eight games on their own turf and started on the attack with veteran striker Matt Harrold sidefooting straight at Roy Carroll from 25 yards before the goalkeeper was forced to acrobatically tip Gavin Tomlin's effort over the bar.
Tomlin threatened again when he stole possession in the Notts half but his shot from the edge of the penalty area whistled past the post.
The pressure continued as the fleet-footed midfielder Gwion Edwards fired over the bar from a tight angle whilst Lewis Young, brother of Manchester United and England star Ashley, had a shot parried wide by Carroll at the near post
The Magpies were grateful to Murray for being in the right place at the right time to keep the game goalless as the striker cleared Sonny Bradley's goalbound header off the line.
Simon Walton then tried his luck from distance but his shot was always rising over the crossbar with the goalkeeper able to see it out of harm's way.
Notts had their first effort on goal late in the first half through Valencic, who could only fire erratically over the bar and the stand from 25 yards with the sides at a stalemate at half-time.
Bradley headed towards goal from another corner early in the second half but Carroll was able to bring the ball under control to relieve the pressure.
Notts had defended well, but struggled to create any clear-cut chances. However, they led from out of nowhere just after the hour.
Stead's towering header from a diagonal ball fell kindly for Valencic, who crashed an unstoppable left-footed half-volley up and over goalkeeper Darryl Flahavan, who was grasping at thin air, to find the bottom corner and stun the Checkatrade.com Stadium.
Looking to get the Red Devils back on level terms quickly, Edwards danced infield with the ball seemingly tied to his boot but Thompson was on hand to block the shot.
County looked a dangerous proposition on the counter-attack in the latter stages of the game as Crawley pushed forward searching for an equaliser. This was exemplified by Thompson, who charged through midfield into space and played in Stead. The striker cut back onto his left foot but curled over the bar.
As time ticked away, the Notts players began to kill the game, keeping the ball in the corner and as far away from their goal as possible. The desperation to see out the win was almost tangible and the five minutes added on by the fourth official did little to calm the nerves of the 263 travelling supporters.
Fortunately, the team put on a resolute, disciplined defensive performance to ensure a first clean sheet since the 0-0 draw at Bristol Rovers in October and a long overdue away victort.
One game, one clean sheet, one win. Fullarton couldn't have asked for a better start.
Notts: Carroll; Atkinson, Hewitt, Hollis, Milsom; Thompson, Bennett; Murray (Smith, 82), Campbell, Valencic; Stead.
Subs not used: Loach, Sharpe, Amevor, Aborah, Burke, Spencer.
Attendance: 2,074 (263 away)