Exeter City 0-2 Notts County
Jon Stead scored twice to hand Notts County their fourth consecutive away win at Exeter City tonight.
The in-form front man, who is now on nine goals for the season, finished twice from close range in the first half to seal a 2-0 victory.
John Sheridan was forced to make one change to the team that picked up consecutive victories against Cheltenham Town and Leyton Orient.
Louis Laing, red-carded against Orient, served his suspension, with Elliott Hewitt replacing him on the right-hand side of the three centre backs.
Notts started superbly against Cheltenham in their last away fixture, opening the scoring after four minutes.
And they went one better this time around, breaking the deadlock with only three minutes on the clock. Alex Rodman capitalised on a Luke Croll mistake in midfield, bursting goalwards and drawing City keeper Bobby Olejnik off his line. The shot was on, but the midfielder coolly rolled the ball to his left where Stead was ready and waiting to apply the simplest of finishing touches.
Exeter were struggling to penetrate a resolute Notts back line in the early stages, and the Magpies nearly carved out an opportunity to double their lead on 16 minutes. Unfortunately, Jonathan Forte slipped as he darted to meet Stead's cut back, allowing a defender to quell the danger.
Adam Collin was eventually called into action on 20 minutes when the ball ran for Jack Stacey in the area. The keeper was quick to narrow the angle and made a good block to send the ball behind.
Forte came close shortly afterwards, nodding the ball across goal and just wide of the far post following a well-worked short corner, moments before Exeter's Robbie Simpson skewed the ball wide under pressure from Richard Duffy.
But it was Notts who looked the more likely next scorers, and so it proved. Forte was fouled in a dangerous crossing position, from which Michael O'Connor sent in a devilish delivery that caused chaos in the area. Stead was on hand to mop up the mess, forcing the ball home to send his side into the break 2-0 up.
There were no changes for either side at the break and Notts began the second half strongly, keeping the ball patiently in Exeter's final third before setting Dickinson up for a shot 25 yards out. The wing back didn't catch the ball cleanly, sending it high and wide.
Dickinson became the first name in the referee's notebook shortly afterwards after receiving a talking-to during a break in play.
It was proving to be a quiet evening for Notts keeper Collin, with those in front of him defending superbly, but he had to be on his toes just after the hour to make a near-post save from Reuben Reid.
Notts' first change came on 69 minutes when Vadaine Oliver replaced Forte. He was soon joined on the field by Aaron Collins, who took Stead's place.
As the minutes ticked down Exeter committed more bodies forward, but Notts kept up their resistance. Duffy, for a shoulder barge, and Oliver, for time wasting, found their way into the book before Jordan Richards replaced Rodman with seven minutes to play.
Shortly after play resumed, Simpson was denied by an excellent Collin save when the keeper managed to push his flicked header wide.
And Exeter had their own keeper to thank on 88 minutes when O'Connor wriggled his way into the box, brought the ball along the byline and tried to find the far corner with the outside of his boot. Olejnik denied the midfielder with a strong right hand to keep the score at 2-0.
Five minutes were added on at the end of the match, during which Collin made an outstanding save from Reid's powerfully struck 20-yard free-kick.
The keeper was in action again moments later, holding on to substitute Liam McAlinden's glancing header.
But the Grecians were unable to find a way past Collin as the Magpies recorded their first clean sheet of the season.