Stevenage 3-0 Notts
Notts were beaten 3-0 by Stevenage FC at the Lamex Stadium.
Two goals from Matt Godden and a composed Jack King finish put the game beyond the visitors, who were left to rue a superb double save from home keeper Chris Day at 1-0.
Kevin Nolan made three changes to the side that beat Plymouth Argyle in midweek. Skipper Michael O'Connor picked up his 10th booking of the season at Home Park and was replaced in the starting 11 by Curtis Thompson.
That switch saw Jorge Grant move into central midfield alongside Rob Milsom, while it was all change up front as Jon Stead and Shola Ameobi replaced the bench-bound Alan Smith and Jonathan Forte.
Notts had kept two clean sheets in their previous two matches but were undone inside three minutes on this occasion, Steve Schumacher swinging in a lovely cross from the right and Godden heading the ball to Collin's right.
Stevenage came into the match on the back of six wins from their previous seven and their confidence was evident. Ben Kennedy sent an audacious effort just over the angle of post and crossbar, swivelling just outside the area before striking the ball on the half-volley.
Schumacher flashed a low shot wide of the post with 19 minutes on the clock as the hosts continued to dominate proceedings.
But Notts soon began to grow into the game and had their first sight at goal following a long ball forward from Adam Collin. It didn't quite drop for Stead but it came out for Thompson just outside the area. His drilled shot was diverted wide by a defender.
The Magpies were scratching their heads as to how they hadn't equalised on the half-hour, Day brilliantly scooping Ameobi's header off the line before showing superb athleticism to deny Stead on the follow-up. The chance wasn't over - the ball came back to Ameobi but the former Newcastle man could only lash it across goal and wide from a tight angle.
Two more half chances followed for Stead, who fired the ball high and wide with his left foot before sending it straight at Day with a neat turn-and-shot minutes later.
For all Notts' encouraging signs, it should have been 2-0 to the hosts before the break after Josh Clackstone was beaten down the left and the ball was cut back for Godden in space six yards out. Stevenage's top scorer spooned the ball over the bar.
Determined to restore parity before the whistle, Notts claimed the final opportunity of the first half. Milsom played a lovely ball into the channel for Mark Yeates, who cut it back into the area. It found its way to Stead but he couldn't pick out a team-mate and Stevenage turned the ball behind. The resultant corner was flicked on dangerously at the near post but the hosts were able to clear, preserving their slender lead going into the interval.
There were no changes at the break, other than Nolan moving Thompson into central midfield and Grant out to wide right.
And a quiet start to the second half was punctuated when Luke Wilkinson's header slipped through Collin's clutches. The ball fortuitously found its way back into the goalkeeper's grasp after the hosts failed to turn it home.
Josh Clackstone became the first name in the referee's notebook just before the hour when he was booked retrospectively for tugging back Jobi McAnuff.
And seconds later the hosts doubled their lead, King racing on to a flick on and deftly guiding the ball beyond Collin.
Notts now had a mountain to climb and their problems worsened moments after the restart when Godden was played in behind the Notts back four. The forward had the pace to race through on Collin before leaving the keeper helpless once more, stroking his side into a three-goal lead.
Forte replaced the hobbling Stead in Nolan's first change, and he was soon joined on the field by Carl Dickinson and Tahvon Campbell. Mark Yeates and Marc Bola were the men to make way.
Godden was denied a hat-trick by a smart Collin save before the palms of opposition keeper Day were stung by a fierce Campbell strike.
Hollis flicked a Milsom free-kick over the bar as Nolan's men continued their pursuit of a route back into the match.
But, despite seven minutes' added time, the Magpies failed to carve out any further clear-cut chances and the game ended 3-0 to the promotion-chasing hosts.