Kevin Nolan made one change to the side that beat Port Vale on New Year’s Day, Terry Hawkridge coming in for Jonathan Forte as the Magpies lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Liam Noble was named among the substitutes in his first eligible game since returning to the club earlier in the season.
Stead had the game’s first half-chance when the ball came to him in the area. He had to stretch to make contact with it and fired it high and wide with the toe of his boot. Former Chelsea midfielder Josh McEachran was inches away from meeting a teasing cross and Stead landed an effort on top of Brentford’s net as the sides traded early chances. Home defender Chris Mepham nodded the ball straight at Ross Fitzsimons and later saw an effort blocked, while at the other end Ryan Yates nodded over from a corner. It was proving to be a closely-contested affair but the Magpies capitalised on defensive dallying to burst into Bees territory on 25 minutes. Stead led the charge after good work from Hawkridge and for a moment looked set to bear down one-on-one with home keeper Luke Daniels. A Brentford midfelder did superbly to cover the danger however, dispossessing Stead at the crucial moment. In typical fashion, Brentford’s response was immediate as Fitzsimons was called upon to make a strong save from a well-struck long-range effort. Three minutes later the keeper was in crucial action again, this time tipping Neal Maypay’s effort wide. Yates made a strong block to deny Kamohelo Mokotjo as the clock ticked down towards half-time. And 0-0 was how it stayed going into the break.
There were no changes for either side at the interval and Notts began the second period strongly, Lewis Alessandra seeing the ball take an unfortunate bobble which caused him to balloon his effort over the bar – and the packed away end – from the edge of the area. Richard Duffy’s name was the first in the book after he halted a speedy Brentford counter-attack by blocking Maupay’s run off the ball. Notts’ defence was called into more pressing work shortly afterwards when substitute Ollie Watkins’ low effort beat Fitzsimons and trickled agonisingly towards the goal line. Shaun Brisley heroically cleared the ball off the line to keep the score locked at 0-0. And the Magpies’ relief became joy seconds later when they opened the scoring in spectacular style, Stead receiving the ball in the right-hand channel and bending it into the far corner with a beautiful left-footed effort. Former Notts man Alan Judge was then sent on for his first appearance since he suffered a double-leg fracture in April 2016. His emergence appeared to give the hosts a lift as they forced Fitzsimons into a strong one-handed save before, moments later, the keeper had to knock a looping ball over his own crossbar. Noble’s long wait was over on 74 minutes when he replaced Hawkridge in a move which saw him slot in behind Stead and Alessandra move wide-right.
He nearly had a Notts goal to celebrate when the ball broke kindly for Grant with only Daniels to beat. The keeper made a superb one-handed save to keep his side in the tie. Nolan’s second change saw Alan Smith replace Stead up front and Notts continued to show their threat, Noble picking out Grant and watching on as the loanee curled the ball wide. Liam Walker came on for Grant during a nervy four minutes’ added time but the Magpies held firm to secure a memorable win at Griffin Park.
Brentford: Daniels, Clarke, Mepham, Barbet, Chatzitheodoridis (Canos 77), Jozefzoon, Mokotjo (Watkins 63), Macleod (Judge 70), McEachran, Camargo Hansen, Maupay.
Notts County: Fitzsimons, Tootle, Brisley, Duffy, Jones, Grant (Walker 93), Yates, Hewitt, Hawkrdige (Noble 74), Alessandra, Stead (Smith 81).
Booked: Tootle, Duffy, Jones, Noble.