Kevin Nolan made one change to the side that beat Carlisle at Brunton Park last weekend, opting to rest Rob Milsom and replacing him with O’Connor. Mark Yeates, back from a three-match suspension, came on to the bench.
Notts went into the match in fine form and wasted no time in asserting their authority at the Alexandra Stadium, taking the lead with only nine minutes on the clock after forcing Crewe into a misplaced pass deep inside their own territory. Campbell was the man to capitalise, curling the ball low past Ben Garratt from 20 yards to make it 1-0. The Magpies were playing with confidence, limiting their hosts in terms of opportunities and winning a free-kick in a dangerous position on 29 minutes. O’Connor, however, could only send the ball into the wall. Crewe went close for the first time on 32 minutes, Dagnall dragging a shot across goal and wide, before Notts came agonisingly close to doubling their lead through the in-form Ameobi. Jorge Grant beat Zoumana Bakayogo down the right and supplied Ameobi, whose side-footed effort from eight yards was brilliantly turned behind by Garratt. O’Connor’s resultant corner fizzed dangerously across the box but there was no telling touch. Dagnall, however, was in goalscoring mood and, when Hollis failed to control the ball on the halfway line, Dagnall burst through the heart of defence and finished coolly beyond Adam Collin to restore parity. Grant’s incisive pass for Elliott Hewitt almost freed his team-mate up to fire Notts back ahead but James Jones made a heroic tackle to quell the danger and ensure the sides went into the break level.
There were no changes for either side at the break and Notts nearly took the lead through an unlikely source shortly after the restart. Jorge Grant was fouled 20 yards out and Carl Dickinson stepped up to take the free-kick, bending the ball over the wall only for Garratt to push it away from the top corner. Another Notts free-kick caused chaos moments later, O’Connor’s cross from deep seeing the ball sail through the ‘corridor of uncertainty’ and, to Crewe’s relief, wide of the post. But it was to be only a temporary reprieve for the hosts, who found themselves behind once again on 51 minutes. A poor pass out of defence presented the ball to Jon Stead, who showed great strength to fend off his opponent long enough to work the ball into the path of the onrushing O’Connor. The midfielder had the pace to beat his man in the area before rolling it into the bottom corner. Hewitt was the next Notts player to try his luck as the visitors looked to hammer home their advantage. Haydn Hollis held the ball up well on the edge of Crewe’s area and Hewitt’s instinctive strike flashed just wide. Stead flicked the ball up for himself before firing it straight at Garratt and Grant saw a sweet strike blocked as Notts’ dominance continued. Nolan’s men had to stay alert at the other end, however, and Duffy stepped up to the plate twice in quick succession. The Welshman did well to block dangerous low crosses aimed at Dagnall and Jordan Bowery. But it was after yet another Duffy block that the home side levelled things up once more. Dagnall’s shot looped up off the defender and Jones was first on the scene to prod the ball past Collin. O’Connor drilled a volley straight at Garratt from the edge of the area, Matt Tootle saw a shot blocked and George Ray did brilliantly to deny Ameobi as Notts pressed for their third lead of the day. Hewitt was booked for a foul on Callum Cooke as the game looked destined for stalemate – before a moment of the highest controversy left the visitors aggrieved. Michael O’Connor clipped a delightful pass over the top for Ameobi, who rounded Garratt and went down under the keeper’s sprawling challenge. The referee blew his whistle and looked certain to award the Magpies a penalty but, to everyone’s surprise, booked the forward for diving instead. Five minutes were added on at the end of the match, the first of which saw Duffy make another important block before Tahvon Campbell replaced Stead. Moments later, Ameobi did brilliantly to meet Dickinson’s corner but could only nod the ball wide. He was replaced by Jonathan Forte shortly afterwards. Notts pressed until the bitter end, Hollis latching on to a lofted ball in the area and nudging it just wide of the post, but in the end Nolan’s men couldn’t force a winner.
Crewe Alexandra: Garratt, Turton, Ray, Nugent (Wintle 69), Bakayogo, Bingham, Jones, Cooke, Dagnall, Bowery, Cooper (Ng 69).
Notts County: Collin, Tootle, Duffy, Hollis, Dickinson, Grant, O’Connor, Hewitt, Campbell A. (Yeates 72), Ameobi (Forte 96), Stead (Campbell T. 93).
Booked: Hewitt, Ameobi.