Kevin Nolan made two changes to the team that drew at Cheltenham in midweek. Shola Ameobi and Noor Husin were replaced by Lewis Alessandra and Noble as the Magpies continued with a 4-4-2 formation.
And the visitors nearly had the dream start when, within the opening two minutes, Alessandra nodded Matt Tootle’s clipped pass down in the area. Elliott Hewitt latched on to it and saw his shot deflect across goal and just wide of the post. Grant took the subsequent corner short, picking out Noble who saw his curling effort diverted out for a throw in. Notts were making all the early running and created another good opportunity on 19 minutes with a purposeful counter attack. Noble, Alessandra and Grant were all involved and the the move ended with the latter seeing his low near-post shot inadvertantly blocked by Jon Stead. Adam Collin’s first action came shortly afterwards as he palmed away Reuben Reid’s deflected effort. But it was opposition keeper Dale Bennett who would be the first to pick the ball out of his own net as the Magpies capitalised on Rovers’ insistance of passing the ball out from the back. Stead dispossessed a defender on the edge of FGR’s area and Notts worked the ball to Alessandra, who was felled as he rounded the keeper. A penalty looked a certainty but it wasn’t required as Noble was on hand to turn the ball into an empty net. Alessandra found the side-netting with a shot from a narrow angle and Stead curled a left-footed effort wide as the Magpies pressed for a second. But 1-0 was how it stayed going into the interval.
Collin got down low to tip Chris Clements’ long-range effort out for a corner as Mark Cooper’s men looked for a fast start to the second period. Their momentum was halted by a blood injury to Ben Hall, who required lengthy treatment before the corner was swung in. Gavin Gunning headed the ball over and Hall returned to the fray in a clean shirt. Hewitt blocked a Dayle Grubb effort on the edge of the area as the home side continued with purpose. Chances were proving few and far between for the Magpies in the second half but they had an opportunity on 67 minutes when Hawkridge drifted the ball into the Rovers area and their defence failed to properly clear. The ball dropped for Grant, who looped it over the bar with a delicate effort. Notts first change followed shortly afterwards as Hawkridge was replaced by Matty Virtue in a move which saw Alessandra move to right wing and Stead adopt the role of lone striker. Seconds after play resumed, former Notts loanee Campbell – who replaced Grubb earlier in the half – was sent racing into the Magpies’ area after Collin was caught out of position too high up the pitch after taking a free kick, he composed himself before blasting the ball into the roof of the net from a narrow angle, giving Collin no chance. Campbell came so close to doubling the lead minutes later when Notts were caught cold once more, Reid releasing Campbell down the right this time.The West Bromwich Albion loanee decided to take his shot early, rattling the crossbar from 20 yards. The ball crashed down on to Collin, on the ground after attempting to make the save, and thankfully stopped in its tracks rather than rolling over the line. Notts had penalty appeals waved away when Stead went down after appearing to have his arm pulled back as he ran the ball into the area. But their frustrations were short-lived as, with 10 minutes to go, Tootle fired the Magpies back in front. Alessandra picked the full back out on the edge of the area and Tootle knocked the ball out of his feet before lashing a shot across goal which Collins couldn’t keep out despite getting a hand to it. Two minutes later, Virtue had a golden opportunity to make it three. Grant led a pacey counter down the left and picked out the Liverpool loanee with an inch-perfect pass. Virtue side-footed the ball goalwards first time but couldn’t beat Collins in the Rovers net. Notts’ next change came with five minutes to play, Ameobi replacing Stead, and Shaun Brisley replaced Hall moments later. Inbetween the substitutions, Rovers captain Lee Collins was booked following an incident which left Noble holding his head, and shortly after them Richard Duffy was booked for timewasting. Noble suffered the same fate for a similar offence as the clock ticked down towards 90. Seven minutes were added on at the end of the match, bringing plenty of toing and froing at both ends of the field. But Notts held firm to claim three big points in their pursuit of promotion.
Forest Green: Collins B, Bennett (Cooper 60), Rawson, Gunning, Hollis, Clements (Brown 82), Collins L, Osbourne, Grubb (Campbell 63), Reid, Wishart.
Booked: Collins, Cooper.
Notts County: Collin, Tootle, Duffy, Hall (Brisley 86), Dickinson, Hawkridge (Virtue 71), Hewit, Noble, Grant, Stead (Ameobi 84), Alessandra.
Booked: Duffy, Noble.