As promised, Kevin Nolan rang the changes for the tie with only Stead, Ross Fitzsimons, Dan Jones, Richard Duffy and Elliot Hewitt keeping their places from Saturday’s clash with Cambridge. Crawford and Andy Kellett made their full debuts while Noor Husin, Terry Hawkridge, Pierce Bird and Lewis Alessandra all started for the first time this season. Nolan trialed a back three, with Hewitt dropping back from the midfield role he occupied in the opening two games of the campaign to form a trio with Duffy and Bird.
And it was Bird who made the first crucial intervention of the game as his block deflected Marcus Tavernier’s shot over the bar in the 15th minute. Five minutes later Notts took the lead with their first real chance. A well-worked free-kick saw Jones play Stead to the byline and he crossed for Crawford to mark his debut in style from eight yards. The lead lasted less than 10 minutes, with Fletcher turning home Grant Leadbitter’s corner at the back post via a flick on from Daniel Ayala in the 27th minute. But it was not long until Notts took the lead for a second time through Stead’s sublime 34th minute effort. After patient build-up, the ball was played to the striker just outside the area and Stead turned and shot low with his left foot past Andy Lonergan in the hosts’ net. Both Tavernier and Marvin Johnson had chances to level it up again for Boro but defiant defending from Notts kept them out for the time being. With two minutes to go until half-time the hosts were forced into a change as Harry Chapman went off with a shoulder injury and was replaced by Stephen Walker. Any hopes of Notts carrying the lead into the break were dashed in the 44th minute, though, when Johnson brought the ball in from the left and floated a cross onto the head of Mahmutovic, who grabbed the game’s second equaliser in the last action of the first period.
Boro had the first opening of the second-half, substitute Walker doing well to dribble to the byline but Bird refused to be beaten and got the ball clear. Captain Duffy was replaced just before the hour-mark and replaced by Shaun Brisley with Stead taking the armband. Johnson then had a chance to give the home side the lead but his header from Tavernier’s cross sailed harmlessly over Notts’ crossbar. Nathan Wood then came on in place of Ayala to become Boro’s youngest ever player. Stead grabbed his second of the game in the 63rd minute turning home the rebound of Husin’s long-range shot which cannoned back off the post. Will Patching came on for his debut, replacing Husin for the last 20 minutes, while Boro made their third and final change with Dael Fry replacing Djed Spence. A couple of chances for a third equaliser came for the hosts in quick succession with Paddy McNair dragging a shot wide from just outside the box before a dangerous cross evaded Walker. Eventually the home side’s pressure turned into yet another equaliser, as Fletcher netted his second after good work from Walker with 16 minutes to play. Nolan handed out another debut in the 76th minute as Kellett was replaced by 17-year-old Remaye Campbell. Fitzsimons denied Tavernier, before Johnson rattled the crossbar as Notts rode their luck towards the end of the 90. As six minutes added time was signalled, McNair again went close – flashing an effort just wide with penalties looming. Into the shootout, and Stead – full of confidence from his brace – stepped up first but was denied by Boro keeper Lonergan. Leadbitter, Alessandra, McNair, Hawkridge, Walker, Patching and Tavernier all converted before Jones stepped up to take Notts’ fifth spotkick. Lonergan saved again and sealed the result for Middlesbrough, meaning Notts’ excellent performance was just short of enough to see them through to the second round.
Middlesbrough: Lonergan, Mahmutovic, Fry (Spence 66), Ayala (Wood 61), McGinley, Leadbitter, McNair, Tavernier, Chapman (Walker 42), Johnson, Fletcher.
Notts County: Fitzsimons, Jones, Bird, Duffy (Brisley 55), Kellett (Campbell 76), Alessandra, Crawford, Hewitt, Husin (Patching 68), Hawkridge, Stead.