With the likes of Jon Stead, Kane Hemmings and Matt Tootle missing through injury and Elliott Hewitt suspended, caretaker manager Steve Chettle had a selection dilemma on his hands. He opted to play a 3-1-4-2 formation, with central defenders Jamie Turley, Richard Duffy and Shaun Brisley shielding Ross Fitzsimons. Swansea loanee Keston Davies was handed his first start for the Magpies in a holding midfield role behind central pairing Rob Milsom and Nathan Thomas. Terry Hawkridge and Dan Jones played as wing backs while Enzio Boldewijn and Kristian Dennis continued their partnership up front.
Notts dominated the early proceedings but had to wait until the 25th minute to carve out their first opportunity of the game, Turley finding himself in an advanced area before playing a one-two with Dennis to get into the box. His cross-come shot stung the palms of visiting keeper Scott Flinders, who will have been relieved to see the danger eventually cleared. Boldewijn fired an effort across goal and wide shortly after the Magpies had strong penalty appeals waved away for what looked like handball by a Cheltenham player. The visitors had thus far found Notts’ defence a tough nut to crack – but they stunned Meadow Lane by converting their first real opportunity when Varney drifted into space in the area to nod home Ryan Broom’s right-wing cross in front of the Family Stand. Davies scuffed an effort wide after the ball had dropped for him following a free-kick as half-time loomed. But it was the visitors who went into the break with their tails up having nearly doubled their lead. The chance came in stoppage time, Maddox spotting the free run of Chris Hussey to send the wing back racing into the area. Hussey struck the ball low towards the far corner but Fitzsimons made an outstanding fingertip save to keep the score 1-0 going into the break.
Notts reemerged in a 4-4-2 formation, with Turley at right back, Thomas down the left and Davies alongside Milsom in central midfield and the latter nearly provided the assist for a Notts equaliser shortly after the restart, curling a free-kick into the area and seeing Boldewijn head the ball over from six yards. Chettle was forced to make his first change on 54 minutes as the hobbling Nathan Thomas was replaced by Andy Kellett. Frustration was setting in for Notts, epitomised by Milsom’s decision to have an effort from 35 yards which flew high and wide of Flinders’ goal. After the hour, Turley’s cross found Boldewijn but the winger, perhaps expecting the nearby defender to intercept, could only turn the ball wide with a first-time effort. Hawkridge, who had been booked in the first half for hauling back Maddox, then sent a 20-yard piledriver goalwards but straight at Flinders. It was proving to be another disappointing afternoon at Meadow Lane and Varney compounded things on 66 minutes when he peeled into space in the area once again, this time firing home from a corner. Hawkridge made way for Patching in a like-for-like switch down the right, Turley was booked for a foul on Chelsea loanee Maddox and the injured Jones was replaced by Cedric Evina as darkness shrouded the Lane. Varney could have put the game out of sight when Broom picked him out with a low cross from the right only for a Notts defender to get in the way of the experienced forward’s goalbound effort. Fitzsimons then made another good save to keep Maddox’s curling effort out of the top corner as full-time loomed large. But there was still time for the visitors to add a third, Barnett turning home Broom’s low cross to put the result beyond doubt. Six minutes were added on at the end of the match but there was little else to report before Darren Drysdale called time.
Notts County: Fitzsimons, Duffy, Turley, Brisley, Hawkridge (Patching 69), Davies, Milsom, Thomas (Kellett 54), Jones (Evina 74), Boldewijn, Dennis.
Booked: Turley, Hawkridge.
Cheltenham: Flinders, Forster, Tozer,Boyle, Broom, Atangana, Maddox (Clements 86), Thomas, Hussey, Barnett, (Jones 92).