There were five changes for Notts, with Terry Hawkridge, Dan Jones, Lewis Alessandra, David Vaughan and Rob Milsom coming in for Richard Duffy (injured), Matt Tootle (injured), Andy Kellett, Noor Husin and Tom Crawford.
The Magpies lined up in a 4-3-3 formation with Hawkridge at right back and Kane Hemmings, flanked by Enzio Boldewijn and Kristian Dennis, leading the line. Notts’ first glimpse of goal came on seven minutes when Hemmings was inches away from meeting Jones’ dangerous cross. Shortly afterwards, Milsom did well to win the ball in midfield, allowing Vaughan to supply Boldewijn down the right. The winger cut inside on his left but couldn’t control his shot, sending the ball high and wide. The Magpies were looking the more likely side to open the scoring and went close again on 23 minutes when Dennis’ fierce strike from just outside the area almost caught visiting goalkeeper Robert Sanchez off guard. He managed to get his body in the way of the ball. Forest Green’s first major warning shot soon followed as Reid sent a sweet half-volley inches over the bar. And, unfortunately for Notts, that was a sign of things to come as Rovers took the lead shortly afterwards. Brisley made an important block in the area but the ball bounced out to Shephard, who fired it home from 12 yards. The Magpies came close to an equaliser when Elliott Hewitt’s glancing header from Jones’ in-swinging free-kick went just over. But that was to be the final opportunity of the half as Notts returned to the dressing room a goal down.
Notts started the second half in a 4-4-2 formation, Dennis partnering Hemmings and Alessandra playing down the left. But, shortly after Vaughan had been booked for a late challenge, the home side had to plan another reshuffle when Jones was shown a straight red card for a challenge on Lloyd James which left both players needing treatment. Things looked like they were going from bad to worse for Notts when Rovers found the net for the second time. Thankfully, the goalbound header found its way in off a visiting player standing in an offside position near the goalline. That was only to be a temporary reprieve, however, as Reid latched on to a ball over the top, took it into the area and beat Fitzsimons with a low shot across goal. Crossley called on his substitutes, with Alessandra and Hawkridge making way for Stead and Kellett minutes before Noor Husin replaced Dennis. Hemmings was now playing the role of lone striker, with Stead down the left and Boldewijn down the right. Kellett and Husin were paired in central midfield, with Milsom at left back. The Magies had a lifeline with 20 minutes to play when Stead turned in the area and nutmegged the keeper with a low, left-footed shot. The visiting team endured a five-minute spell of panic, during which it looked like Notts had sufficient momentum to draw themselves level. But they couldn’t carve out a clear-cut opening and it was Mark Cooper’s men who next threatened, Grubb sending a low effort a yard wide off the far post. And substitute Grubb made no mistake with a similar effort minutes later, taking the ball into the area and composing himself before this time finding Fitzsimons’ bottom corner. Five minutes were added on at the end of the match, during which Stead saw a shot on the spin blocked on its way in. But there was to be no miraculous recovery as the match ended 3-1 to the visitors, who were inches away from a fourth through Joseph Mills at the death.
Notts County: Fitzsimons, Hawkridge (Stead 70), Hewitt, Brisley, Jones, Alessandra (Kellett 64), Vaughan, Milsom, Boldewijn, Hemmings, Dennis (Husin 70).
Sent Off: Jones.
Forest Green: Sanchez, Rawson, Digby, McGinley, Shephard, Brown (Williams 58), Gunning, James (Worthington 85), Mills, Winchester (Grubb 72), Reid.
Booked: Gunning 82, Sanchez 95.