Ben Hall replaced the absent Shaun Brisley in an otherwise-unchanged back four from the one that faced Barnet at the weekend.The midfield looked very different, however, with Jorge Grant, Rob Milsom and Terry Hawkridge being replaced by Lewis Alessandra, Elliott Hewitt and Liam Noble. Mason Bennett limped off with a hamstring injury at the Hive, paving the way for Stead to return to the starting line up alongside Shola Ameobi.
Carlisle’s Kelvin Etuhu claimed the game’s first shot of note, seeing his effort blocked by Richard Duffy at close range, before the Notts defender went close himself, almost turning home Dan Jones’ corner. The Magpies almost opened the scoring again when Matt Tootle struck the ball across goal and just wide of the far post after linking up well with Ameobi. But Nolan’s men didn’t have to wait much longer to claim the game’s first goal, Alessandra threading Stead into the area with a superb pass before seeing the striker guide the ball past Jack Bonham in the Carlisle net. Devitt fired wide for the visitors before Noble struck a speculative free-kick straight at Bonham from long range. Notts were having to remain resolute at the back, Jones making a vital intervention to prevent an almost-certain goal before Etuhu struck the ball over the bar moments later. But the next goal went the Magpies’ way – and it came in scrappy style, Stead doubling his tally from close range after a spot of pinball in the area which had seen Alessandra inadvertantly block the forward’s initial effort. Hallam Hope curled the ball inches wide of the post as the Cumbrians sought a route back into the match before the interval. It could have been three before the break, however, when James Brown’s back-header sailed over his own keeper, presenting Stead with a glimpse at a hat-trick. The forward couldn’t get to the ball in time, however, as it bounced behind for a corner.
Alessandra landed a header on top of Carlisle’s net in the first real chance of the second half, before Noble went into the book after a coming-together with Devitt. The onus was on the visitors to score the next goal and they came close to doing so when Hope saw his acrobatic effort hit the post before his shot on the rebound was diverted wide for a corner. There was more panic in the Notts box from the subsequent set piece, the ball bouncing around before Mike Jones struck the bar and Mark Ellis saw an effort diverted wide on the follow-up. Collin then had to make a smart save at his near post to deny Reggie Lambe, before Ameobi saw an effort of his own well kept out by Bonham low down. Notts nearly had a third in unorthadox circumstances when Bonham failed to claim a corner before being relieved to see one of his defenders clear the ball away. The Magpies had the crossbar rattling moments later when Jones’ cross appeared to be turned on to the woodwork by a Carlisle defender, only for the referee to be awarded a goal kick. The game was still there for Carlisle, however, and they set up a nervy finale in controversial circumstances by playing on when Richard Duffy went down with a head injury. Lambe crossed for Devitt, whose deflected effort found the back of the net. Husin (timewasting), Duffy (dissent) and Alessandra (kicking the ball away) all found their way into Darren Drysdale’s notebook before a double sub saw Ameobi and Hewitt replaced by Jonathan Forte and Grant. Tom Parkes curled an effort straight at Collin and Ellis headed an effort over as tension built at the Lane. Seven minutes were added on at the end of the match, during which Parkes found the back row of the Family Stand with a 20-yard effort and Lambe saw a powerful effort blocked by Hall. But Notts held firm to claim an important three points.
Notts County: Collin, Tootle, Duffy, Hall, Jones, Noble, Husin, Hewitt (Grant 83), Alessandra, Stead, Ameobi (Forte 82).
Booked: Duffy, Noble, Husin, Alessandra.
Carlisle: Bonham, Brown (Ellis 45), Liddle, Hill, Parkes, Lambe, Hope, Etuhu (Jones 63), Devitt, Twardek (Nadesan 75), Stockton.