Harry Kewell made only one change to the side that drew 0-0 at Northampton last weekend, Hewitt replacing Noor Husin in central midfield. That meant Lewis Alessandra kept his place down the left, with new dad Nathan Thomas having to settle for a place on the bench along with the likes of fellow winger Sam Osborne.
The Magpies had the dream start when Milsom fired them ahead on five minutes, blasting the ball beyond visiting keeper Ben Garratt from close range after excellent build-up involving Kane Hemmings and Jon Stead. But, despite Notts’ early dominance, Crewe had a 15th-minute equaliser when Jamie Turley failed to clear a right-wing cross, allowing Bowery to capitalise by finding the bottom corner from just inside the area. Hewitt curled an effort over the angle of post and crossbar and Hemmings cleared the bar with a diving header as the Magpies attempted to regain their advantage. Milsom went into the book despite appearing to take the ball in a crunching challenge on Alex Nicholls as the game entered a scrappy period in which Crewe looked the more likely side to take the lead. But the sides went into the break level despite the efforts of James Jones, who fired one over inside two minutes of stoppage time.
There were no changes at half-time and Notts quickly commenced their pursuit of the next goal after the restart, Stead finding Alessandra with a nice pass. The winger faked his shot, leaving two defenders on the floor, before seeing his effort blocked by another Crewe man. Hewitt could only divert the ball wide on the rebound. There was another glimpse of goal for Hewitt moments later as Boldewijn raced to the byline before driving a cross to the back post. It was just too high for Hewitt, however. Boldewijn, now playing down the left, cut inside and saw an effort blocked shortly before strong penalty appeals were waved away when it looked like Stead was having his shirt held in the area. Another Stead shirt-pull went unpunished moments later and Notts assistant manager Warren Feeney went into the book for his protestations. The frustration inside Meadow Lane was palpable but Hewitt cut it with a knife just after the hour, converting a bullet header at the back post to reward Cedric Evina’s pinpoint cross and restore Notts’ lead. The hosts were well in the ascendancy and almost went 3-1 up through Alessandra, whose effort on the half-volley flashed just wide minutes before Stead’s curling shot flew across goal and wide of the far post. The Magpies kept up their pressure going into the final 15 minutes, Alessandra threatening again and seeing a goalbound effort deflected over shortly before a Crewe defender did well to clear Hewitt’s low cross on his own goal line. Thomas replaced Boldewijn with 10 minutes to play and nearly claimed an assist when he picked out Hemmings with a low, whipped cross. With his back to goal six yards out, the forward flicked the ball goalwards but was denied by an instinctive save by Garratt. It was then Ross Fitzsimons’ turn to make an important save, getting down low to his right to push Ryan Wintle’s 30-yarder behind for a corner. Moments later, Milsom made an important block after substitute Callum Ainley had scampered into the area and let fly with an effort. Kewell’s next change came on the stroke of full-time, Shaun Brisley replacing Alessandra as Notts looked to protect their slender lead going into four minutes of stoppage time. There was time for another Notts change, Husin replacing Milsom, but not for a Crewe equaliser as Notts got their season up and running with a long-awaited win.
Notts County: Fitzsimons, Tootle, Ward, Turley, Evina, Boldewijn (Thomas 82), Hewitt, Milsom (Husin 93), Alessandra (Brisley 90), Stead, Hemmimgs.
Crewe Alexandra: Garratt, Whelan, Ray, Ng, O’Connor, Lowery (Finney 87), Jones (Ainley 71), Wintle, Kirk, Bowery, Nicholls (Porter 80).