Harry Kewell named an unchanged team after guiding the Magpies to their first win of the campaign against Crewe Alexandra at the weekend. That meant Enzio Boldewijn, Milsom and Cedric Evina kept their places in the starting 11 to face up to their former club.
And the former sparked the game into life with six minutes on the clock, racing away down the right and catching Crawley cold on the break. His low cross was kept alive at the back post by Stead and the ball was eventually worked into Alessandra, who saw his effort blocked. Notts hearts were in mouths moments later when the ball was slipped to the unmarked Ollie Palmer in the area, only for the forward to direct his effort straight at Ross Fitzsimons. A minute later, however, the ball was in the net at the other end courtesy of Hemmings. The striker benefitted from excellent work by Alessandra, who kept the ball alive near the byline, nudging it beyond Crawley keeper Glenn Morris to present his team-mate with a simple tap-in. Filipe Morais dragged an effort wide and sent a sweetly-struck volley off-target as the visitors pursued an equaliser. The Crawley skipper turned provider on 24 minutes, seeing his low cross flicked wide by Panutche Camara, before Matt Tootle rose highest at the back post to nod Boldewijn’s floated cross just wide at the other end. But Notts didn’t have to wait much longer for their second goal as Stead latched on to Hewitt’s header over the top to smash the ball into the bottom corner – a superb effort under pressure. Hemmings had an opportunity to make it three with a well-placed free-kick but his shot hit the wall. Crawley then took the game by the scruff of the neck, drawing a couple of comfortable saves from Fitzsimons before Josh Payne rattled the crossbar with a stunning strike from 35 yards. Despite that pressure, the score remained 2-0 going into the break and Notts reemerged for the second half unchanged.
There was another opportunity for Stead shortly after the restart, the experienced front man receiving the ball in the area but failing to generate sufficient power on his strike to trouble Morris at the keeper’s near post. There was controversy on the hour when Payne was only shown a yellow card for hauling back Alessandra as he was about to have a clear shot on goal from the edge of the area. Hewitt’s strike from the resultant free-kick was blocked by the wall. But the referee did have his red card out on 65 minutes when Milsom was punished for a reckless challenge on Crawley sub Joe Maguire near the touchline. Boldewijn saw an effort deflected over and curled a low-left footed shot straight at Morris following the resultant corner as the Magpies put their man disadvantage straight to the back of their minds. Crawley’s response came from Poleon, whose fierce effort from 25 yards whistled a yard or so wide minutes before Morris had to dive to his right to keep Hemmings’ snapshot out of his top corner. Visiting manager Gabriele Cioffi’s next move was to send on 20-year-old forward Tarryn Allarakhia, who tested Fitzsimons’ handling with an effort from the edge of the area shortly after his arrival on the field. He then set up Payne, who bent the ball high and wide before Luke Gambin flashed an effort off-target and Palmer fired straight at Fitzsimons. Kewell’s first substitution saw Hemmings, who had been playing a right-wing role, replaced by Thomas with seven minutes of normal time remaining. It was becoming an ‘all hands on deck’ job for the Magpies, who had Turley to thank for positioning himself well to block Morais’ shot after he had been picked out in the area. But any hopes Crawley had of a comeback were banished by Thomas, whose heroic run won his side a free-kick 20 yards out. The winger took responsibility himself, firing the ball into the bottom corner to get his Magpies account up and running. Palmer and Elliott Ward both went into the book for their respective roles in a fracas shortly before six minutes were added on at the end of the match. That gave Poleon enough time to roll home a close-range consolation but it wasn’t to dampen the spirits at a jubilant Meadow Lane.
Notts County: Fitzsimons, Tootle, Ward, Turley, Evina, Boldewijn (Osborne 91), Hewitt, Milsom, Alessandra (Husin 88), Stead, Hemmings (Thomas 83).
Sent Off: Milsom.
Crawley Town: Morris, Young, McNerney, Vincelot, Doherty (Allarakhia 75), Morais, Payne (Randall 83), Gambin, Poleon, Palmer, Camara (maguire 54).
Booked: Vincelot, Payne, Palmer.