Notts County 4 Bristol Rovers 2

Kevin Nolan named an unchanged squad following the 3-0 win at Newport County last weekend.

That meant Terry Hawkridge kept his place down the right and the former Lincoln man nearly gave his side the dream start when he latched on to Grant’s floated free-kick. He could only guide the ball over the bar on the volley. Two minutes later the visitors had the lead when an excellent cross from the right picked out Sercombe, who made no mistake in nodding the ball beyond Ross Fitzsimons from six yards. Notts’ disappointment was doubled four minutes later when Sinclair headed the ball home from Chris Lines’ corner. Jon Stead saw a shot blocked and Tom Nichols volleyed wide as the sides exchanged blows in search of the crucial next goal. Notts so nearly had it on 14 minutes when Grant picked out Stead with a drilled cross, only for Rovers keeper Adam Smith to somehow keep the ball out with a point-blank save. The Magpies’ pressure was steadily building, however, and on 30 minutes they had their lifeline when Yates headed the ball home from Dickinson’s excellent free-kick. A minute after play resumed, the comeback was complete when Yates slid in at the back post to turn home another Dickinson cross – this time from a corner. Grant sent Stead’s cross wide on the slide and Hawkridge rolled an effort off-target as Nolan’s men looked to flip the game on its head. But 2-2 was how it stayed going into the break, with both managers opting to send their sides back out unchanged.

Nichols was the first man to try his hand at altering the scoreline after the restart, progressing down the right before seeing his shot comfortably saved by Fitzsimons. At the other end moments later, Stead played Grant through one-on-one with the keeper and could only watch on as the Forest loanee sent the ball narrowly over the bar. Rovers threatened to make Notts pay for that missed opportunity when Rory Gaffney fired the ball goalwards from a narrow angle. Fitzsimons palmed it away. But the scores didn’t remain level for long as Notts completed their amazing turnaround in lovely style. Dickinson was involved again, clipping a pass to Grant who crossed for Stead to side-foot the ball home. It could have been 4-2 with 12 minutes to go when Notts saw three chances go begging in quick succession. Stead played a lovely left-footed pass to Shola Ameobi, whose deft lay-off was perfect for Hawkridge to take the ball into the area. The midfielder saw two shots blocked, with Ameobi also seeing an effort closed down by a defender. Rovers missed two good chances of their own when substitute Dom Telford’s air shot fortuitously led to a shooting opportunity for Gaffney. Fitzsimons made a strong save at his near post. It was so nearly all over moments later, Ameobi slipping Stead into the area and Smith making an excellent save to divert the forward’s effort wide. That was to be the duo’s final action as they made way for Jonathan Forte and Alan Smith. Notts kept up their pressure, drawing another strong save from Smith when Hawkridge chopped his way into the area before seeing his effort pushed wide. Dan Jones replaced Dickinson shortly before six minutes of added time were indicated, during which Gaffney sent the ball high over the bar after it had dropped to him from a corner. Tom Broadbent then emerged from a crowd of bodies to nod the ball wide before Jones was booked for apparent timewasting as a nervy finale ensued. But, backed by a buoyant home crowd, Notts wrapped the game up when Grant raced on to Hawkridge’s header to roll the ball calmly beyond Smith from inside the area.

Notts County: Fitzsimons, Tootle, Dickinson (Jones 89), Hewitt, Duffy, Ameobi (Forte 87), Grant, Hawkridge, Brisley, Yates, Stead (Smith 87).

Booked: Jones.

Bristol Rovers: Smith, Brown, Lockyer, Sercome, Clarke, Nichols (Telford 81), Lines, Broadbent, Partington (Leadbitter 69), Sinclair (Harrison 60), Gaffney.

Booked: Clarke.

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