Harry Kewell made one change to the side that faced Swindon Town last weekend. Jon Stead, who was absent from the squad altogether, made way for Kristian Dennis to make his first league start since September’s trip to Exeter City. Youngsters Declan Dunn and Kion Etete were named among the substitutes.
Hemmings, continuing in a left-wing role, claimed the game’s first shot after bursting into the area and sending the ball wide of the near post from a tight angle on three minutes. But the hosts began to ramp up the pressure on nine minutes, Ross Fitzsimons hanging on to Theo Vassell’s header before he made a good save to deny Ben Whitfield moments later. There was nothing the keeper could do on 14 minutes, though, as Whitfield’s cross left him stranded and Hannant headed the ball home expertly. But the Magpies issued a quickfire response through the lively-looking Enzio Boldewijn, who cut on to his left foot in the area and sent the ball low towards the bottom corner. Cheekily, Hemmings got the final touch to make sure the ball nestled in the back of Scott Brown’s net. Other than a yellow card shown to Matt Tootle for delaying the taking of a throw-in, there was little else to report before the teams retreated to their dressing rooms for their half-time discussions.
Both sides re-emerged unchanged and Pope nodded over from Mitchell Clark’s cross shortly after the restart. Ten minutes later, Hemmings made strong strides to the byline before firing a cross-cum-shot towards the near post. Dennis’ movement took him into the right position to meet it but he couldn’t react in time to turn the ball home. Hemmings was proving to be a real thorn in the hosts’ side and he sent an effort narrowly over the angle of post and crossbar as the hour mark approached. Vale had attacking intent of their own, however, and were ruing two excellent pieces of defending from Jamie Turley after the defender cleared a header off the line before showing good anticipation to intercept a dangerous ball over the top. It was then Fitzsimons’ turn to be the hero as he dived to his left to keep Whitfield’s excellent long-range volley out. Notts were on the ropes and had Turley to thank once more when he produced a brilliant block to deny Nathan Smith in the area. Moments later, the hosts were kicking themselves when Vassell could only head the ball wide after ghosting into the area unmarked. Notts had somewhat ridden the storm and Kewell made his first change on 73 minutes when 16-year-old Etete replaced Dennis up front. But the youngster almost saw his side concede when Vale sub Ricky Miller latched on to a ball in the area, only to send it wide from 10 yards. Shaun Brisley replaced Lewis Alessandra in central midfield, Boldewijn was booked for pulling back Vassell and Turley made another crucial block as the clock ticked down. But it was Notts who would claim the next goal when Ward guided a bouncing ball into the net at the back post following a Rob Milsom corner, sending the 400 travelling Notts fans into raptures. It looked like the Magpies were set for a much-needed win but Pope had other ideas, slipping his marker to nod the ball home from six yards in the last minute of normal time. Three minutes were added on at the end of the match, during which the returning Richard Duffy replaced the cramping Hemmings. But there was to be no winner for either side as the spoils were shared.
Port Vale: Brown, Clark, Legge, Smith, Rawlinson, Vassell, Whitfield (Dodds 79), Conlon (Miller 73), Joyce, Hannant, Pope.
Notts County: Fitzsimons, Tootle, Ward, Turley, Evina, Hewitt, Milsom, Boldewijn, Alessandra (Brisley 83), Hemmings (Duffy 91), Dennis (Etete 73).
Booked: Tootle, Boldewijn.