Kevin Nolan reverted back to the side that beat Bristol Rovers in the first round of the Emirates FA Cup last week, with Shola Ameobi the only absentee. Lewis Alessandra replaced the former Newcastle man up front.
Notts claimed the first shot of the game early on, Ryan Yates seeing his left-footed 20-yard effort blocked.
Stevenage’s response came from Tom Pett, the midfielder firing the ball well over from range five minutes before Danny Newton’s header bounced up off the stranded Ross Fitzsimons’ crossbar and behind. The hosts came close once more on 22 minutes when dangerman Matt Godden’s flicked header from Harry Beautyman’s whipped free-kick flashed just wide of the far post. There was controversy on 36 minutes when Terry Hawkridge appeared to be fouled in midfield seconds before Beautyman sent a shot just wide. Hewitt was booked for his protestations in the aftermath. Hawkridge, perhaps still frustrated from the earlier incident, entered the book moments later for a barge on Pett. Notts’ annoyance was further compounded seven minutes before the break when Newton lashed a bouncing ball across Fitzsimons and into the net from inside the area to give his side the lead. The Magpies almost gave an immediate retort, Alessandra chesting the ball down into Stead’s path before the forward saw his effort diverted out for a corner. Notts’ strong response continued and they didn’t have to wait long for their next chance. Yates was clattered inside Stevenage’s ‘D’ after a flowing move involving Jorge Grant and Jon Stead. Grant took responsibility for the set-piece, skimming the ball off the top of the crossbar. Ronnie Henry was cautioned for persistent fouling on the stroke of half-time, presenting Notts with another opportunity to send the ball into the area. This time Grant’s floated delivery was easily held by Joe Fryer and Notts went into half-time behind.
There were no changes at the break and, within a minute of the restart, Fitzsimons was called in to make a save at his near post after Newton had been played into the area with an excellent ball over the top. Determined not to let the hosts stamp their authority on the half, Notts worked the ball to Hawkridge down the right. He crossed to the back post for Hewitt, who nodded it towards Grant. The Nottingham Forest loanee did well to get his shot away under close attention from his marker, volleying the ball a yard over from the penalty spot. Grant came much closer moments later – and again Hewitt was the provider. The Welshman flicked a clever cross into the area and Grant, who had made an excellent run, turned the ball just over first time. Notts kept up their pressure, Dickinson’s free-kick finding Shaun Brisley’s run at the back post. The centre back could only send the ball wide under pressure. Newton reminded Notts of Stevenage’s threat with a neat turn on the edge of the box, freeing himself up for a shot. Thankfully for Nolan’s men, he sent the ball over. And the Magpies hauled themselves back into the game shortly afterwards, pressuring Boro into a misplaced pass to free Grant down the left. He laid the ball infield for Hewitt, who strode into the area and shaped a lovely finish beyond Fryer to equalise. The game was now anyone’s and Notts set about completing their turnaround, Yates firing the ball just over from 20 yards. Nolan’s first change saw Alessandra replaced by Jonathan Forte in a straight switch up front. Notts kept up their pressure, Tootle crossing for Stead who saw his header land on the roof of the net. Hawkridge saw a goalbound effort blocked following a scramble as the game neared four minutes of added time. It was all Notts, Grant Cruyff-turning in the area before seeing a shot blocked as the visitors pressed for a dramatic winner. But it wasn’t to come as the sides were forced to share the spoils.
Stevenage: Fryer, Henry, King, Wilkinson, Martin, Whelpdale, Smith, Beautyman, Pett, Newton, Godden (Samuel 73).
Booked: Henry, Wilkinson, Martin, Samuel.
Notts County: Fitzsimons, Tootle, Duffy, Brisley, Dickinson, Grant, Hewitt, Yates, Hawkridge, Alessandra (Forte 75), Stead.
Booked: Hewitt, Hawkridge.