Kevin Nolan made three changes to the side that beat Morecambe on Boxing Day. Full-backs Matt Tootle and Carl Dickinson came back into the starting 11, replacing the bench-bound Nicky Hunt and Jones, while Terry Hawkridge was also recalled in place of the absent Richard Duffy. Elliott Hewitt took Duffy’s place alongside Shaun Brisley in the heart of defence, a move which saw Liam Walker partner Ryan Yates in central midfield.
A bitterly cold wind was blowing its way around the County Ground and both sides struggled to conjure many meaningful attacks in a scrappy first half. Linganzi looked most likely to find the breakthrough for the hosts in the early exchanges, seeing a sweet volley ruled out for offside before his header from a corner was easily saved by Ross Fitzsimons. Brisley’s name was taken on 17 minutes after he had hauled down Kaiyne Woolery 25 yards out. Norris struck the subsequent free-kick low towards goal but Fitzsimons got down well to make the save. Notts had to wait until the 37th minute for their first real chance of the game. It came courtesy of a delicious cross from Walker, the Gibraltar international curling the ball to the near post with the outside of his left boot. Stead connected well with his header but Reice Charles-Cook was handily positioned to block its path. Brisley made an important block to deny Keshi Anderson inside the area shortly before a minute of added time was indicated at the end of the half.
And, while there was to be no breakthrough before the whistle, there was one shortly after the restart as Norris received a cut-back from the left and rolled the ball past Fitzsimons from 12 yards. It could have been two for the hosts when Woolery showed blistering pace to escape both Walker and Dickinson before racing into the area. He failed to control his shot, however, and sent the ball wide. Notts were doing their utmost to break down Swindon’s defensive ranks, Walker so nearly playing Grant through one-on-one but putting a little too much pace on the through ball. Swindon were still tempted by the prospect of a second goal, Ellis Iandolo firing a powerful free-kick goalwards but seeing the ball palmed to safety by Fitzsimons. It had been a quiet game for Grant and, when the ball did eventually come to him in space, he could only curl it over from the edge of the area. Swindon took the ball straight down the other end and wasted a good opportunity to make the points safe when Anderson checked inside Hewitt but failed to pick out Woolery in the middle. Nolan’s first move saw Jones and Callum Saunders come on for Dickinson and Walker, before Elliot Hodge replaced Hawkridge for his league debut. Notts began to ramp up the pressure heading into five minutes of added time, during which James Dunne was perhaps fortunate to escape with only a yellow card after flying in on Tootle with a high boot. The challenge sparked a melee among both sets of players and Grant was booked for his part in it. The Magpies kept up their desperate pursuit of an equaliser, forcing a succession of corners which Fitzsimons raced forward to compete for. With the last action of the game, Nolan’s men came agonisingly close to rescuing a point when Jones headed the ball towards the top corner. Charles-Cook plucked it away acrobatically and enjoyed the adulation of his team-mates and the home supporters as the referee called time on a frantic finale.
Swindon Town: Charles-Cook, Knoyle (Purkiss 89), Lancashire, Robertson, Preston, Landolo, Linganzi, Dunne, Anderson, Norris, Woolery (Mullin 90).
Notts County: Fitzsimons, Tootle, Elliott, Brisley, Dickinson (Jones 76), Hawkridge (Hodge 82), Yates, Walker (Saunders 76), Grant, Stead, Alessandra.
Booked: Brisley, Grant.