Narrow Defeat For Pools At The Vic
Notts County picked up their first win at The Vic since 1959 as they edged out Pools 3-2 in a real game of two halves.
It was a disappointing night for Pools in the end as they fought back from a 2-0 deficit to draw level with goals from Jake Gray and Billy Paynter but Jon Stead won it for Notts County late in the game.
Notts County got their first goal after just four minutes of the game; a slip by Carl Magnay in midfield allowed Jon Stead to break forward and the experience striker made Pools pay as he curled a lovely strike into the top corner of Trevor Carson’s goal from 25 yards out.
The early blow didn’t seem to stop the Pools flow as they continued to attack – Jake Gray in particular looking lively.
But when the visitors doubled their lead just ten minutes later as Liam Noble struck from close range after a mis-kick by Izale McLeod inside the box, Hignett’s men struggled to find their flow.
With passes going astray and mistakes being made, Pools looked increasingly nervy and took time to find their way past the organised 4-4-2 of Notts County.
A series of defensive slips allowed the visitors back in on goal shortly after as former Pools loan man Jason Banton found himself with the ball at his feet just six yards but fortunately managed to send his shot over the bar instead of into the net.
Banton was back to try again, this time for distance but sent his second strike wide of the far post, while Izale McLeod also missed target with an effort from the edge of the box.
After a frustrating spell for Pools, in which they failed to find any fluidity with the attack, they finally started to open things up as half time approached.
Nathan Thomas sent a teasing cross in from the left which had to be clawed away by Roy Carroll before the winger put another ball into the box which this time found Luke James waiting to pounce but the striker also lost out to the Notts County keeper as Carroll just got enough on it to send it wide.
It was a poor half from Pools who left the field to boos from the home fans but a change in formation at the break lead to better things after the break.
With Hignett switching to 4-4-2 for the second half to match up with the visitors, Pools had more to offer and started brightly - winning two corners within quick succession from the off.
The introduction of Lewis Hawkins at the break also gave Pools the bite in the middle they had been lacking in the first half.
And Pools were a different force in the second half, with the wind they had played into in the first half now pushing them forward.
Billy Paynter tried his luck with a curled effort that went just wide of the far post and a Nathan Thomas freekick was flicked on towards the far post by Luke James but also went wide of target.
At the next attempt, Pools got one back and it came in real style as a Jake Gray volley from distance smashed off the bar and over the line just after the hour mark.
Nathan Thomas went close to the equaliser as he dribbled his way deep into the box only to lose out as he prepared his shot.
But Pools were level on 66 minutes as yet more good work from Thomas down the left; the winger finished off his run with a low cross into the box which found Paynter waiting to pounce on the goal line to poke home his 10th of the season to make it 2-2.
A real manic spell from Pools, in which they grabbed the two goals, passed and the game became more end-to-end, with a goal at either end looking a real possibility.
Luke James crossed in from the right to find Paynter waiting in an almost identical position to that of his goal but this time the striker seemed to stumble over the ball and Carroll was able to collect on the line.
The next goal though arrived at the wrong end for Pools; a corner in from the right drew Carson off his line and Stead got up highest in a crowd to head home a third for his side.
There was more battling play from Luke James at the other end to allow Magnay to play in Thomas down the left. His cross again found a blue shirt inside the area but this time it was Jake Gray who was denied by Carroll with a strong save.
With five minutes of added time for Pools to try and find another equaliser, Nathan Thomas went close to capping his Man of the Match performance in style. The winger pushed into the box and unleashed a fierce drive at goal but watched as the ball scraped wide of the post.
In the end, Notts County held on for victory and it was disappointment for Pools who had shown real spirit in the second half to get back into the game.
Full Time: Pools 2 Notts County 3
Attendance: 3,433 (166 Notts County)
Pools: Carson, Richards (Hawkins 46), Bates, Jackson, Jones, Woods (Feathersone 80), Magnay (Fenwick 87), Gray, James, Paynter, Thomas.
Subs Not Used: Bartlett, Harrison, Carroll, Oates.
Notts County: Carroll, Adams, Smith, Hollis, Thompson, Noble, Hewitt, MacKenzie, Banton (Campbell 75), Stead, McLeod (Murray 82).
Subs Not Used: Loach, Sharpe, Burke, Atkinson, Audel.