Notts County Report: Hartlepool 9/10/11

11th October 2011

Away from the inextricable tedium international weekends have come to be associated with, one shining light this weekend came at Meadow Lane where, in front of Sky Sports’ cameras, Notts County staked a real claim for a play-off spot this season with a majestic victory over Hartelpool. Relishing their stage as Sky Sport’s primetime Sunday slot, County stormed to a 3-0 win, themselves vying for a stab at the Play-off places. Whilst many around the country bemoaned the yet again unmanageable temper of Wayne Rooney, the black and white half of Nottingham rejoiced in a convincing and impressive victory.

Having picked up the League One manager of the month award earlier in the week, Martin Allen was looking to bounce back from consecutive defeats to MK Dons and Chesterfield, the latter in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, to build on the club’s highest league standing in ten years. And whilst Mart, as they call him in these parts, would have been looking to entertain the viewers both in the stands and at home, it was evident from the off that the three points were more important to him than setting the world alight with Ajax-esque pass and move.

Ben Burgess saw to this as he was selected upfront alongside Karl Hawley in a formation that utlised the attacking tendencies of both fullbacks, whilst effectively employing a fairly narrow diamond in midfield. This certainly lent itself to Allen’s gameplan, as long ball after long ball was pumped up to Ben Burgess who was looking to create chances via knock downs and physical hustle and bustle, largely for Karl Hawley and Neal Bishop. Despite an early scare in which Antony Sweeney could have scored within the first minute, it is safe to say the remainder of the first half was hugely one-sided. County worked tirelessly and, when sticking to the gameplan – which Krystian Pearce for a moment defied when misplacing a through ball to Hawley and was roundly lambasted by Bishop – looked comfortable in creating chances.

Indeed the next time Pearce found the ball at his feet a long diagonal in the direction of Burgess followed and this set the tone for the majority of the first half, despite County showing some clear signs of good one and two-touch play in the visitors half. Evidently however Allen thought that route one, crosses and throw ins would be the best way of overcoming a Hartlepool side which had won their last 3 away games. And happily the manager was proved right on 30 minutes when one of Mike Edwards’ numerous long throws and some ping-pong in the penalty box culminated in a hooked pass from Burgess and a well-executed acrobatic finish from Karl Hawley.

1-0, and certainly deserved from the home team. Very soon afterwards Hawley almost doubled his and County’s tally when put through via another Burgess knockdown, though his half volley was beaten away by Hartlepool keeper Scott Flinders. Half-time provided a welcome relief for Hartlepool, though within a minute of the restart County’s up ‘n’ at ‘em display almost added that crucial second when they had a header tipped over from a corner. A slight spell of possession from Hartlepool ensued and, with Allen clearly keen to rap up the tie after dominating so much, Lee Hughes was called from the subs bench and asked to prepare to come on. Though almost just as the crowds’ cries of ‘Hughesy’ had died down, Notts County were 2-0 up and the 35-year-old veteran would have to wait a tad longer to enter the fray.

In such blistering form it now seemed unimaginable that Karl Hawley was about to be asked to step aside. Gathering the ball just inside the Hartlepool half after yet another glancing flick on from Burgess, Hawley outpaced, outmuscled and outthought his marker as he sprinted towards the Hartlepool goal and then lifted the ball over the keeper with a beautifully timed and deft chip.

With the score now doubled, the gulf in class between the two sides, despite Harlepool’s higher league position of 8th to County’s 9th, was clear. Tireless running from Hawley, guile and artistry from Neal Bishop and Alan Judge and the battle, brawn and bravery of Ben Burgess had concocted a marvelously well-balanced and effective performance.

County continued to dominate for the remainder of the half whilst Hartlepool equally continued to lack ambition or imagination. Indeed the stage was certainly set for young Christian Montano to make his eagerly anticipated final appearance before returning to West Ham with his loan spell coming to an end. Immediately Montano showed a desire to end his County stint with a goal, and tried a couple of speculative efforts in vain before he then managed leave with a bang. Picking up the ball some 25 yards from goal, the Columbian lurched forward before smashing a low-footed drive beyond the keeper’s outstretched hand. It really was the cherry on top of the cake, and the youngster looked to relish the moment with a semi lap of honour on the final whistle in front of an exuberant home crowd.

Notts County, now sitting pretty in the play-off positions, will be looking eagerly to their next game away at Chesterfield in order to build on this performance. Though beyond that, the Magpies will welcome Brentford to Meadow Lane in two weeks time in what will surely be a special game. Martin Allen will be up against his former side in what is sure to be an intriguing fixture and you can witness it live! URN are giving you the chance to come to Meadow Lane on October 22nd and support the boys for just £5 when you show your student card on purchasing tickets. With this you will also get a free drink and a complimentary Gatecrasher ticket. So, see you there then I guess. How can you turn down that offer?

And finally, keep checking our website and reading our match reports for many more special offers we have planned for the coming weeks and months.


Josh Bednash