Triumph in adversity. That’s what i should be naming this piece.
Notts had absolutely no right to win this football match. Visiting London Road where the homeside Peterborough had won all four of their league games this year, scoring 17 goals in the process. Against a County team that had so far only earned one point away from home.
Take a look at both side’s constrasting form, and this was your evening’s home banker. Yet for whatever reason, few of us held onto the hope that this was a winnable game.
Notts produced the sort of stubborn performance required on the night in the absence of Lee Hughes to pick up the three points and firmly rock the Peterborough applecart.
Karl Hawley stayed surprisingly on the subs bench whilst Kevin Smith and Alan Judge took up prime positions on the frontline.
Rob Burch reclaimed the number one jersey ahead of Stuart Nelson who will undoubtedly consider himself unfortunate having not put a foot wrong in recent games. It was a baffling decision before kick-off, but certainly one which was to pay dividends by the end of the epic encounter.
The “Posh” (loosest sense of the term) were nearly ahead within the first few minutes as Lee Tomlin sweetly struck the ball just inches wide of the right post. As far as the early stages go, this was as close as Peterborough were to come as proceedings became largely one way traffic.
County were playing the better of the football and certainly deserved their two goal lead handed to them by Ben Davies in the space of three minutes. The first a shot apparently too hot for the Peterborough to handle and a sweetly struck second from the edge of the box.
With fifteen minutes of the half remaining it was paramount for confidence that Notts held onto their two goal lead, but that’s not how Notts County roll. Peterborough were quickly back in the game thanks to a poorly defended header from six yards by Zakuani.
Hearts started to beat a little quicker amongst the black and white support as people started to wonder what this might do for confidence. Such fears were allayed by another fine strike, this time from Craig Westcarr shortly before the interval.
Going in 3-1 up at half time, Notts were great value for their lead and were unfortunate to have not taken more, having moments before Westy’s third seen a legitimate Kevin Smith effort ruled out for offside.
A few minutes into the second period and a piece of individual brilliance from Tommy Rowe beat Burch in the County goal, but not the crossbar. Peterborough were pressing, and with half an hour remaining the Notts’ backs looked to be firmly against the wall as Peterborough’s Mackail-Smith bundled home his side’s second in fortunate circumstances.
A shooting Grant McCann slid on his approach only for the ball to slice down the right channel where Mackail-Smith knocked the ball home.
For the remaining half hour Peterborough were to charge at Notts constantly but in truth the County defence rarely seemed threatened as the referee began to lose control of the match. There were brief glimpses of danger from Ben Davies on the left wing from dead ball situations, and had his ball through to Hawley been weighted properly, the game would’ve been wrapped up.
Five minutes into the fightback and the balance of play was to swing back in County’s favour as Grant McCann was given a straight red for his ridiculous takedown of Alan Judge. A melee ensued between both sets of players, but Peterborough will have no complaints over the officials actions.
Whether the FA think the initial suspension is enough when they were review the game (and they will) remains to be seen though.
Shortly after this, Ricky Ravenhill of Notts and Aaron Mclean of Posh were cautioned. The referee had lost control, and the inmates were now running the asylum.
And Posh will feel aggrieved that Ravenhill was to even be on the field at all, as the Notts man pulled McLean’s shirt almost clean off. The official gave a free kick, but after consultation with his assistant…showed no card. Ricky was the last man, McLean was through, a free kick, no yellow card, no red card.
Quite why it took nearly a minute for both officials to reach such a decision is bewildering.
Mclean was to come close shortly after with a free-kick from 20 yards out, but Rob Burch was proving to be a dependable asset on the night as his left hand stopped a certain goal.
Burch’s stock rose massively as he climbed high for every ball, comfortably collecting anything thrown into his area. Whilst the move to drop Nelson may have been a confusing one at first, Burch was working out of his skin to repay Craig Short’s confidence.
Ravenhill was to pick up a second yellow card deep into injury time for kicking the ball away (the second such booking on the night) in confusing circumstances as the referee gave a freekick for the most innoccuous of challenges on the touchline. The Notts disciplinary record is hardly the cleanest right now with three red cards in as many games and countless yellows being clocked up.
Thankfully the reduction in staff was too late to make any difference as Notts stood resolute to the kitchen sink efforts of Peterborough, despite countless confusion decisions against County players trying to hold the ball up.
The final whistle was met firstly with great relief having had to endure just short of two minutes more than the referee’s earlier indication of stoppage time. Relief shortly turned to curiosity as both teams collided in front of the dugouts in scenes reminiscent of a rugby union ruck. Fists and feet were seen to be flying.
Neither club has (understandably) taken responsibility post-match and have pointed fingers elsewhere. But both clubs will consider them fortunate should the FA decide not to persue the matter as neither side comes of favourably in the available video footage.
So against all odds Notts County had their first away league win of the season and had impressively done so with 62% of the ball.
Notably, they’d also done so without the services of Lee Hughes. Six wins this season, and that’s four now without the star striker, will people now start to realise they don’t need to reach for the panic button so quickly the next time he’s injured?