Battling Notts overcome Barnet to go top

In my only other match report for Gerrit Forward this season, I noted after the early-season 2-0 win over Chesterfield that the result is always more important than the performance.

Since then, Kevin Nolan’s team have continued in the same vein – turning ‘winning ugly’ into something of an art form, with a string of battling wins that have taken them to the very top of League Two.

This is meant in no way as a criticism; no-one expected Notts to be anywhere near the top of the table in pre-season and the fact they’ve managed that feat – twice – without really hitting top gear is seriously impressive and a testament to the organisation and ethos that Nolan has instilled in his squad.

This was another afternoon where the Magpies won all three points without fully being in control; in a strange game, Notts were dominant and scored in the first 15 minutes of each half through Shaun Brisley (sorry Shola) and Ryan Yates, but Barnet were generally on top aside from those two spells.

In the first half, this was pretty much exclusively sterile possession, with the visitors unable to create any clear chances, but it was a different story in the second half, with Notts conceding an alarming amount of opportunities to the The Bees, who belied their recent poor form and lowly league position with some impressive football and got the goal their pressure deserved through Simeon Akinola with 10 minutes remaining, after a typically-lengthy passing move.

Substitute keeper Ross Fitzsimons – on for his league debut with Adam Collin going off with a knee problem – made three decent saves in total, one of which was outstanding, while marauding defender Ricardo Almeida Santos blazed over deep into the inflated seven minutes of second half injury time when he really should’ve grabbed the equaliser.

Collin also produced a top-drawer save of his own before he was forced off, brilliantly tipping over former Magpie Jamal Campbell-Ryce’s deflected strike when it had looked to be dipping in. Campbell-Ryce – the Barnet skipper – was far and away the Man of the Match, excelling in a central role where he was able to dictate things for long periods. The Magpies never really got to grips with him, nor Barnet’s extra midfielder which enabled them to dominate possession.

That said, Nolan’s men should’ve been out of sight long before Barnet came back into things, having squandered a number of chances of their own in a short period of dominance after Yates’ excellent header following good work from Matt Tootle had doubled their advantage. The best of these was a gilt-edged open goal miss from Jorge Grant, while Jon Stead also saw his effort (incorrectly?) ruled-out for offside.

The most important thing is, was and always will be the three points though and Nolan will be delighted to see his side bounce back from another humbling at Field Mill with four points from two home games, which of course is enough to return them to the League Two summit ahead of back-to-back away matches at Crewe and Carlisle. Another four points would do nicely.

Notts: Collin 7 (Fitzsimons 7.5); Tootle 7, Duffy 6, Brisley 6, Dickinson 7.5*; Alessandra 5 (Hewitt 6), Yates 7, Milsom 6, Grant 6; Ameobi 7 (Forte 6), Stead 5.

Unused: Hunt, Smith, Walker, Hawkridge.

Rob Davies

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