Without a win in their previous six matches, County had to ride their luck a little against a tidy Scunthorpe side who were reduced to ten men early in the second half, but in the end their superior fire power proved decisive and they made their numerical advantage count.
With both sides going with two up front it certainly looked likely to be an open affair and so it proved, although it was Scunthorpe who made the better start to the game.
Understandably, considering their recent slump in form, County looked a little hesitant out of the blocks and Scunthorpe took the upper hand in the opening exchanges, keeping the ball better and creating a couple of opportunities. They had a good shout for a penalty turned down, as Garry Thompson got goal side of County’s centre back Krystian Pearce and went down, although it was County who had the first shot on goal.
Mike Edwards crossed from the left hand side and found his centre back partner Pearce in the box who connected with his left foot and produced a great save from the Scunthorpe keeper Sam Johnstone.
Notts began to settle after that and began to deal with the lively Scunthorpe slightly better. On 14 minutes Hawley won a corner on the right hand side and Ben Burgess was presented with a free header six yards out which he blazed over when he really should have done better.
Again Hawley was involved in creating another chance for County minutes later, raking a fine cross field pass to right back Kelly, whose cross was slightly too high for Demontagnac.
The game began to open up though and Scunthorpe had to be bravely thwarted by Edwards after a superb flowing move led to a dangerous cross from the left.
In the 25th minute County were defending again, as Scunthorpe broke quickly. Alan Judge put in a sliding tackle just in time to prevent Barcham from getting his shot on goal, but Barcham really should have done better, his first touch letting him down.
Ten minutes later and County should have taken the lead. A great cross was brought down by Hawley who swivelled and shot straight at the keeper – inches either side and it was one nil.
The home side did take the lead shortly after though. A cross from the right hand side was met by the dominating head of Pearce and he stuck it into the top corner.
Scunthorpe were rattled by this and it looked like County would take their lead into half time – but then Andy Barcham popped up with a superb solo effort in the 42nd minute to bring his side level. Cutting in from the left hand side he struck a fine right footed finish past Nelson in the County goal.
In truth, Scunthorpe deserved to be level at half time, their patient and incisive passing providing some great football at times. They lacked the directness and cutting edge of County though.
Martin Allen clearly wasn’t satisfied with Notts’ performance in the first half and made two changes at half time, bringing on Lee and Jeff Hughes. County had missed a few clear chances and the changes were understandable, but Hawley and Demontagnac came off and they had arguably been County’s most dangerous players in the opening period.
The changes made little effect early on however, as Scunthorpe picked up where they left off and silenced Meadow Lane in the 53rd minute when they took the lead. A deep diagonal cross was met by Bobby Grant who climbed highest to head into the top right hand corner of County’s net. The defending from Notts was poor and it was a lead Scunthorpe deserved.
Five minutes later though and Scunthorpe shot themselves in the foot. A reckless challenge from Oli Norwood saw him deservedly sent off and the Iron were reduced to ten men.
Initially, County failed to take advantage of their extra man and Scunthorpe looked motivated by what they saw as an injustice, but slowly the home side began to take advantage and they equalised ten minutes later.
Another long ball into the box was brought down by substitute Jeff Hughes and after controlling it with his chest, he volleyed home from the edge of the box, delighting the County faithful.
This failed to lift the home team though and Scunthorpe continued to fight admirably. County looked like they were lacking ideas and Scunthorpe continued to look dangerous on the counter attack.
It was a defensive lapse that cost them. Eddie Nolan let a through ball roll under his foot and the overlapping County right back Julian Kelly was presented with a clear run through to goal. He composed himself before slotting home at the near post and celebrating wildly, ripping his shirt off and earning a booking in the process.
After taking the lead, County looked far more comfortable and began to keep the ball better than they had at any other time during the match. Scunthorpe became more and more desperate on the break and thus less effectual.
A collective sigh of relief was aired when the final whistle went inside Meadow Lane as County won for the first time in five games and solidified their place in the top six. Scunthorpe can feel hard done by though, and they are certainly a better side than their lowly league position indicates. Manager Alan Knill was quick to point towards the sending off as a huge turning point.
“We were 2-1 up, but then we lose a player, one of our key passers and of course it’s going to influence the game. It’s very disappointing,” he said.
Martin Allen’s County go marching on though and although they perhaps didn’t sparkle here, they took their chances much better than the visitors and in the end deserved the win. They can perhaps begin to look up the table now they’ve arrested their slump in form.
Notts County: Nelson, Kelly, Sheehan, Edwards, Pearce, Demontagnac, Hawley, Bishop (c), Judge, Burgess, Mahon.
Scunthorpe United: Johnstone, Nolan, Byrne (c), O’Connor, Thompson, Norwood, Duffy, Grant, Canavan, Barcham, Duffy.
Referee: Jock Waugh.
George Solomon, Olly Dickinson