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An Aerial Assault From Stevenage Leaves The Magpies Grounded

Saturday 28th January 2012
Stevenage bullied their way into the last 16 of the FA Cup with a hard fought 1-0 win against Notts County on a bleak afternoon for the midlands club. Notts lined up in their tried and trusted 4-4-2 formation and included re-signed loanee Jonothan Forte in the starting line up as they hoped to defy the form book by recording only their second win in 15.

Stevenage on the other hand were unchanged from the side that toppled MK Dons last weekend and were seriously pushing for a promotion place under new manager Gary Smith.

A 5000 strong crowd at the Lamex stadium greeted the two teams on a day when both sets of supporters were warming their vocals chords for a chilly afternoon in Hertfordshire.

Yet despite recent form both teams began evenly matched as they scrapped for possession in the first ten minutes. Neither team could gain an advantage over the other yet as the ten minute mark disappeared the Borough stepped it up a gear as they started to win everything in the air as Notts attempted a long ball game that was thwarted by the consistently dominant Stevenage defence.

And in the 12th minute Notts' lack of possession and communication in defence tolled. A long ball over the top from Stevenage was met by ex Arsenal forward Luke Freeman who took the ball wide and drew County keeper Stuart Nelson out of his goal. Nelson strived to win the ball but was turned far too easily as Freeman showed his class. Then as he got enough room for a shot his goal bound drive was ricochet into the back of the net by County defender Damion Stewart to the elation of the home faithful.

County didn't learn from their mistakes as they continued to attempt a long ball game that repeatedly let them down as Stevenage dominated in the air. Notts looked tired and unconfident as the first half wore on and were almost punished a further two times before the break.

A long range effort from Michael Bostwick, following some good pressure from the hosts, forced the calamitous Nelson to make a smart save to tip the powerful drive wide before the ever lively Luke Freeman again troubled yet this time struck wide of the county woodwork as the break came.

In the second half Notts came out first and brought on Demontgnac for the invisible Forte as they attempted to change their game which Stevenage thwarted continuously during the first half. And this change made a real difference as Notts looked the better side through the first part of the second half whilst still looking susceptible to the Stevenage counter attack.

County thought they'd got the equaliser on 65 minutes as an Alan Judge volley from the edge of the area forced Borough keeper Chris Day to smartly tip over the bar. Whilst the ever controversial Lee Hughes turned smartly before striking wide as Notts continued to press.

Tackles were flying in from all directions and tempers were flaring both on and off the pitch with a lot of abuse being aimed at referee Neil Swarbrick after missing some apparently obvious fouls and giving a couple of controversial bookings and decisions. And County's frustration was preyed upon by Stevenage as County threw everything up in order to grab an equaliser. Twice after County Corners Stevenage broke and should have at least doubled their tally as first Darius Charles hit the outside of the post before Lawrie Wilson was denied by Nelson in the county goal.

Notts continuously pressed as Mad Dog Allen brought on Sam Sodje to try and create an aerial presence up front for the Nottinghamshire side as they again resorted to their initial game plan of long balls. County's best chances though came from free kicks won by the ever present Alan Judge who continued to cause problems for the home side winning consecutive free kicks in dangerous areas for a cross yet the Magpies just couldn't take advantage.

And in the depths of added time Stevenage hearts were in their mouths as Notts continued to pile on the pressure. Another Notts corner into the area wasn't dealt with by the Stevenage defence  as it fell to judge who's low drive couldn't be diverted past Day by the four Notts bodies in the Stevenage six yard box.

As the final whistle blew it was met by sheer elation from every member of the Stevenage side as they knew they had got through a tough tie yet Notts were greeted by a hostile reception from a few of their own fans who goaded both Lee Hughes and skipper Neil Bishop at the final whistle as the frustration from both parties was felt.

So it's Stevenage who go on to the 5th round of the FA Cup as Notts County make the hour and a half long journey back to Nottingham with their tails between their legs as the magpies wave goodbye to the FA Cup for another season.

Stevenage  (4-4-2) Day - Henry, Ashton, Roberts, Laird - Wilson, Bostwick, Byrom, Freeman (Shroot 90) - Beardsley (May 78), Charles (Long 71)

Unused Subs: Julian, Edwards, Cowan, Sinclair

County  (4-4-2) - Nelson - Kelly (Stirling 71), Chilvers, Stewart, Sheehan - Judge, Bishop, Mahon (Sodje 58), J.Hughes - L.Hughes, Forte (Demontagnac 45)

Unused Subs: Mitchell, Pearce, Bencherif, Hawley
Jack Deaton
I'm an 18 year old student currently studying for a degree in Broadcast Journalism. My aim is to become either a football writer or a football commentator.

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