A tough test awaited Notts County as they travelled to Kent to face promotion rivals Gillingham in what was the Magpie’s 5000th EFL fixture. This encounter may also be well-known to Notts fans for the time that the Gills relegated them from League One in the 2014/15 season. A recovery was needed after the disappointing display at home to Mansfield Town 1-4. After Notts were pegged back following Langstaff’s opening goal, Lewis Macari’ powerful strike proved to be the difference between the two teams.
Notts came into the fixture making 4 changes following their previous defeat, with Rawlinson, Austin, Crowley and the injured John Bostock making way for O’Brien, Adebayo with Cameron and Jones returning to the side. Despite being managerless after sacking Neil Harris, Gillingham looked to pose a threat to the Magpies defence, with Macauley Bonne and Jonny Williams as the main ones to watch. It was sure to be an entertaining fixture between the two sides, who both looked to maintain their high position in the table.
The opening stages of the game saw Notts looking to gain immediate control, dominating the possession and looking to work the ball into their lethal strike force. Despite the first chances coming for the hosts, Notts continued to stay patient as they continued to be confident in taking the lead. Working the ball into wide areas was key to accessing the crossing abilities of both wingbacks: Jones and Adebayo. This saw Jones come close on a couple of occasions, just lacking the finishing touch.
However, in the 38th minute, Notts got their reward after some fine play working the ball out to Tobi Adebayo. His cross found the foot of Langstaff, making no mistake as he fired the ball into the back of the net, which put Notts into a 0-1 lead. Controlling the lead was a problem in previous fixtures, so it was vital that Notts were able to get to half time in the lead, and continue to dominate possession of the ball. The referee brought the half to an end, meaning that Notts led 1-0 going into the break. The magpies needed to continue playing the way they were, which started to frustrate the home side as the half progressed.
However, the home side showed that they were in no mood for giving up as they drew level just 7 minutes after the restart. It was now more vital than ever that Notts needed to relax and continue to play the way they did in the first half, otherwise the situation was going to get worse. Momentum was now in favour of the Gills who immediately looked to get a second. The closest effort came from striker Bonne, who failed to connect and turn the ball home from six yards out.
8 minutes later, the scoreline changed in favour of Notts County as Crowley layed the ball to an onrushing Lewis Macari 25 yards from goal. It proved to be the sweetest strike, as he unleashed a piledriver into the top left corner, in front of the travelling support. Gillingham needed to respond, but with the control that Notts had, were struggling to do so. On many occasions, the scoreline could have been wrapped up, but the end product just seemed to lack. However, the primary focus was on controlling the closing stages of the match, which they did successfully. Full time eventually came, with Notts County rewarded with 3 hard-fought points to take back to Nottingham.
It was a deserved victory in the end, with Notts dominating the majority of the game despite the late pressure from the desperate Gills. The possession based game from the Magpies was rewarded with two fantastic goals, and they defended well for most of the game. However, the goal which was conceded was definitely avoidable as Malone should not have been allowed to turn and have as much time on the ball as he did. On the whole, however, it was a much improved display and three crucial points gained against a promotion rival.
Starting XI: 1 Slocombe - 2 Brindley (16’)' 15 Baldwin, 4 Cameron - 21 Adebayo (60’), 6 O’Brien', 18 Palmer, 10 Jones (71’), 11 Nemane -17 McGoldrick, 9 Langstaff (71’)
Subs Used: 28 Macari (16’), 7 Crowley (60’), 8 Austin (71’), 27 Morias (71’)
Not Used: 26 Stone, 5 Rawlinson, 33 Tipton
Attendance: 6983 (820 away)