GIVEN their superiority, Notts County should probably have enjoyed a field day at Meadow Lane against York City.

But, ultimately, Izale McLeod’s 12th-minute goal, gifted to him by a calamitous Scott Flinders blunder, proved sufficient as the Magpies racked up a fourth straight home win.

In doing so, the hosts did little to dispel City chief Russ Wilcox’s pre-match assertion that they were the best side he had seen in Sky Bet League Two this season.

During a dominant first hour, County controlled possession as the contest resembled an attack versus defence training drill for long periods.

Ricardo Muniz’s men, who will surely now rise up the division, looked to have no discernible weak links and were all comfortable on the ball, highlighting disparities between the two clubs that had been suggested beforehand by a glance at the team-sheet, respective benches and surroundings.

Put simply, City do not benefit from the services of a £100,000 striker who scored 21 goals for a relegated League One side last term (McLeod) or the luxury of naming a former Premier League frontman as a substitute (Jon Stead).

Nor do they boast a 20,000-capacity arena with its accompanying fan base and greater opportunities for commercial revenue.

Even allowing for such contrasts, however, the gulf in class on the pitch was alarming during a ridiculously, one-sided first half in which the Minstermen got nowhere near the home team and managed just two shots compared to Notts’ 13.

Prior to his 30th-minute injury, Luke Summerfield and fellow midfield playmaker James Berrett barely had a single kick of the ball and, without the suspended Vadaine Oliver in attack, City had no obvious outlet to relieve the relentless pressure with wing-backs Eddie Nolan and Josh Carson mainly on the retreat.  

There were over-sized gaps between City’s back three, meanwhile, that were exploited by the home side’s intelligent midfielders and McLeod’s darting runs.

Along with his early clanger, Flinders was also given problems by the quality of County’s dead-ball deliveries but, with such a slender lead betraying their pre-eminence, the hosts proved in the final 20 minutes that they are fallible as they became almost paralysed by a fear that City might unjustly snatch a point.

The visitors didn’t, however, possess the necessary nous to capitalise on that anxiety or a series of late half-chances.

Earlier, McLeod had raced on to Adam Campbell’s searching ball through the left channel but fired wide of Flinders’ near post with only the City keeper to beat on ten minutes.

Having also found the sidenetting from Graham Burke’s low centre, he then made the breakthrough when Liam Noble’s right-wing, crossfield pass sailed over the head of Keith Lowe and lured Flinders out of his goal.

His complete air-kick went on to leave the 30-year-old marksman with a vacated net to find.

Amid the waves of home attacks, former England international Alan Smith drove over from 25 yards and Burke rifled inches wide from a similar distance.

An unwitting Haydn Hollis also headed over an unguarded goal after Flinders had failed to gather Burke’s free kick.

City’s one moment of first-half respite came when Berrett’s dipping, edge-of-the-box volley was smartly tipped over by ex-Manchester United net-minder Roy Carroll and Dave Winfield headed wide from the resulting corner.

But there were further chances for McLeod, Noble, impressive new loan signing Alan Sheehan and Hollis before the interval.

It was the same pattern after the restart with centre-half Mike Edwards heading against Flinders’ far post from Noble’s left-wing free kick.

The same player also cleared the crossbar after getting his thigh to the rebound.

Winfield, meanwhile, survived strong penalty shouts when he appeared to nudge into McLeod and the purposeful Stanley Aborah shot over from the edge of the box after brushing Berrett off the ball too easily.

Just past the hour, Campbell took advantage of hesitant play by Winfield to burst clear through the right channel but Flinders pushed behind his low shot across the face of goal.

Surprisingly, that would prove the Magpies’ final attempt of the game.

At the other end, after Emile Sinclair’s diagonal ten-yard drive lacked the power to trouble Carroll, Lowe and Berrett went on to miss the target from the edge of the box.

Shots from Reece Thompson, David Tutonda and Anthony Straker then all found the sidenetting – the last two having been teed up on the overlap by Berrett – but Wilcox’s men could have little complaint with their afternoon’s reward at the final whistle.



Scott Flinders: 5 – costly error and troubled by home side’s set-pieces

Keith Lowe: 5 – on his heels a little for the ball that led to McLeod’s goal

Dave Winfield: 5 – exposed at times as City’s central defender in a back three

Femi Ilesanmi: 6 – stuck to his task and carried out his duties with determination

Eddie Nolan: 6 – used the ball sensibly although limited in his opportunities to go forward

Russell Penn: 5 – crunched into a couple of tackles but could not put shackles on home midfielders  

Luke Summerfield: 5 – chasing shadows prior to nasty fall that ended his afternoon prematurely

STAR MAN James Berrett: 7 – even with his team outclassed came close to scoring and setting up goals  

Josh Carson: 5 – found it hard to make an impact on flank after his return to starting line-up

Emile Sinclair: 5 – never posed the same threat as he had previous two weeks from the bench

Reece Thompson: 5 – quiet and completely subdued by home defence

Subs: Ben Godfrey 6 – eager (for Summerfield, 30), David Tutonda 5 – ineffective (for Carson, 65), Anthony Straker (for Sinclair, 76).

Subs not used: Michael Ingham, John McCombe, Marvin McCoy, Callum Rzonca.


Notts County

Roy Carroll, Elliott Hewitt, Mike Edwards, Haydn Hollis, Alan Sheehan, Adam Campbell, Alan Smith, Stanley Aborah, Liam Noble (Curtis Thompson, 86), Graham Burke (Jack Barmby, 60), Izale McLeod. Subs not used: Scott Loach, Julian Jenner, Gill Swerts, Jon Stead, Civard Sprockel.

Notts County star man: Noble – showed quality on the ball, along with other candidates

Referee: Eddie Ilderton. Rating: 5/10 – flurry of yellow cards was unnecessary

Booked: Carson 36, Ilesanmi 37, Thompsonn 41, Aborah 43, Berrett 47, Penn 66.

Attendance: 5,159 (752 from City)


Shots on target: Notts County 5, City 2

Shots off target: Notts County 13, City 6

Corners: Notts County 9, City 2 

Fouls conceded: Notts County 11, City 8

Offsides: Notts County 5, City 4