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Saturday, July 30, 2005

A report from Notts County

Here is an edited report from Notts County:

The Magpies rounded off their pre-season programme on Saturday afternoon at Hereford United, and didn't end things as they would have liked with a 2-1 defeat against the Conference National side.

The opening period of the game saw a tight start from both sides, with Notts setting out on the attack once more and knocking a few balls into the Hereford box, but they were well dealt with by the solid defence, but it was home side who took the lead in the early exchanges thanks to a goal from a former Football League forward.

Guy Ipoua, a player who gave Notts a torrid time last season when with Mansfield, was the man who opened the scoring for the home side on eight minutes following a cross from the right-hand side with a close range header that just managed to beat the unlucky Kevin Pilkington - while a few moments later Ipoua, who got in behind Julien Baudet for the opening goal, gave Notts another scare as he burst clean through, but Pilkington saved from the eventual move as Notts let their solidarity status slip, something they had gained over pre-season.

Hereford, a side who finished second in the Conference in each of the last two seasons, certainly were giving Notts a tough start and were already signalling their intentions for the new season as Notts tried to draw themselves back into the game.

Notts' first chance came on around fifteen minutes into proceedings with Wales Under21 International David Pipe powering into the box and crossing for Steve Scoffham who hit the ball into the ground and the ball evaded Andy White, who was later caught offside as he tried to get hold of the ball. Chris Palmer also had a shot a few moments later which shot wide for a goal kick.

Chris Palmer was again in the thick of it a few moments later with the best chance for the Magpies in the opening stages falling to the head of Andy White who headed just inches over the crossbar as Gudjon Thordarson's men tried to grab their composure after a rocky start.

Despite forcing their way back into proceedings, Hereford were always looking the better side in attack with Ipoua causing the defence no end of problems with Wilson and Baudet having their hands full while Mkandiware forced Kevin Pilkington to save well while Mike Edwards glanced a header over the bar following a Palmer corner.

But, just as Notts got back into proceedings former Wolves defender Ryan Green nodded home from close range to make it 2-0. The chance arose after the quick footed Adam Stansfield burst away from Baudet and crossed for the Welshman to put the ball away from Pilkington once again. No doubt Notts were in for a real rollicking from Gudjon Thordarson at the break, severely losing their 'difficult to beat' tag and making it far too easy for the home side.

A corner just before the break put Notts under more pressure but the defence did manage to get the ball clear, with the Magpies looking well out of sorts with defeat for the first time in pre-season looking on the cards as the half-time whistle sounded at Edgar Street.

The half-time break no doubt saw Gudjon Thordarson dish out a few harsh words to is squad, with changes expected and they did happen with Rob Ullathorne coming off the bench for Dan Martin, as did Glynn Hurst and Gavin Gordon as they replaced Scoffham and White in attack as Thordarson looked to give his side a boost and push their way back into the game.

Chris Palmer had a long-range shot a few seconds into the half that failed to trouble the home goalkeeper while a route one piece of football saw Pilkington's long clearance find the head of Gavin Gordon who found Glynn Hurst who burst through but shot straight at the goalkeeper while as Notts really went all out attack David Pipe's cross was well gathered by Moore.

Although chances were few and far between as the game reached the hour mark, there was a certain improvement in Notts' play with the midfield linking up a lot better and the use of the ball a lot better with a few moves coming together although the final ball was lacking as Notts got into the final third.

Notts did draw themselves back into the game with Jake Sheridan scoring just a minute after coming off the bench to score with a good effort after showing some trickery on the right-hand side and his eventual shot went through a number of players and found the back of the net.

Sheridan was again at the centre of things but sending a delightful ball into the box ahead of Gavin Gordon, who just missed the ball as the ball went to the goalkeeper and moments later he picked up the ball at the far post, but the Bulls managed to clear under pressure as Notts continued to have the better chances. When Hereford did threaten, Pilkington dealt with things well.

Pipe was proving dangerous with his overlapping runs from right-back behind Jake Sheridan and delivered a fine ball towards Hurst, but the South African headed the ball over the crossbar as they sought to get back on to level terms.

Pilkington did well to deny sub Danny Carey-Bertram with a fine one-handed save as Hereford finally got a shot in at goal and from the resulting corner Notts switched off and Mkandiware headed over with the goal there for him to aim at, showing the home side were not out of things, but with time running out Notts' chances dried up although Gill's long range effort was well saved four minutes from time.

The game, against a strong Conference side was certainly a good workout for Thordarson's side. Being 2-0 down at the break gave him chance to see his players react to being behind, and a strong second-half performance will have no doubt given him some positives to take into this weeks training sessions ahead of the journey to Torquay in the League Two opener next weekend.