FA Cup Second Round

Notts County 3

(Richard Duffy, Jon Stead, Jorge Grant)

Oxford City 2

(Rob Sinclair, Matt Paterson)

Attendance: 5,092

Meadow Lane

The magic of the FA Cup is a phrase used all to much in the later rounds when by which time the magic has usually been lost.

When Notts County drew non-league Oxford City in the early Saturday kick off, I knew that was the fixture for me. My initial thought was that I could maybe squeeze in two games in Nottingham that day however I didn’t end up pulling off a double header.

What made the day even better was a complimentary ticket from County’s injured captain Michael O’Connor. It had been a long time since I had seen the Northern Ireland international and although he wasn’t playing it was a good chance to catch up.

When looking for FA Cup games, picking a game involving a non-league team against a Football League side is always going to throw up an entertaining game with some FA Cup sparkle. With that said, the last round at Solihull Moors was very straightforward for Wycombe Wanderers as they sailed into the second round.

I was desperate for a game and with work commitments with GB Wheelchair Rugby taking up some weekends I hadn’t been to a game since Forest Green Rovers and playing in the Saints Foundation game in mid-November.

It was the second time seeing Oxford City in the FA Cup, the first coming in the 2013/14 season when they beat Eastleigh 3-2 away in the 3rd round of qualifying.

As for Notts County, I had seen them play three times prior to the game today. The first came in a 1-0 away win at Crewe in the 2009/10 season before seeing them win away at Port Vale in the 14/15 campaign. My first trip to Meadow Lane came in March 2016 when they lost 2-0 to promotion chasing Bristol Rovers.

18 months later, I returned to the ground for another fixture, the first time I had seen the Magpies in a cup game.

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The Ground

Notts County are the oldest Football League team and Meadow Lane has been their home since 1910. It currently holds around 20,000 people and it is a smart ground with four seated stands in a very typical Football League structure.

Both times I have been I have sat in the Derek Pavis Stand, which is the main stand of the ground. The triangular gable on the Jimmy Sirrel Stand (away end) gives the ground a very traditional look; similar to one I have seen at Leyton Orient.

One thing that did frustrate me was the disorganisation from staff at the ground. I have been to many Football League grounds and received mixed service. Brentford and Forest Green Rovers stick out for teams that do it well and the likes of Coventry City come to mind when offering a poor service.

To cut a long story short, I hopped out of the cab by the away end. One member of staff sent me to one queue which turned out to be the wrong queue once I got to the front. I was then sent to another queue which again was not the right place before eventually finding the place to get my ticket. To make matters worse, the lady who gave me my ticket kindly asked if I knew where to go (my answer was no) and I was sent to the away stand. After then realising that was not the right stand I then walked all the way back around to where I got the ticket and entered in the turnstile next door. This sort of disorganisation really does make or break somebody’s experience at a match.

Anyway, I made it into the ground and took to my seat, towards the back of the stand closer to the Spion Kop. The crowd was in good spirit prior to the match with the ‘Pies doing well in the league and the 5,000 strong crowd was a good attendance when you take into account Oxford only contributed around 300 of that.

On my way out I was able to exit via some sort of lounge area which looked pretty smart, not sure what else is there but not everyday you see these parts of a Football League ground.

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The Game

Jorge Grant scored deep into injury time to put Notts County into the next round of the FA Cup at the expense of non-league side Oxford City.

The Nomads had twice fought back from behind before Grant had the last laugh, knocking the ball into the back of the net with the last kick of the game.

It was an indifferent start to the game for both teams with Notts County showing very little to suggest that they were going to win the match. Oxford were holding firm and just riding the storm, without having much of the ball to create any chances of their own.

City’s early effort fell to Matt Paterson who saw his header go wide of Ross Fitzsimons’ goal.

The best chance of the half fell to veteran striker Jon Stead who saw his acrobatic effort expertly saved by visiting ‘keeper Jack Stevens who pushed the ball out for a corner. A short corner followed and was swung into the box to Shaun Brisley at the back post, he headed back across goal and Ryan Yates shot at goal and it deflected off team mate Richard Duffy before heading into the back of the net.

It was an uneventful end to the first half as Kevin Nolan’s side took a narrow lead into the break.

The post came to City’s rescue when Stead picked up a long ball on the left wing, got the beating of Portsmouth loanee Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain before seeing his shot deflect onto the post off the defender. The ball was cleared straight up the other end by Freddie Grant to Rob Sinclair who played a neat give and go with Zac McEachran to get into the box before cutting in and smashing a shot on goal that deflected in to level for the Nomads.

The score was level for precisely three minutes before the hosts were awarded a penalty in front of the Spion Kop. A cross from the left flank landed to Terry Hawkridge who took a touch inside and was hacked to the ground by full back Grant. Former Premier League striker Stead dispatched the spot kick with ease to restore the advantage.

Some last ditch tackling denied County a third when Lewis Alessandra was denied at the last minute after running through on goal.

City striker Paterson spurned a good opportunity to level from the edge of the area curling a shot just wide of the post.

Alessandra had another effort go just wide when his header inside the box sailed over the bar before being subbed for Jon Forte.

Yates saw his long-range shot at goal take a deflection but Stevens managed to adjust his body and get a hand to the ball to tip away. Stead kept the ball alive and it was worked to Hawkridge on the right who snatched at the shot and it went wide of the post.

County were in the drivers seat, however it didn’t stop Mark Jones’ men finding another equaliser through Paterson on 73 minutes. McEachran did well to cut the ball back to Paterson who curled a shot into the corner.

With a replay looking likely County went for one last attack in the fifth minute of stoppage time. Hawkridge swung a ball into the box and substitute Jon Forte forced a great save from Stevens who could only parry the ball into the path of Jorge Grant to bundle into the back of the net and send the Magpies into the next round.

2017/18 Games: 40

2017/18 Grounds: 37 (9)

Total Grounds Visited: 186 (51)

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