A fortnight on from their 3-1 away loss to County’s arch rivals at the top of the National League, Wrexham, Wanderers did get ahead in this contest on 13 minutes, Jason Prior netting his first goal since returning to the club last month by flicking home Josh Taylor’s cross at the near post. Within the space of several minutes, the hosts got back on terms, the league’s top marksman Macauley Langstaff on hand to finish from close range as Aaron Nemane’s cross couldn’t be cleared, and the striker took his tally for the season to 35 goals just after half-time, guiding home Sam Austin’s cross. Matt Palmer put the game beyond Wanderers in the closing minutes, finishing off a cute through ball from Ruben Rodrigues after a slick passing move approaching the edge of the box. The result keeps County 4 points behind top spot, Wanderers by contrast away from the relegation zone by the same points margin but Gateshead beneath them do have two games in hand.
Marc White made two changes to the side which started in the midweek victory over Barnet; Isaac Philpot replacing Ed Harris as he continues to follow concussion protocols following the nasty collision suffered early on in Tuesday’s game, and James McShane came back into the starting eleven for Luke Moore. Tony Craig retained the captain’s armband for the second match running.
The hosts immediately took a stronghold of possession and had Wanderers pegged back into their own half, Aaron Nemane firing a couple of warning shots dispatching crosses from the right as he succeeded getting into space in behind, central midfielder Sam Austin taking on a couple of strikes at goal including one effort fired straight down Lincoln.
Having weathered the opening ten minutes Wanderers began to carve out opportunities in the County final third; Ottaway heading down a long ball for Prior to then lash straight into the arms of keeper Tiernan Brooks, before Josh Taylor gathered a half-hearted clearance out from the back and crashed an effort into the side netting.
A couple of minutes later though, the midfielder would turn provider for Wanderers to open the scoring; latching on to namesake Bobby-Joe’s superb diagonal ball out from the back and advancing to the byline, before driving a low cross into the near post for Prior to confidently flick beyond the static Brooks.
Luke Williams side wasted no time setting about finding an immediate leveller, Philpot and Craig standing up well to threatening deliveries from the left and right flanks respectively as County got forward at pace, Ruben Rodrigues then attempting the spectacular with a bicycle kick just ahead of Jim O’Brien clipping the outside of the post with a low shot.
The intense pressure paid off on 18 minutes; Nemane’s cross from the right pushed out by Lincoln and rebounding off of Craig at close quarters, Langstaff reacting fastest to quickly divert the loose ball into goal from several yards out.
Making the pitch as wide as possible, pressing high and continually rotating midfielders getting up in support of Langstaff, The Magpies showed no sign of letting up their front-footed approach for the remainder of the half; Langstaff nearly bagging his second at the midway point, just directing an effort wide after Rodrigues did well to pinch the ball outside the Wanderers penalty area. The league’s top scorer couldn’t quite fashion a strong enough contact on Matt Palmer’s clever, clipped in set piece shortly afterwards, and between winger’s Nemane and Jodi Jones firing high and wide, Craig made a crucial interception to prevent Langstaff turning and getting a shot away at the edge of the box.
Marc White made a double substitution at the break, Luke Moore and Seb Bowerman coming on for Nicky Wheeler and Harry Ottaway, James McShane pushing up to play closer to Prior as Wanderers sought to gain more control in central midfield.
County picked up where they left off after the restart, however, and got ahead several minutes into the half. Francomb was unable to bring a heavy pass from Prior under control and Austin battled well to steal the ball near the attacking left, advancing forward and sliding across for Langstaff, who calmly guided the ball high into the roof of the net.
Patient play around the outskirts of the Wanderers box led to Langstaff turning and hammering a shot just over the top right stantion, the home side cranking up the pressure again around the hour mark as Cook then got a crucial outstretched leg on Nemane’s cut-back, play swiftly recycled and Craig reacting brilliantly to head Austin’s pacey strike off the goal line.
Into the last quarter of the game, play started to become more balanced out, Wanderers gradually building up their familiar retention of the ball but just not quite able to make anything click in the final third; Prior and substitute Seager falling short of generating enough power when the ball did break for them closing in respectively at the edge of the County box, Moore receiving a Bowerman lay off from wide left but blasting his strike well wide of target.
Despite possession becoming more evenly balanced, The Magpies remained dangerous through counter attacking play; recently introduced sub Connor Lemonheigh-Evans playing a ball inside for Langstaff to swivel and hammer straight at Lincoln, then keeper then bravely coming off his line to claw away a Rodrigues through ball which sent Langstaff through one-on-one. Danger not completely cleared, in the next phase of play Palmer’s low strike took a slight deflection and trickled marginally wide of the far post.
With five minutes left on the clock, County did manage to put the game to bed; Rodrigues receiving a well placed pass near the edge of the D before releasing an intricate through ball which opened up space for Palmer just outside the six yard box, the midfielder making no mistake sticking the chance away.
Wanderers will rue a couple of individual lapses enabling a quality County side to overturn what had been a positive start to the game. Marc White’s men can take heart from showing plenty of the defensive resolve that has seen an upturn in recent form, and like at Wrexham a fortnight ago, Wanderers quality in possession, particularly in the second half, kept them in the contest right up to the closing minutes.
With no midweek action for the first time in a couple of weeks, Wanderers hit the road again next Saturday to face York City in a 3pm kick off at the Community Stadium.
Notts County (3-5-2): 12 Tiernan Brooks, 5 Connell Rawlinson, 16 Geraldo Bajrami, 23 Adam Chicksen; 11 Aaron Nemane, 6 Jim O’Brien (24 John Bostock 78′), 8 Sam Austin (25 Connor Lemonheigh-Evans 69′), 18 Matt Palmer, 10 Jodi Jones (17 Frank Vincent 78′); 20 Ruben Rodrigues, 9 Macaulay Langstaff (c)
Unused Sub: 13 Archie Mair (GK) (4 Subs Named In Total)
Goals: Langstaff 19′, 52′, Palmer 85′
Yellow Card: Bajrami 80′
Dorking Wanderers (3-5-2): 1 Dan Lincoln, 2 Isaac Philpot, 27 Tony Craig (c), 33 Joe Cook; 3 Bobby-Joe Taylor (9 Ryan Seager 58′), 37 George Francomb, 17 Josh Taylor, 11 James McShane, 16 Nicky Wheeler (30 Seb Bowerman 46′); 19 Jason Prior, 24 Harry Ottaway (18 Luke Moore 46′)
Unused Subs: 12 Calum Kennedy, 29 Alfie Egan
Goal: Prior 13′
Yellow Card: McShane 75′
Referee: Ed Duckworth
Attendance: 7,060 (323 Wanderers Supporters)
Man Of The Match: Macauley Langstaff (Official Home Selection)