Notts County 3-0 Altrincham (National League) 07.05.22
Goals from Cal Roberts, Kyle Wootton and Ruben Rodrigues earned Notts County victory over Altrincham in their final home game of the season, confirming their place in the Vanarama National League play-offs.
The hosts had been frustrated in a goalless first half by a compact, well organised Altrincham side who also carried a threat going forward but a clinical second half performance saw The Magpies ultimately run out convincing winners.
It was Notts who made the brighter start and they could have been ahead in the second minute when a neat one two between Rodrigues and Roberts saw the former drift into the penalty area only to see his shot deflected behind for a corner.
However, the visitors soon settled into the game and mustered a chance of their own with 15 minutes gone, as Dan Mooney found room on the right wing, cut inside, and unleashed a shot which flew over the crossbar.
This seemed to spark the hosts back into action who after a good start had struggled to assert themselves on the game.
They almost took the lead just over 20 minutes in when Jayden Richardson rattled the crossbar with a well hit strike from the edge of the area following a corner.
A flurry of chances followed; Jim O’Brien shot narrowly wide after good work from Wootton to tee him up and Roberts’ cross then picked out a sliding Dion Kelly-Evans but he couldn’t direct his effort on target.
A deflected O’Brien shot was then well saved by Thompson following an energetic surge into the box from Roberts.
With just over half an hour gone, Richardson intercepted a pass in the right back position and drove deep into the opposition’s half. As Altrincham finally dispossessed him, the loose ball fell for Rodrigues who produced a pinpoint cross for Wootton but his header was easily fielded by Tony Thompson in the Altrincham goal.
As half time neared Isaac Marriott went close twice for the visitors. He had a shot bravely blocked by Kelly-Evans before two minutes later shooting wide after being found unmarked in the box from the right wing.
Just before the break, Rodrigues went close again. He received the ball on the left, beat two men and shot just wide of Thompson’s near post, although the ‘keeper knew it was going wide.
Notts began the second half with much more purpose and intensity and this was almost instantly rewarded as they were awarded a penalty just 20 seconds after the restart when Roberts was upended inside the box.
The midfielder dusted himself off and coolly rolled his spot kick into the bottom right hand corner of the net, sending Thompson the wrong way in the process.
This caused chants of Notts are going up to ring round Meadow Lane as the fans showed their delight and relief at their side finally finding a breakthrough.
The visitors briefly rallied with Mooney shooting wide and an Elliot Osborne freekick testing the reflexes of Sam Slocombe in the Notts goal.
However, Notts extended their lead with 15 minutes to go. Roberts turned provider, crossing accurately from the right wing and picking out Wootton who finished acrobatically from close range.
From this point, Notts were in complete control of the tempo and dominated possession as the clock ticked down.
With just over five minutes remaining, Rodrigues got the goal that his performance had warranted with a diving header. Substitute Elisha Sam showed great strength to hold off his man and sprayed the ball out to Richardson who broke at pace down the right. His cross was deflected and bounced up for Rodrigues to athletically nod home before the defenders had a chance to clear their lines.
The win means Notts need a point on the final day of the season to confirm home advantage for their play-off quarter final.
Notts County: Slocombe, Chicksen, Lacey, Brindley, Kelly-Evans (Cameron 64), Richardson, Palmer, O’Brien (Francis 77), Roberts (Sam 81), Rodrigues, Wootton.
Altrincham: Thompson, Ferguson, Perritt (Morgan 60), Pringle, Osborne, Jones, Cooper, Mullarkey, Marriott (Moult 79), Hall (Campbell 69), Mooney.
Venue: Meadow Lane
*Article provided by Tom Surgay (Notts County Correspondent).
*Main image @Official_NCFC County impress in a strong second half.