At the end of last year Meadow Lane was an unpleasant place to be – now Notts County are up to second in League Two with Nigeria’s hero, Shola Ameobi, recruited by his former teammate, Kelvin Nola to beef up the squad.
Back then a storm ravaged Notts as John Sheridan’s team lost game after game and its owners – Ray and Aileen Trew – became increasingly unpopular before selling up to Alan Hardy in January.
Storm Aileen was back on Tuesday night, battering the stadium once more, this time literally as a torrential downpour came down from first whistle to last.
This is a different Notts County though and they withstood any onslaught to beat Swindon Town 1-0 and make it seven games unbeaten, moving up a place in the process.
Jon Stead’s second goal of the season separated the teams. Both have been penalties with this one coming in the 32nd minute after the striker was bundled over in the box.
Notts have long since been a different proposition under Kevin Nolan and that was the case again. They produced a measured performance and should have won by a greater margin, despite Keshi Anderson hitting the post for Swindon in stoppage time.
Players who came into the team in Jonathan Forte and Lewis Alessandra might well have got on the scoresheet after the break, but they performed well nonetheless.
Another to get his chance was excellent in Rob Milsom. He was industrious and composed, fitting in neatly alongside Ryan Yates, who was man of the match in the centre of midfield.
An expensively relaid pitch held up tremendously as Aileen tested its durability. Another excellent performance.
Nolan said he would be happy making five or six changes in the build-up and so it proved, as five players came in.
Lewis Alessandra looks to hold the ball up for Notts County (Image: John Sumpter @ JMS Photography)
Matt Tootle and Carl Dickinson started as the full-backs with Milsom getting his chance in midfield. Alessandra returned on the left wing and Forte replaced the injured Shola Ameobi in attack.
Nicky Hunt, Dan Jones, Jorge Grant and Elliott Hewitt were the others to drop out. Swindon’s only change from the side which beat Luton 3-0 saw Matt Taylor replace James Dunne in the centre of midfield.
Notts were good value for the lead at the break courtesy of Stead’s spot kick.
Right on cue the forecasted heavy rain came down when the game kicked off.
Ryan Yates is fouled on the edge of the penalty area
Both sides looked to play, but the Magpies had the extra composure and twice came close to going ahead in opening 20 minutes.
Forte had a good half with his back to goal and he set up Alessandra to side foot a left footed shot just over from the edge of the box in the 16 minute.
Two minutes later and the hosts had gone even close. Yates was another to go enjoy a good start to the game.
He was fouled on the edge of the box and with Grant and Jones, who scored a brilliant free-kick at the weekend, off the pitch, it was Jones’ replacement Dickinson who took responsibility.
Lewis Alessandra swings a boot to get a cross in for Notts (Image: John Sumpter @ JMS Photography)
The left-back was desperately unlucky to leave Lawrence Vigouroux rooted to the spot in goal, only for the ball to hit the post and go wide.
Notts weren’t exactly piling on the pressure, but they looked the most likely and took the lead when Stead was bundled over from an innocuous high ball into the box.
Referee Scott Duncan took a good luck and eventually pointed to the spot with Stead showing a good veteran presence to get his body in position to be knocked down.
The former Blackburn striker stepped up and coolly send Vigouroux the wrong way as he found the bottom left corner.
Notts celebrate taking the lead through Jon Stead’s penalty (Image: John Sumpter @ JMS Photography)
Nolan’s side might have gone on to win comfortably with a goal early in the second half. They created a couple more openings to get it.
First, Milsom’s cross was met by the head of Forte at the near post, but Vigouroux got down to make a smart save.
Stead headed over Hawkridge’s cross soon after, before his lay-off found Alessandra, who saw his shot blocked from 10 yards.
Swindon chances were few and far between, although Chris Hussey came close when his shot from 30 yards was deflected over.
With 15 minutes to go Stead again set up Alessandra, but his side footed effort was blocked once more from a great position.
Collin was forced to tip over a header sharply with eight minutes to go. Then Anderson side footed against the post in injury time, but this was another excellent defensive display from a team which knows exactly what it is doing, just as the manager had said before the game.