Report | Eastleigh (h)
Vanarama National League | 14 March 2023
For the third game in a row Notts came from behind to salvage some points, with their second consecutive 3-1 win seeing them down 5th placed Spitfires. A Ruben Rodrigues masterclass inspired the Magpies to a second half romp, with Notts returning to just a point behind lead leaders Wrexham.
The game started much as anticipated, with Eastleigh full of energy, pressing and squeezing the Notts side, making it difficult for them to play. It almost provided an early reward, as a mistake by Baldwin, forced by the Eastleigh intensity, almost spelled disaster. A 3 on 1 situation followed, but Baldwin’s excellent recovery pace was on show once more, as he atoned for his mistake, making a wonderful challenge.
The game then began to heat up, with challenges from both sides flying in. Forward Gerry McDonagh went into the book, which sparked fierce protestations from Eastleigh boss Bradbury. His reaction was judged to have been slightly too much, resulting in him also seeing yellow.
The mistakes and nasty challenges continued, as first Brooks gave the ball away to danger man Whitehall. Eastleigh’s top scorer fluffed his lines though, with his shot returning the ball straight to Brooks. Midfielder McKiernan then went into the book for a horribly timed challenge on Palmer. He could have no complaints at seeing yellow, and on another day could potentially have seen worse.
Another foul provided Notts their best chance of the half. Rodrigues was brought down just on the edge of the box, giving Jodi Jones, who has subsequently been called up to the Malta international squad, the chance to test former Magpie McDonnell in goal. He got his effort over the wall, but it was comfortably saved by the Eastleigh stopper.
It would be yet another foul that would be the decisive moment of the first half, with the referee pointing to the spot on the half hour mark. The decision went in Eastleigh’s favour, as Connor Lemonheigh-Evans was penalised for excessive holding in the box. In truth, it was probably the correct decision, but you can understand the frustration Notts felt considering Langstaff was denied a far clearer penalty in a similar scenario just a few weeks ago.
Top scorer Danny Whitehall stepped up, and he made no mistake this time, putting the ball past Brooks to give the Spitfires the lead.
This seemed to knock the wind out of Notts’ sails, and it took them some time to adjust. Langstaff had 2 half chances on the stroke of half time, but with the prolific scorer unable to take either of them the sides went into the break with the visitors narrowly ahead.
No changes from either side were made at half time, with Eastleigh just 45 minutes away from their 8th 1-0 scoreline in 10 games. Jodi Jones, who had a quiet first half, made it his task to ensure that didn’t happen, and 2 moments of real quality almost got the equaliser. The latter of these was a delightful cross into a dangerous area which Langstaff couldn’t quite get on the end of.
10 minutes into the half things went from bad to worse. A similar penalty appeal to the first half incident this time went against Langstaff. Held in a similar fashion, the referee opted against awarding anything, much to the frustration of the Notts coaching staff. Moments later things looked even bleaker, as Aden Baldwin went down with injury. He made way for Bajrami, as Notts’ injury concerns continue to grow.
However, the mood improved significantly on the hour mark, as Ruben Rodrigues picked the ball up on the half way line, before playing it out wide to Nemane. He continued his run into the box, and via Langstaff he received it on the edge of the area. 3 clever touches later and the ball was in the back of the net, a cool finish from the best player on the pitch. Notts were back on level terms and in the ascendancy.
John Bostock made way in the immediate aftermath, replaced by Sam Austin, who made a big impact. 5 minutes after their equaliser Notts almost had a 2nd. Lemonheigh-Evans, who adds real aerial threat to this side, rose highest to meet a Brooks long ball, and he looked to have picked out Langstaff, but on the stretch he was unable to get a meaningful contact on the ball.
Another 5 minutes passed before a huge moment, as Notts were awarded a penalty for handball. It was perhaps a harsh decision, but considering the previous shout went against them, Notts will have felt it was fair. Rodrigues stepped up, and despite getting a good contact on the ball his effort was denied. Former Magpie McDonnell was only able to parry into a dangerous area though, and on the rebound Rodrigues looked destined to score. He seemed to overrun it though, and could only get a toe on it, allowing McDonnell to make a super double save.
It didn’t take Rodrigues long to make amends though, as with just under 15 minutes to play he put Notts into the lead. Another long Brooks ball was met by Lemonheigh-Evans, and his knockdown this time found Langstaff. His strike was blocked, but the ball fell into the path of Rodrigues. Incredibly, he finished it first time, not breaking his stride to display ridiculous technique. His effort found the corner, giving Notts the lead.
With stoppage time looming Notts won a corner. All night they had played them short, and due to this nobody picked Langstaff up. A wonderful pass from Rodrigues picked him out, giving him a free header, one he took with conviction. Credit must be given to the coaching staff, in particular Tom Weal, who engineered this excellent goal.
That was the last meaningful action of the 90, as Notts ran out 3-1 winners. A brilliant fight back and one of the best individual performances we’ve seen in a Notts shirt from Ruben Rodrigues.
Notts now obviously very comfortable in gifting opponents a goal head start and promising not to play properly until the second half.
All joking aside, despite another sub standard first 45 mins the second half performance from The Magpies was quite emphatic and could, maybe should have provided more than the 3 goals scored.
The xG data recorded was amongst the highest so far this season, helped massively by the double chance from the spot for Rodrigues that saw his penalty and follow up header record a massive 1.59 xG collectively.
From an Eastleigh perspective Whitehall's penalty and 3 other chances accounted for 0.86 of their total 1.13 xG.
Notts again showing they have an attacking threat from a number of players with 7 having shots on goal.
Based on the xG and mainly thanks to the second half showing Notts' xPTS was 2.90 compared to just 0.07 for the visitors and a win percentage of 95.30% versus 0.09%, quite unbelievable considering the vein of form Eastleigh had been in of late and further emphasising the gulf in clubs in this league compared to Notts and Wrexham.
Season stats updated below.
Player Stats - National League:
Barnet away now awaits Luke Williams and his team as the marathon continues . . .
As always thanks for reading.
For Notts County Stats:
Richard - @notts_stats
Tom - @tomhwilliams23
Colin - @Colin_Sisson