Depleted North Notts travelled to third placed Stratford in search of a much better disciplined performance after last week’s debacle at Warwick, but, despite a much better display, went down 2-1 in their TBC Midlands Two clash
After the game Notts manager Jay Faulkner said: “Today was one of our best away performances of the season but again we came away with nothing.
“Credit to Stratford who look like they will secure third place in the league.
“Again there was nothing between the sides, but we struggled to find the final push in the dying minutes due to the limited squad resources we had.
“The most pleasing thing was that we stuck to the game plan today and had a chance to take something from the game right up to the last minute whereas in previous weeks this hasn’t been the case.”
Notts travelled with the bare minimum players due to injuries and players unavailable so taking points from the game was always going to be a tough task.
The game started with Notts adopting a specific game plan to counter the passing game of Stafford.
It was apparent from the early exchanges that Notts would have to defend resolutely as Stafford pressed forward.
Stratford came close twice in the first 10 minutes crashing the ball across the Notts goal with forwards diving in for a deflection; fortunately Notts were able to marshal the ball out of play.
Notts then began to put together a period of good possession play with Matthew Cooper supplying several key passes through to the Notts forwards.
Marc Johnson also began to cause the Stratford defenders problems with his pace and skill, and it was Johnson who came close on 20 minutes when he was only denied by a great save from the Stratford keeper.
On 25 minutes a Notts set piece led to a goalmouth scramble and another gilt-edged chance for Notts, this time the ball agonisingly going wide of the posts.
Stratford rocked Notts on 32 minutes when a break on the Notts goal was cleared to the sideline, Stratford were quick to react from the sideline ball and a quick pass enabled the Stratford forward to find a free player in the D, who coolly converted to leave the home side 1-0 up at the interval.
The half-time team talk from Faulkner was straight to the point - continue what you are doing and keep believing.
Notts started the second half exactly the same as the first, giving very little away and limiting Stratford’s chances.
Notts fell further behind from a short corner on 55 minutes, awarded for a foot in the Notts’ D. Stratford produced a slick short corner routine which saw the ball moved around the D and finally converted, leaving Notts keeper Unwin with no chance.
Despite the 2-0 scoreline, Notts continued to stick with their game plan.
The game could have been over on 60 minutes when Stratford had the ball in the Notts goal again, only for it to be ruled out after a debate by the umpires for an infringement.
Notts then began to implement more urgency in their attacking with Allen Butler creating several half chances, but the Stratford forwards stood firm.
On 62 minutes Notts got their reward when good work from Singleton allowed him to find Allen Butler in the D, who coolly found Marc Johnson unmarked and the forward was able to steer the ball into the open goal with the keeper out of position.
For the remainder of the half Notts threw all they had at Stratford.
A short corner with three minutes to go was the best chance, but Stratford somehow managed to deflect Butler’s strike away to leave Stratford with the 2-1 victory and Notts still looking for points.
This Saturday, North Notts take on Melton at home in a crunch game with a 2pm start.