Boro defeat shows Notts County are in need of some firepower
MAYBE Chris Kiwomya should dust off his old scoring boots.
A prolific goalscorer in his day, that is precisely what Notts County need to spark their faltering challenge for the play-offs in League One back into life.
Just three days after losing in the north east at Hartlepool, the Magpies were at the opposite end of the A1 at Stevenage last night with Kiwomya as their new manager, temporarily for now at least, following the sacking of Keith Curle after less than a year in charge at Meadow Lane.
But it ended in a 2-0 defeat, as Sam Hoskins scored in less than a minute and Marcus Haber netted with just over a minute to go, leaving Notts still well adrift of the top six.
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Kiwomya's first act as caretaker boss was to strengthen his backroom team with Dean Austin, a former Spurs defender who has worked alongside Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers at Watford and Reading as a coach. Now first-team coach at Notts, for now, he led the Magpies' warm-up at Broadhall Way.
Kiwomya's second act was to make one change to the team that started Curle's last game, bringing forgotten man Gavin Mahon back in.
Making only his second league start of the season, Mahon replaced Joss Labadie and joined Andre Boucaud, Jeff Hughes, Alan Judge and Jamal Campbell-Ryce in midfield, while Yoann Arquin and Francois Zoko started in attack.
Dean Leacock, Gary Liddle and Alan Sheehan started in defence in front of teenage goalkeeper Fabian Spiess.
All eyes were on the Magpies players to see how they would react to losing their manager – and they made the worst possible start to the game, conceding after only 26 seconds, though it has to be said, Stevenage enjoyed a huge moment of fortune to score with their first attack.
Filipe Morais' shot from the edge of the penalty area deflected wickedly into the path of Hoskins, who, unmarked inside the box, stroked the ball inside the right-hand post. Having dived to his right in an attempt to save Morais' attempt, Spiess was floored as the Boro striker seized onto the rebound to put the hosts 1-0 up.
Notts did not enjoy the same luck two minutes later, however, as Campbell-Ryce swung a cross into the Stevenage penalty area from the right wing, Arquin flicked it on and Hughes raced in to steer it past goalkeeper Steve Arnold from close range, only to be flagged offside.
Still trailing, Sheehan swept a free-kick into the box minutes later, but Arnold punched the ball clear under pressure and the Magpies did not threaten again until midway through the first half, when Judge drove a cross into the six-yard box from the right wing that Hughes so nearly met, sliding in at the far post.
Arquin then blazed a shot wildly over the crossbar from inside the penalty area on 28 minutes.
Notts were showing superb spirit in the wake of their early setback and Hughes and Zoko went far closer than the young French striker to scoring an equaliser before the end of the first half.
Hughes had a close-range header deflected over the bar from a corner on 38 minutes and then headed wide from another flag-kick on 44 minutes, while Zoko forced Arnold into good saves on 39 minutes and in injury time.
Both sides then had good chances in the opening minutes of the second half. Stevenage defender David Gray rifled a long-range shot wide of Spiess' right-hand post on 49 minutes, after Notts stood off him, and Zoko had a better opportunity to score only a minute later.
Arquin created it with an outstanding pass with the outside of his right foot.
He sent the Ivorian forward racing towards the penalty area and he smashed a shot just past the top-right corner of the net.
Undeterred, the Magpies were on the attack again soon after. Campbell-Ryce raced into the penalty area and struck a shot at goal that was blocked and Judge pounced onto the rebound, but Arnold held his powerful effort.
Spiess was then forced into a good save by Stevenage midfielder Greg Tansey on 63 minutes. Diving full stretch to his left, he did well to hold a powerful long-range strike that skidded quickly off the wet turf.
Hughes was looking the biggest threat for Notts and he swept a shot just wide of Arnold's left-hand post from inside the penalty area on 67 minutes, after controlling a diagonal pass from Boucaud and beating two men.
The Northern Irish midfielder went close again four minutes later, seizing onto a pass from Liddle inside the box and sweeping it at goal on the turn, but James Dunne, stood inside the six-yard box, headed it clear.
The Magpies had brought on Enoch Showunmi for Zoko three minutes earlier and, as Notts continued to push for an equaliser in the closing minutes, Campbell-Ryce aimed a cross into the penalty area for the towering sub striker, but Arnold came off his line and beat him to it, plucking the ball out of the air.
Notts hopes of rescuing a point were ended on 89 minutes, however, as Stevenage scored a second goal, Morais whipping a cross into the penalty area from the right and sub striker Haber heading past Spiess from close range.
Showunmi volleyed over the bar deep into injury time, which only further underlined the Magpies' great need for a striker.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Jeff Hughes. The Northern Ireland international midfielder was the Magpies' biggest threat throughout the game at Broadhall Way and went closest of all to scoring in a 2-0 defeat.
REFEREE WATCH: Mark Heywood (Cheshire). The ref only had one big decision to make and that was to disallow an early effort from Jeff Hughes for offside, after the linesman flagged. It looked the right call.
Attendance: 2,550 (215 away).
Stevenage: Arnold, Gray, Roberts, Chorley, Comminges, Morais, Tansey, Dunne, Akins (Freeman, 54), Beleck (Haber, 69), Hoskins (Grant, 64). Subs: Day, Charles, Lopez, Shroot.
Notts: Spiess, Liddle, Leacock, Sheehan, Boucaud, Mahon (Bencherif, 83), Hughes, Campbell-Ryce, Judge, Zoko (Showunmi, 68), Arquin. Subs: Pilkington, Kelly, Smith, Tempest, Waite.
Other League One results: Colchester 0 Swindon 1, Scunthorpe 2 Portsmouth 1