Half-time: Hartlepool 1 Notts 0
NOTTS County made a nightmare start at Hartlepool United in League One today – and trailed 1-0 at half-time.
The Magpies conceded after just five minutes at Victoria Park as Pools striker James Poole fired past Fabian Spiess from close range.
Notts leading-scorer Yoann Arquin went closest to equalising in the closing minutes of the first half, having a header cleared off the goal-line.
Joss Labadie made his first league start in just over four months in the north east, replacing suspended captain Neal Bishop in the Magpies' midfield.
Gary Liddle was also made skipper against his old club in Bishop's absence.
Liddle was named in defence, with Dean Leacock and Alan Sheehan, in front of Spiess, while Labadie joined Andre Boucaud, Jeff Hughes, Jamal Campbell-Ryce and Alan Judge in midfield.
Francois Zoko and Arquin started in attack.
Notts conceded after just five minutes.
They were undone from a quick counter-attack from their own corner too, as Jonathan Franks was sent racing away down the right and crossed into the penalty for Poole, who volleyed the ball past Spiess from close range.
The Magpies tried to hit back quickly and Campbell-Ryce swung a dangerous cross into the box from the right on nine minutes, but it was too high for Judge at the far post.
Labadie then dragged a low shot wide of the right-hand post of Pools goalkeeper Scott Flinders from 25 yards on 13 minutes and Sheehan curled a free-kick into the box on 17 minutes, but Flinders claimed the ball under pressure.
Hartlepool threatened to double their lead soon after as Charlie Wyke seized onto a cross into the Magpies' box and it took a last-ditch block by Liddle to deflect his shot wide of Spiess' left-hand post.
Poole then drove a low shot wide from 20 yards on 23 minutes and Franks blazed over the bar three minutes later from long range, before Judge miscued an effort well wide on 30 minutes.
Poole had another chance on 32 minutes, after a one-two with Wyke on the edge of the Notts penalty area, but lifted a shot high and wide.
The Magpies finally put Hartlepool under pressure in the closing minutes of the first half – and created three good chances.
Campbell-Ryce fired in a shot from inside the box that defender Peter Hartley blocked and Arquin then met the subsequent corner with a header that Neil Austin hacked away on the goal-line and then Zoko forced Flinders into a save with a header from close range.