Notts County fans are getting that sinking feeling
TALK about sick notes. There was not one, not two, but three at Meadow Lane.
First there was Lee Hughes, who is said to have shocked Notts County with one saying he can't play until January. Then the Magpies had to stomach a controversial equaliser and, worse still, a late, late defeat against Brentford, one of their rivals in the promotion race in League One.
Boss Keith Curle and his players were not alone in feeling pig sick by the end either.
Their fans did too. It was all too much for a lot of them, in fact, and they began streaming out of the stadium after Bees' striker Clayton Donaldson scored a goal on 88 minutes to inflict a fifth home league defeat of the season on Notts and knock them down to eighth in the table.
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Curle took his time to re-emerge from his office after the final whistle because he watched the key moments back on video. There was no need, in truth.
It did not take a slow-motion replay to show Brentford midfielder Adam Forshaw was a yard offside before he scored on 37 minutes to make it 1-1. Nor did it take one to prove the Magpies were badly caught out for Donaldson's dramatic winner. They were not so much napping, but comatose.
And so the question mark still hangs over Meadow Lane, quite literally, because while Notts are one of only two teams in the country unbeaten away, an impressive record they share with Manchester City no less, they have won just four of 11 home league games this season and have dropped 19 points.
Many people hoped their 1-0 win against Swindon Town three weeks ago was going to spark the Magpies into life at Meadow Lane, but the fear their home form will end their ambition of finishing in the top six will be back with a vengeance now. And it will, unless they improve quickly.
Notts were, of course, missing their star midfielder and match winner against the Robins, Alan Judge, through suspension as well as Hughes and their leading scorer Yoann Arquin, who has netted seven times this season.
And while they were boosted by the return of on-loan midfielder Andre Boucaud and winger Jamal Campbell-Ryce they badly lacked a goal threat.
They didn't even score their own goal. It was an own goal. Julian Kelly, who was restored at right-back and was the Magpies' best player, whipped a cross into the six-yard box on 20 minutes, after a neat interchange of passes with Campbell-Ryce, and Bees' centre-back Tony Craig sliced an attempted clearance straight into his own net.
Their best chance to score in the entire 90 minutes came after less than a minute – and even that came from a defensive mistake.
Captain Neal Bishop played the ball forward from close to the halfway line, on-loan striker Chris Iwelumo prodded it on towards the penalty area and Brentford defender Harlee Dean should have cleared it, but he got in a mess and it fell to Francois Zoko. Inside the box, one-on-one with the visitors' goalkeeper Simon Moore, the Ivorian forward should have scored, but his low shot was saved.
Notts created only two more chances and both of those fell to defenders.
Centre-back Dean Leacock, who was eventually forced off with a hamstring injury at half-time, forced Moore into a good save with a close-range header on six minutes and left-back Alan Sheehan then almost marked his 50th league game for the club in spectacular style in the second half.
Damion Stewart, who replaced Leacock at the heart of the Magpies' back-four, swung a cross into the penalty area from deep on the right on 77 minutes, Bishop headed it back to Sheehan and the Irishman let rip with a venomous volley that was dipping under the bar until Moore tipped it over.
That was it, however. Notts did not create any more memorable chances to score.
Brentford equalised on 37 minutes, though how the linesman did not see that Forshaw was offside when Marcello Trotta fed the ball forward for him to race onto is a mystery. He was right in front of him and it was as clear as day from a lot further away at the back of the Derek Pavis Stand.
The Magpies' arms went up, but the flag didn't and Forshaw made sure, seizing onto the ball unchallenged and firing it low past Notts No.1 Bartosz Bialkowski and into the bottom left corner of the net.
Level unjustly, the Bees went on to boss the second half, while Notts were a shadow of themselves. They sat too deep, which only invited pressure from the visitors.
The game still looked to be destined to end in a draw though, which would have been the ninth successive stalemate between the two clubs, but then Notts fell asleep at a corner in the dying stages and were stung.
While they were slowly organising themselves inside the penalty area to try to repel Brentford one last time, Harry Forrester took the corner quickly to defender Shaleum Logan, he squared the ball to Forshaw and he drove a shot at goal.
Stewart blocked on the line, but the ball only looped up into the air, however, and the powerful Donaldson beat Bishop to it to bundle it inside Bialkowski's left-hand post from point-blank range.
That was that. It was so late Notts had no time to even attempt the latest of fightbacks, though they must now stage a stirring response not only against Rotherham United in an FA Cup second round replay tomorrow night but also Leyton Orient. Both are on home soil. Both must be won. It's as simple as that.
League One results: Bournemouth 1 Colchester 0, Crewe 1 Bury 0, Doncaster 1 Coventry 4, Leyton Orient 1 Scunthorpe 3, MK Dons 1 Hartlepool 0, Oldham 0 Swindon 2, Portsmouth 0 Preston 0, Sheff Utd 0 Tranmere 0, Shrewsbury 2 Carlisle 1, Stevenage 1 Crawley 2, Walsall 2 Yeovil 2.