Notts County leave it late to sink Portsmouth, as Bishop is sent off
JEFF Hughes is back on the goal trail and Francois Zoko is back in the good books at Notts County.
The Magpies left it very late against Portsmouth last night, scoring two goals in the last nine minutes to win 2-0 at Fratton Park.
Having not scored for 14 games, Hughes now has two in two.
After netting in their 2-1 defeat at Leyton Orient on Saturday, the Northern Ireland international volleyed Notts in front against Pompey on 81 minutes.
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He then set up Zoko to kill off the home side on 88 minutes, but that was not the end of the late drama as Magpies’ captain Neal Bishop was sent off after an off-the-ball altercation with Portsmouth midfielder Johnny Ertl.
Three days after their record-breaking unbeaten away run was ended on 22 games in East London by Orient, the Magpies were on the south coast and made two changes to their team.
Young goalkeeper Fabian Spiess was given yet another chance to impress, Zoko was handed an opportunity to atone.
It was Spiess’ full debut for the club and the 18-year-old replaced Bartosz Bialkowski, who suffered a nasty head injury at Orient, while Zoko returned from suspension to partner leading-scorer Yoann Arquin in attack as Enoch Showunmi dropped to the subs’ bench.
Dean Leacock, Gary Liddle and Alan Sheehan started in defence Bishop, Andre Boucaud, Jamal Campbell-Ryce, Hughes and Alan Judge were named in an attacking midfield.
Portsmouth, deep in financial and relegation trouble, were first to threaten on just two minutes.
Winger Jed Wallace swung a dangerous cross into the penalty area and striker David Connolly struck a shot at goal that Spiess could not fully stop and it took a good goal-line clearance from Liddle to deny the home side an early lead.
Pompey attacked again soon after. This time their right-back Yassin Moutaouakil raided forward and crossed into the box and Spiess parried the ball away under pressure.
Having survived those two scares, Leacock headed over the bar for Notts from a corner taken by Judge on eight minutes and Zoko raced purposefully into the penalty area and drove a low cross across the face of goal minutes later, but it eluded everyone.
Spiess was then tested again. And he did well, confidently gathering a fiercely-hit cross into the box by James Keene under pressure from Connolly and in the face of driving rain and a swirling wind.
The Magpies hit back quickly and Campbell-Ryce curled a cross into the box from the right wing on 28 minutes that Pompey defender Ricardo Rocha inadvertently headed into his own net.
It was not a goal, however, because Bishop fouled the centre-back.
Both sides then created chances before the end of the first half.
Zoko fired a powerful shot at goal from the edge of the penalty area on 37 minutes, after racing onto a pass from Hughes, and just five minutes later Keene seized onto the ball 20 yards out and unleashed a stinging shot that Spiess saved.
Goalless at half-time, Portsmouth had the first chance of the second half, Wallace whipping a cross into the box from the right wing for team-mate Ashley Harris on 47 minutes, but he just missed it.
Judge led the Magpies’ response on 53 minutes, firing a fierce shot just wide of the right-hand post of Pompey goalkeeper Simon Eastwood.
Hughes then drove a dangerous cross into the penalty area from the left wing on 61 minutes as Notts tried to put the home side under pressure, but it was hacked clear, leaving Zoko and Arquin frustrated.
Undeterred, the Magpies continued to try and break the deadlock and after Campbell-Ryce was fouled just inside the Portsmouth half Sheehan swept a free-kick into the box that went just wide.
Hughes then forced Eastwood into his first save of the game on 66 minutes, directing a downward header at goal from another free-kick played into the box by Sheehan.
Notts were steadily gathering momentum and Campbell-Ryce fizzed another cross into the box for Arquin on 70 minutes, but the young French striker fouled Rocha as they challenged for the ball in the air.
Arquin and Judge were then both denied by good blocks, after Hughes drove the ball into the box from the left, and minutes later Judge swung a cross into the box that Bishop headed over the bar, having made a surging run forward from midfield.
Portsmouth replied on 77 minutes and went very close to taking the lead as the threatening Wallace slid a cross across the face of goal and Keene put it just wide of Spiess’ right-hand post, after sliding into the six-yard box.
Notts finally scored on 81 minutes, through Hughes, the midfielder racing into the box to volley Arquin’s right-wing cross past Eastwood from point-blank range.
Having taken the lead, Notts then brought on Julian Kelly for Judge, sacrificing one of their attacking players for a defender, and switched to a four-man defence to make sure they held onto their slender lead.
They did better than that in the end, doubling their lead on 88 minutes from a corner as Hughes headed Sheehan’s flag kick towards goal and Zoko flicked it past Eastwood from close range.
The game was all over – but there was still time for some drama as Bishop clashed with Ertl and was sent off. Notts ended the game with ten men, but more crucially, three points.