Notts County's away run is finally halted by Orient express
THIS had it all. There was 'Ab Fab', the absolutely fabulous Fabian Spiess, that is, only in East London not Holland Park, the end of a Notts County club record run, a terrible injury and even worse defending, which Magpies' boss Keith Curle likened to leaving a girlfriend stood at a bar with Brad Pitt.
There was also woodwork hit, Notts players almost hitting each other in the dressing-room after the final whistle and a goal-line clearance.
After 22 games stretching over almost an entire year under Curle, the Magpies' long unbeaten away run came to the end of the line close to London's Central Line, at Leyton Orient in a 2-1 defeat in their first away game of 2013.
Still, it is an incredible feat. Achieved entirely in the club's 150th year, it will be remarkable if it is surpassed in the next 150 years.
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It is a record that will surely stand for a long, long time. The same could not be said of Bartosz Bialkowski, their No.1 goalkeeper, on Saturday unfortunately.
The Pole suffered a nasty head injury after just 18 minutes in E10, following a collision with Orient striker Charlie MacDonald, a player Notts once tried to sign.
The two challenged for a 50-50 ball inside the penalty area, only the consequence was not so even as Bialkowski ended up gashed and concussed while MacDonald was booked. It looked, briefly, like Bialkowski would continue bandaged up, but as soon as he stood up – after almost ten minutes of treatment – he looked shaky so had to be carried off on a stretcher.
Disorientated, his day at Orient was over.
He ended the day in accident and emergency, while the Magpies' A&E strikeforce, Arquin and Enoch, ended it frustrated after both were denied goals at the end of the first half that could have inspired a victory.
Yoann Arquin was frustrated first, in the second minute of injury time, crashing a close-range header against the crossbar from a Jamal Campbell-Ryce cross. It was the closest he came to scoring all game. He might still be their leading scorer with seven goals, but worryingly he has not netted a league goal since October.
Showunmi, in contrast, scored his first league goal for Notts in a 1-0 win against Oldham Athletic at Meadow Lane only last Tuesday night.
He too, came close to scoring in first-half injury time. The ball fell to the Magpies' No.9 inside the six-yard box and he headed it at goal, but Orient midfielder Lloyd James headed it off the goal line.
Having failed to take two chances in quick succession, Notts conceded twice in four minutes in the second half to lose.
They went 1-0 down on 65 minutes, after being hit by a good break by one of the home side's most threatening players, Lee Cook.
He smashed a powerful shot at goal from 25 yards that Spiess deflected onto the bar, but the ball only rebounded to Orient's most prolific scorer this season, David Mooney, who promptly netted from close range.
Notts conceded a second goal in the blink of an eye. Once again their vulnerability at set-pieces was exploited as Cook swung a corner into the penalty area, defender Mathieu Baudry met it seven yards out and, unchallenged, stroked the ball into the net.
It was all very harsh on Spiess, who was hugely impressive.
Thrown in at the deep end when Bialkowski exited injured, the teenager did not drown in only his second game as a sub. Quite the opposite.
He made some super saves to stop Orient and the best of them all was on 56 minutes as midfielder Martin Rowlands fired in a free-kick from the edge of the penalty area that took a wicked deflection to fall to Baudry, who flicked it at goal. Spiess reacted superbly and, leaping to his left, somehow clawed the ball.
The youngster made another good save just two minutes later.
Mooney was put through into the box this time and attempted to steer a low shot into the bottom-right corner of the net, but Spiess saved with his legs – having raced off his line.
He made countless other stops, but those two were the most memorable.
It was bad to see Bialkowski hurt, of course, but it was good to finally see Spiess – a player very highly-rated at Meadow Lane that has had Premier League clubs look at him in youth team games and during loan spells at non-league Lewes and Corby Town.
Spotted by the club's head of youth Mick Leonard, a goalkeeper himself at Notts, in a Centre of Excellence in Dubai a few years ago, he looks ready to justify all of the hype.
He now also looks set to make his full debut against Portsmouth at Fratton Park tomorrow night – and could get an extended chance while Bialkowski recovers.
There was no recovery at Brisbane Road, however.
Notts did pull a goal back through Jeff Hughes on 78 minutes, the Northern Ireland international sweeping the ball past Orient goalkeeper Jamie Jones from eight yards, but it did not spark a stirring late fightback.
Hughes had perhaps the best chance to score an equaliser in the closing minutes, but headed wide from a cross into the penalty area by Alan Judge.
Later, after re-emerging from the away dressing-room defeated, he revealed some players almost came to blows in there as their emotions ran high.
That is a good thing, not bad. It shows they care, that losing hurts them.
They will look forward to their chance to atone. And it comes very quickly.