It's a nightmare as ten-man Notts County team crash out of FA Cup
THIS was an FA Cup nightmare.
Notts County have enjoyed some wonderful moments in the Cup in the past few seasons, beating Sunderland and giving Premier League giants Manchester City an almighty scare.
But there will be no great adventure this season, after they were well and truly dumped out 3-0 by League Two Rotherham United in a second round replay at Meadow Lane last night.
The Magpies were shocking in the first half and pressed the self-destruct button big time in a mad 30 minutes, in which they conceded all three goals and Damion Stewart saw red for an elbow.
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Ben Pringle fired the Millers ahead with an early goal and then Mark Bradley and Daniel Nardiello completed the upset before half-time.
Notts put up a fight in the second half, but it was too little, too late.
The big news before kick-off was that the Magpies' No.1 goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski suffered an injury in training on Monday and so was out of the tie.
With the giant Pole sidelined for the first time this season, Notts gave a debut to 20-year-old rookie goalkeeper Liam Mitchell.
The Magpies were also forced into making another change at the back because Dean Leacock was ruled out with a hamstring injury. Stewart replaced him at the heart of the back-four.
Despite the loss of two of those two key men, Notts were boosted by the return of Alan Judge from suspension and also their leading scorer Yoann Arquin, who scored a wonder volley in a 1-1 draw in the first game between the two sides.
The young French striker started in attack, after missing their 2-1 home league defeat against Brentford.
Mitchell, a Nottingham lad, quickly showed his ability by making a great save to deny Millers' midfielder Michael O'Connor after just five minutes.
O'Connor smashed a powerful low shot towards the bottom left corner of the net from 25 yards that would have beaten a lot of goalkeepers, but Mitchell dived rapidly to his right and tipped it past a post at full stretch.
Mitchell also punched away two corners that were whipped dangerously into the six-yard box in the opening minutes, but there was nothing he could do to stop the visitors taking a 1-0 lead on ten minutes through Pringle.
It was his goal that cancelled out Arquin's opener at the New York Stadium to force the replay and the ex-Ilkeston Town and Derby County man inflicted more hurt on the Magpies by curling a shot beyond Mitchell and inside his left-hand post from 25 yards.
It got worse for Notts 12 minutes later as Rotherham doubled their lead.
Pringle was involved once again, swinging a corner into the box that fell to Bradley at the far post and he turned the ball past Mitchell from close range.
The Magpies looked completely shell-shocked, but going 2-0 down sparked them into life and Judge fired in a shot from inside the penalty area that was blocked on 24 minutes and captain Neal Bishop forced Millers' goalkeeper Andy Warrington into a save with a close-range header five minutes later.
Their hopes of staging a fightback were dealt a blow soon after though because Stewart was sent off for elbowing Rotherham striker Alex Revell in the face on 30 minutes as they raced to seize onto the ball.
The Jamaica international trudged off down the tunnel, leaving Notts two goals down with ten men.
Mitchell then made a great one-on-save to deny Nardiello on 36 minutes, but he could not stop him piling more misery on the Magpies just five minutes later as he scored to make it 3-0.
The away fans were chanting 'easy, easy!', after Lee Freckling raced forward down the right, crossed into the box and Nardiello rifled past Mitchell from five yards.
There was a bit of controversy about the goal though because Frecklington had hit a pass forward for Revell and he was flagged offside so the Magpies' players stopped, but Frecklington was then allowed to race onto his own pass before setting up Nardiello.
The tie looked all over at half-time, but Notts made a triple substitution at the start of the second half in an attempt to spark a comeback.
Andre Boucaud, Jeff Hughes and Arquin were all left in the dressing-room and Joss Labadie, Francois Zoko and Enoch Showunmi were all thrown on.
Labadie was quickly in the thick of it, driving a shot at goal from the edge of the penalty area that flew just wide of the top left corner of the net, and Showunmi made his presence felt in the opening minutes as well.
The towering No.9 almost got on the end of a right-wing cross into the box by Judge on 60 minutes as well, but the visitors hit back quickly and almost scored a fourth goal a minute later, Frecklington beating Mitchell to a through ball and stroking a shot just wide of the far post.
Frecklington threatened again on 66 minutes, firing wide from 20 yards, and Mitchell was forced to parry an effort from Pringle past his right-hand post minutes later. The young keeper than tipped over a long-range shot from Revell, before Liddle forced Warrington into a save with a header on 81 minutes.
Zoko then headed a right-wing cross into the penalty from Julian Kelly well wide in injury time and that proved the Magpies' last chance to salvage any pride.
They kept going until the bitter end, but there was no way back for Keith Curle's men and a lot of fans had left their seats long before the end. Those that stayed booed when the final whistle went.
It was a bad, bad night for Notts. The worst for a long time.
NOTTS: Mitchell, Kelly, D Stewart (sent off, 30), Liddle, Sheehan, Campbell-Ryce, Bishop, Boucaud (Labadie, 46), J Hughes (Zoko, 46), Judge, Arquin (Showunmi, 46). Subs: Pilkington, Regan, Bencherif, Mahon.
ROTHERHAM: Warrington, Bradley, Arnason, Mullins, O'Connell (Cameron, 74), Pringle, Taylor (Rose, 86), O'Connor, Frecklington, Nardiello (Walker, 90), Revell. Subs: Shearer, Odejayi, Agard, Denton.