First wins are vital for any manager, Ian Burchnall thought his had come last Saturday until the 92nd minute, but perhaps the wait made this one all the sweeter.
It came from the unlikeliest of sources as the centre-back pairing of Connell Rawlinson and Mark Ellis combined to give the hosts a vital three points over play-off rivals Wrexham. A 79th-minute corner in front of the Kop was met by Rawlinson whose header was turned home by Ellis.
This win sees the Magpies move up to fourth, and leapfrog Wrexham who sat fifth going into todays game.
It was the visitors, rather than Notts, that started the game as the better side with Sam Slocombe being called into action just 40 seconds into the game. Slocombe made three saves in the first two and half minutes as the Red Dragons looked to take an early lead.
Wrexham striker Dior Angus caused Ellis issues early on making consistent runs in behind as the Welsh side looked to hit the ball over the top at every opportunity.
Just a few minutes later the visitors lofted a free-kick towards the Magpies back post hoping to cause chaos. And exactly that happened: Adam Chicksen tried to cushion his header back towards Slocombe, but he misjudged it and was only prevented the embarrassment of an own-goal by a smart reaction save by the Notts keeper.
It took 18 minutes for Notts to make a move that Burchnall would have been pleased with as some quick passing between Jim O’Brien and Jimmy Knowles presented Jordan Barnett with a chance that he could only flash over the bar.
It took until the midway point of the half for Notts to have their first corner and it led to a massive penalty shout from the hosts. A header from leading goal-scorer Kyle Wooton looked like it may have been blocked off the line by the arm of a Wrexham player. Replays showed it not to have been, but Enzo Boldewijn got booked for his protests. Having his name taken was his biggest contribution to the first half.
Jordan Ponticelli, who replaced injured star striker Kwame Thomas in the Wrexham line-up, went off himself and was replaced by Elliot Durrell who was part of the National League team of the year when he was at Macclesfield Town.
Ponticelli was missed by his strike partner Angus who didn’t carry the same threat once Ponticelli had hobbled off the pitch.
Notts grew into the first half, but would still have been disappointed with their performance and were lucky to be level at the break.
They emerged from half-time with a renewed energy and a different approach. They became more direct – missing out the midfield on occasion. But for all their huff and puff, they failed to create anything worth writing home about.
Lewis Knight came on to make his debut in the 67th minute, the pacy striker signed from National League North side Bradford Park Avenue at the start of March. He has scored 11 goals in his 15 appearances so far this season. He replaced Knowles who disappointed today.
Wrexham were not as strong in the second half as they were in the first and they started to get desperate. Reece Hall-Johnson was booked for simulation after he knocked the ball past Chicksen only to flop to the ground with no contact. Fortunately for Notts, referee Steve Copeland saw Hall-Johnson’s fall to the ground for what it was.
The moment Magpie fans have been waiting for happened after 77 minutes when Cal Roberts, dubbed The Geordie Messi, returned to action. His first shot led to a corner and from that corner, Notts found their first goal of the game. He looked energetic and added another dimension to the home sides attacks.
Wooton was sent off at the end of the game after receiving a second yellow card after challenging Theo Vassell for a header. Wooton was given his first yellow at the end of the first period as he tried to close down the Wrexham defence. Vassell spent a long period on the ground before being stretchered off down the Meadow Lane tunnel. You had to feel for the striker who only ever had his eyes on the ball, but caught the defender with his elbow.
The Red Dragons piled on the pressure in stoppage time and Ellis blocked a shot by Dan Jarvis that looked like it was heading for the bottom corner. The final chance of the game fell to right-back Hall-Johnson but he could only fire his half volley into the Haydn Green Family Stand much to the relief of Burchnall and his side.
Notts County – Slocombe, Barnett, Chicksen, Ellis, Rawlinson, Boldewijn, Reeves (C), O’Brien (Roberts – 77 mins), Griffiths, Knowles (Knight – 67 mins), Wooton (Sent off – 89 mins)
Wrexham – Lainton, Hall-Johnson, Pearson, Vassell, French, Reckord, Harris (Jarvis – 82 mins) , Young, Davies (Kelleher 88 mins), Angus, Ponticelli (Durrell – 27 mins)
By Alex Brinton
Lead photo: Notts County