An 84th-minute wonder goal by Steve Jennings wrapped up the three points for Tranmere Rovers as they further reduced the hopes of the 276 travelling Notts County fans of staying in League One next season, writes DEAN FIDO.
Notts remain rooted to the bottom of the table after the 3-2 reverse, which adds to their woes after being punished by two sloppy defensive errors and a third into an empty against an average MK Dons side during the previous week.
In reply. Shaun Derry shook up his starting 11. Fullbacks Alan Sheehan and Mustapha Dumbuya completed a back four alongside a previously untried centre back pairing of local boy Hayden Hollis and Hayden Mullins.
Fans’ favourite Gary Liddle and youngster Greg Tempest sat in front.
The return of Jimmy Spencer following his three-match ban for a sloppy elbow during the 3-2 loss at home to Shrewsbury resulted in Derry opting for an unfavoured 4-4-2 formation. Alongside Spencer was Ronan Murray, a player also at fault for being red-carded needlessly and relinquishing a 2-0 lead against Peterborough earlier in the year.
In support of this pairing were loanee Nathan Tyson, who had recently impressed on his debut against the Dons, and Jamal Campbell-Ryce, who was always going to give 100%.
Loanees McGregor and Grealish were benched after seemingly underperforming since returning for their second loan stint this season.
The travelling Notts contingent knew this was a must-win game if their hopes to stay in League One next season were to be realised. Keeper Bart was put under pressure early on in the match from a series of corners which were driven away by perfectly poised defenders. A Cassidy shot inside the box was held by Bart, and the Magpies pushed back out into midfield.
On the 14th minute, an unexpected lapse from opposition ‘keeper Fon Williams allowed Murray to capitalise and drive home the Magpie’s opener at close range.
However, just 11 minutes later, midfielder Koumas pounced on a poor defensive clearance and was allowed to walk into the box before riffling home Rover’s first into the top right hand corner. Bart was ill-placed to respond.
It would get worse for the Magpies when on the 28th minute when Ryan Lowe made it two after receiving a well-worked through ball by full back Arthurworrey. Straight from the resulting kick off, a similar move saw Liddle work his way into the opposition’s box only to be felled for a penalty.
Newly-appointed skipper Sheehan was unable to convert - driving the ball low into Fon Williams’ legs.
Lowe and Murray each responded with well-worked movements of their own with Bart and Fon Williams reacting respectively. Undoubtedly Murray’s most important contribution during this passage of play was his clearance off the line following a corner partly deflected by Bart.
In the second half, Campbell-Ryce and Tyson worked the wings well, coming close to scoring a couple of times through their teamwork. It was not until Murray was felled 25 yards outside of the box that the Magpies would get their equaliser.
Having earlier delivered a poor penalty, Sheehan made up for his efforts with a curling free kick into the top left corner. Many of the Notts faithful remarked at it being one of his best.
Jack Grealish replaced Tyson who had taken a knock earlier in the half and instantly made an impact being the target of yet another Campbell-Ryce cross into the penalty area. Danny Holmes made a last second header, clearing the ball out of Grealish’s path. The Villa loanee failed to have any further impact on the game, irritating the travelling fans as he refused to go in for 50/50 tackles.
This was a time for fighters in the team.
And with just six minutes remaining, the players’ heads dropped when Jennings produced the winner as he struck from 25 yards with a finish that found its way into the top-right corner of Bart’s goal.
The introduction of McGregor to try and fight for a point came to nothing as Tranmere flooded their box and defended for their lives. The final whistle blew and the players and fans knew that their season had taken a huge blow.
Tranmere gave Notts their best game of the season so far, but this silver lining was not to overshadow the fact that they finished the day seven points from safety with only nine games left of the season.