Match report: Notts County 0 Doncaster Rovers 1

Notts County * Doncaster Rovers *
Notts County * Doncaster Rovers *
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An Andy Williams header helped Doncaster Rovers through a tricky post-Christmas poser to beat Notts County.

Williams nodded home his ninth goal of the season on the hour mark to break the frustration for Rovers, who had struggled to demonstrate their usual attacking fluidity.

Notts County produced a superb defensive effort in the first half to deny the visitors time and space in which to operate. Matching up formations with a 4-4-2 diamond helped John Sheridan's side swarm around any red and white bodies in possession.

But Darren Ferguson responded at half time and switched his side around, opting for a 3-4-3 which opened up space where there previously was none.

Ferguson had made one change to the side that beat Grimsby Town the previous week. Craig Alcock returned from a back spasm in place of Harry Middleton, with Matty Blair returning to midfield.

Chances were few and far between in a dull first half that was a real war of attrition.

Liam Mandeville clipped a brilliantly weighted diagonal ball into the box where Williams' sublime touch left him with sight of goal only for Notts keeper Scott Loach to race out and smother the stabbed shot.

The first real opportunity for the hosts saw Jon Stead flick a header on goal only for Marko Marosi to claim on his line.

Carl Dickinson curled a free kick from 25 yards which Marosi tracked and held.

John Marquis could only flick a header from a Alcock cross and the forward also failed to make a good connection on a zippy ball in from Williams.

Perhaps the best chance of the half came in the dying seconds from the visitors. Jon Stead surged into the box and clipped a cross towards Jonathan Forte only for Alcock to get a vital block.

Ferguson made a tactical switch at half time, sending Joe Wright on for Mathieu Baudry and changing to a 3-4-3 system with Niall Mason moving into midfield.

It opened up plenty of space and Rovers began to look far more threatening before opening the scoring on the hour.

Some fine play in midfield saw the ball spread out wide to Mandeville, who in turn found Tommy Rowe on the overlap. Rowe's cross was perfect for Williams, who peeled away from his marker and deftly nodded past Scott Loach.

The lead could have been doubled in a matter of seconds.

Mandeville delivered a superb ball from the left and found Matty Blair who headed down but off the foot of the post.

Rovers looked far more comfortable and confident following the goal, though chances to increase the advantage continued to be sparse.

There was an excellent opportunity for Williams to double his own tally with five minutes to go.

Turning his man 50 yards from goal, he galloped forward before clipping a shot across goal and agonisingly wide of the far post.

Mandeville almost made it two in seven minutes of added time, skipping along the byline and shooting from a ridiculous angle only to send the ball just wide.

There was a nervy last attack of the game as Dickinson clipped a free kick from 25 yards but put it straight at Marosi.

Notts County: Loach, Richards, Hollis, Duffy, Dickinson, Tootle (Laing 65), Thompson (Oliver 66), Milsom, Campbell, Stead (Collins 86), Forte. Subs not used: Collin, Smith, Oliver, Hewitt, Audel.

Rovers: Marosi, Alcock, Baudry (Wright 46), Butler, Mason, Houghton, Blair, Rowe (Middleton 79), Mandeville, Marquis, Williams. Subs not used: Jones, Keegan, Calder, Beestin, Longbottom.

Referee: Darren Drysdale (Lincolnshire)

Attendance: 5,828 (1,448)