Stevenage 1-0 Notts County

Luke Freeman
Freeman celebrates after setting up Stevenage's first-half strike

Stevenage reached the fifth round of the FA Cup for the first time in their history after holding off fellow League One side Notts County.

Borough, who had manager Gary Smith in charge for the first time, were deservedly ahead in the 12th minute thanks to Damion Stewart's own goal.

County's Lee Hughes and Alan Judge were denied equalisers by Chris Day.

Darius Charles hit the post for Stevenage, while Judge's low shot was kept out deep into injury time.

It was a game County manager Martin Allen described as a 'million pound tie' with the possibility of a draw against a Premier League side in the next round but they made a slow start.

Stevenage carved out an early chance when winger Luke Freeman latched onto a long ball and crossed for Charles, who fired just over from 12 yards.

But the Magpies did not heed the warning and fell behind in the 12th minute.

Freeman again raced onto a long ball and kept his cool under pressure from Magpies keeper Stuart Nelson and defender Alan Sheehan to squeeze in a shot that Stewart could only turn into his own net as he tried to scramble the ball clear.

The game was held up for five minutes as a shaken Nelson received treatment for a face injury picked up in the goal incident.

Thankfully for the visitors he suffered no lasting injury as he soon had to be at his best to tip away a Michael Bostwick 25-yard strike that was heading for the top corner.

Freeman then hit a fizzing shot that drifted just wide as Stevenage looked the most likely to add to the scoreline.

It was a disappointing first half from the visitors, who finally got a sight of goal 10 minutes before the break when Lee Hughes's close-range header was kept out by Day although the veteran striker was in an offside position.

His strike partner Jonathan Forte, making his debut after joining County on loan from Southampton for the rest of the season, was replaced at half-time by Ishmel Demontagnac after making little impression on his debut.

County came out fired up after the break and went close to an equaliser 10 minutes after the restart when Julian Kelly raced up from fullback to cross for Jeff Hughes but his far-post header was inches wide.

Defender Sam Sodje came off the bench to play upfront with half an hour to go as Allen went all out for an equaliser with three forwards, and the Nigerian went close with his first touch but his header was kept out by Day.

The former QPR keeper then made brilliant saves to deny Judge and Hughes as the visitors dominated possession, but they were almost caught out twice on the break from quick counter-attacks.

Freeman again caused trouble to set up Charles but his shot clipped the outside of the post before Lawrie Wilson raced in on goal only to be denied by the feet of Nelson.

County forced a number of corners late on and went close in the four minutes of injury time when Judge blasted a low shot through a congested penalty box but Day held his shot.

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Average first half cost us - Allen

Notts County manager Martin Allen told BBC Radio Nottingham: "I thought we were very average in the first half and in the second half I thought we were absolutely superb, we dominated the game.

"It's a difficult place to come. They're a very powerful, hard working, honest team.

"In the first half they were better than us and in the second half we were definitely better than them but we didn't manage to get that goal to bring them back to Meadow Lane."

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