Notts 3-1 Dorking
Macaulay Langstaff took his season tally to 35 as we earned a deserved victory over Dorking Wanderers.
The forward scored either side of half-time to complete a turnaround after Jason Prior had opened the scoring on the break.
We could have had several more goals in the second half but Palmer's late strike proved to be our lot as we remained four points behind league leaders Wrexham.
With Sam Slocombe continuing his recovery from injury, Tiernan Brooks was selected to make his home debut.
Kyle Cameron missed out through illness and, with Aden Baldwin serving the second match of his suspension, a back three of Adam Chicksen, Connell Rawlinson and Geraldo Bajrami was responsible for protecting the youngster.
Jodi Jones and Aaron Nemane played as wing backs, with Matt Palmer, Jim O’Brien, Sam Austin and Ruben Rodrigues supporting lone striker, and stand-in skipper, Langstaff.
We were the dominant force in the game’s early exchanges but, after Austin had seen an effort saved by Dan Lincoln, cracks began to appear in our defence.
Prior had a big chance to open the scoring on 11 minutes when the visitors broke the offside trap, only to fire tamely at Brooks moments before Josh Taylor hit the side-netting as we failed to clear the ball from our area.
And we were unable to heed the warning signs as two minutes later Dorking had the lead when the marauding Rawlinson misplaced a pass, exposing us to another counter-attack. Dorking switched the play, leaving O’Brien exposed and unable to prevent a cross from the left which was flicked home by Prior at the near post.
Our response was positive, however, and after O’Brien had clipped the outside of the post following an unsuccessful Rodrigues overhead kick, we were level.
The chance came thanks to O’Brien and Nemane combining down the right with the latter’s cross being parried into his own man by Lincoln, leaving Langstaff a simple finish from six yards.
Four minutes later, Langstaff had a big chance to put us in front after a defender cheaply conceded possession to Rodrigues. The pass may not quite have been perfect and Langstaff could only drag his shot wide.
Two minutes later, there was another opening for the striker – this time from a cleverly-worked free-kick which saw Palmer find Langstaff’s run with a dinked ball into the area. He perhaps had time to take the ball down and shoot on the half-volley, but he took it first time and couldn’t guide the ball on target.
The half ended with Jones, a constant menace down the left, sending a right-footed effort over and Nemane volleying the ball off-target with a stretching effort at the back post.
But it didn’t take long to get ourselves in front after the break as, on 52 minutes, Austin closed down his man brilliantly and waited for the perfect moment to cross for Langstaff, who finished expertly beyond Lincoln in front of the Kop.
Langstaff, now on the hunt for his first Meadow Lane hat-trick, spun and sent a shot over the angle of post and crossbar before Austin was denied by a goal-line clearance for the second successive home match – a defender brilliantly heading his well-struck effort off the line shortly after he had seen another effort saved by Lincoln.
That proved to be the attacking midfielder’s final action as he made way for Connor Lemonheigh-Evans – and the substitute was immediately into the action, cleverly picking out Langstaff in the area and watching on as the marksman spun and fired the ball straight at Lincoln.
By this stage Dorking could count themselves extremely fortunate not to be at least two goals behind and the theme continued as full-time approached, with Rodrigues seeming to present Langstaff with a wonderful chance to bag his third with a sensational pass inside the area. The forward was forced wide by the onrushing Lincoln, however, and Rodrigues could only stab an effort narrowly wide of the far post after the attack was kept alive.
With five minutes remaining, however, we weren’t to be denied our third goal – and it was another incisive Rodrigues pass which unlocked the door. The move began with an excellent string of passes out from the back, eventually releasing Chicksen who carried the ball deep into Dorking territory before laying it off to the Portuguese. Palmer made a terrific run to his right which was well spotted by the playmaker, who played the ball perfectly into his path for another close-range finish.