Old rivals Barton grabbed two late goals to emphatically beat North Notts 5-1 after going behind early on in a bruising game at Burton-upon-Trent on Saturday.
Two sides were both promoted from East Midlands Premier last season where Barton were the stronger side, promoted as champions.
The game started well for Notts as they saw the return of Allen Butler to the line-up in his usual centre forward role.
Notts were able to hold a strong presence over the home side and controlled most of the possession through the first 10 minutes, with Matt Cooper and William Butler dominating the midfield and spreading the play to the wide men whilst Barton chose to take the traditional ‘route one option’.
Notts were struggling to obtain much success in the D until on the 15-minute mark a penalty stroke was awarded to the visitors, after a penalty corner struck a Barton defender on the line, and this was placed into the back of the net with ease by William Butler.
The home side were not going to fold as Notts continued to dominate, and on the 25-minute mark a penalty corner was awarded to Barton and a low flick just slipped beyond the reach of keeper Unwin for the equaliser.
At the half-time break Notts’ manger Faulkner spoke of remaining composed and utilising the wide positions to try to break open Barton, who were playing three forward players.
In the second half Notts still looked strong, but a hard tackle in the Notts’ D saw a second penalty corner issued, from which the Barton forward was earning his keep by placing a drag flick into the top right of the Notts net.
This was quickly followed up by another short corner for the home side, and once again the Barton forward stepped up with a drag flick, this time just inside the left post at mid-height to put them into 3-1 lead.
Notts were unable to replicate the attacking success that their opponents were having, despite controlling a lot of the play and moving the ball around well. This shellshocked Notts, who lost their composure and discipline after some cynical tackling from the opposition that seemed to go unquestioned.
In the last five minutes Notts seemed to run out of steam and Barton were able to claim two open play goals, but by this time it was too late for Notts to react with any sort of impact.
Despite the high scoreline, Notts were able to take away some positives as it was an improved scoreline from last year when Barton defeated Notts easily at Manor Park.
This week Notts are at home to table-toppers Hampton, where a victory is now looking to be a requirement to hold their mid-table position and avoid a relegation battle.
Notts manager Faulkner added: “The next few week will determine our season in this league and, from what I’ve seen, we are more than capable of holding our own and competing.
“Today’s result was disappointing, as was our opponents’ attitude, but we have to learn to adjust and ride out the controversies in these games and not let them affect us.
“This weekend’s game will be very difficult, but we need to come off that to play three vitally important games against teams below us as we lead up to the Christmas break. There is not one team we have played this season that we couldn’t have beaten so we must pull our socks up and work hard again.”