NOTTS COUNTY 3 Wanderers 4

WANDERERS bought more than just a full-back when they paid Middlesbrough £1.5 million for Neil Cox.

The confident 25-year-old will be judged primarily on how he carries out his defensive duties, of course, but he has enough adventure in his soul to become an attacking asset in the Premiership.

It rained goals to refresh a 1,600 crowd on a scorching afternoon at Meadow Lane on Saturday and the new boy had a hand in three of the four as Wanderers eased back into their super-slick scoring routine.

And there's the prospect of many more to come if he is allowed to express his attacking instincts.

For now Colin Todd prefers to take an overview and, rather than focus on either individuals or results, is determined to see pre-season friendlies for what they are - toning up exercises.

"Neil Cox is a quality player," he acknowledged, "but we have many quality players.

"At this stage I'm not getting uptight about performances as much as fitness. I'm just getting everyone ready for August 9."

Fitness and the philosophy of the 'pre-season friendly' was the story of the second public parade of Todd's Premiership hopefuls.

They came from behind to storm into a 4-1 lead inside 47 minutes. But the manager sacrificed continuity to give all his squad a runout and Sam Allardyce's County set took full advantage to give the scoreline a respectable appearance.

"I was happy with the first half," Todd said with understandable satisfaction. "You could see what we have been working at on the training ground. The organisation was good, we had good balance, good discipline and we kept our shape well. "But I knew the fitness of the players would drop in the second half. Gerry Taggart and Andy Todd both came in for their first games after missing three days' training - and you could tell.

"Players moan when you keep pushing them hard on the training ground but they could see on a day like that how they need their fitness levels to be very high. I don't like making excuses but it was very hot and I knew fatigue would set in.

"We got very sloppy in the second half but we had already shown we can score goals. The front two (John McGinlay and Nathan Blake) were very sharp indeed."

Seventeen-year-old Craig Dudley drew first blood for County when he cleverly converted a ninth minute chance set up by trialist Peter Shearer. But Cox and McGinlay combined to set up Jamie Pollock's equaliser seconds later and on 21 minutes Wanderers were in front, this time Pollock and Cox combining for McGinlay to finish smartly.

Scott Sellars' precision pass picked out Blake, who punished woeful dithering in the County defence to make it 3-1 on 25 minutes, and it was all over bar the shouting when McGinlay got his second from the penalty spot after helping on a Cox pass that led to Alan Thompson being unceremoniously upended by Mike Pollitt, the Bolton-born home keeper.

Gary Jones struck twice, in the 68th and 85th minutes to knock Wanderers down a couple of pegs and might have snatched an equaliser if he'd been more decisive with an attempted lob.

Wanderers line-up

Branagan, Cox, Elliott, Frandsen, Taggart, Todd, Pollock, Sellars, McGinlay, Blake, Thompson. Subs: Taylor for Blake (51 mins), Johansen for Frandsen (58 mins), Phillips for Elliott (75 mins), McAnespie for Cox (75 mins), Coleman for Taggart (78 mins), Paatelainen for McGinlay (79 mins).

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