Notts County 1-2 Grimsby Town *aet (National League Playoff Round One) 23.05.22
It was a long agonising night of drama and disappointment with tension followed by terror at Meadow Lane as Notts suffered a late and horrible defeat after it looked after 95 minutes into the match that they would be the ones going through.
A last minute of injury-time goal leveller for Grimsby and a late extra time winner doing the damage, for Notts it means their season is over and they are succumbed to yet another season in the National League.
After half a dozen frantic opening minutes in front of a packed and noisy crowd at the Lane, it was Grimsby who had the first of the games opportunities when a left wing cross by Amos was met by Sousa who’s diving headed attempt was inches wide of Sam Slocombe’s goal.
An early injury set back to Magpies playmaker Cal Roberts on twenty minutes meant that he was replaced by Eli Sam and it was the Belgian who provided the home sides first shot on target, picking up the ball thirty yards out and running before unleashing straight at Crocombe from outside the area.
Ruben Rodrigues was next to register an attempt for Notts, Jayden Richardson doing well down the right to clip into the box where the Portuguese man’s flying header was wide of the posts. The County top scorer perhaps should have done better to find the target instead of putting the ball into the crowd.
The first half continued a fierce and fast paced affair, which often threatened to blow over with so much at stake, and when Jim O’Brien left one in on Sousa, the Grimsby outcry ensured that the Referee would produce the games first card.
Harry Clifton was next in the book shortly after, man in the middle Sunny Sukhvir-Gill levelling things up, as for the score line, nothing separating the two teams at the break.
That frantic fast paced ,hell for leather first forty-five continued where it left off in the second period and in the early stages Notts could have drew first blood, Rodrigues crossing for Wootton who couldn’t guide his header on target, Harry Clifton then went straight up the other end and shot hard, low and inches wide from outside the eighteen yard box, a reminder of the visitors prowess in attack.
Clifton had another opportunity shortly before the hour when his shot was deflected wide by the foot of Richard Brindley before the resulting corner fell to the edge of the box where Holohan shot wide as Slocombe stood rooted to the spot.
The away side looked to be gaining more and more advantage with danger down the flanks and even had the ball in the back of the net, as Waterfall headed down a deep cross to Taylor who smacked home past Slocombe, but the ball had already gone out for a goal kick prior to the defenders knock back.
McAtee then went close for the away side as he cut inside before shooting at Slocombe and as the Mariners winger went down with cramp, Notts refused to put the ball out and went up the other end where a left wing cross by Chicksen couldn’t be diverted towards the target by Wootton who bent his neck to head high and wide into the Kop.
As Notts looked to have survived the onslaught they themselves got a huge stroke of luck when Eli Sam pressured Andy Smith to rob him inside his own box, Sam then laid back to Rodrigues who’s shot hit an arm and the Referee had no other option but to award a penalty. Ruben himself keeping his cool to send the goalkeeper the wrong way and give the Magpies the lead on 73.
In response, Holohan shot wide as Grimsby followed up with some pressure in search of a leveller but that left space in behind and Notts had their own opportunities, Kyle Wootton having a header diverted wide before Jayden Richardson’s shot was blocked by what looked like the arm of Smith, the Referee this time unmoved despite the incident looking even more blatant than the first.
As the minutes ticked, Notts defence headed, blocked and kicked seemingly everything away but in the final minute of injury time, a soft foul by Richardson on the edge of the area gave away a free kick and Grimsby sent everyone including their goalkeeper forward, the ball chipped into the area was nodded back into the danger zone and amongst the scramble, Gavan Holohon smashed home low to send the game into extra time.
As Notts responded well to their late leveller conceded, a mix up in the Grimsby defence allowed Sam to nip in with opportunity to restore the Magpies lead early in extra time, he ran quickly onto the loose ball but couldn’t poke past the goalkeeper who knocked out for a corner with his chest, the resulting set play headed towards goal by Cameron and kicked away by a defender.
Sam then had another attempt blocked by a Town defender before Wootton shot over from outside the area as Notts peppered the Grimsby goal in search of regaining the lead.
The away side however were still themselves very dangerous, Sousa on a powerful run tested the palms of Slocombe before a series of corners had pressure again on the Notts defence.
In the second period, Sousa again tested his luck, firing over from range as the game slowed down dramatically in pace with some laboured legs on both sides, Wootton thought he had the better of a defender who did well to block his attempt the only real effort by Notts, Abrahams at the other end forced Slocombe down to his right who fisted the substitute strikers attempt away, before another late free kick into the box was headed down by Waterfall and into net by Dieseruvwe to send the away support into raptures.
A late winner coming from the substitute who’s looking for a new club in the summer, for Notts and their players, some which have played their last shift in County colours, the rebuilding work must already start today.
Notts County: Slocombe, Cameron, Lacey, Palmer, Chicksen, Brindley, Richardson (Kelly-Evans 113), O’Brien (Francis 60), Roberts (Sam 22), Rodrigues (Brunt 83), Wootton.
Grimsby Town: Crocombe, Cropper (Dieseruvwe 88), Waterfall, Clifton, Amos, Smith, Fox, Esteves Sousa, Holohan, McAtee (Maguire-Drew 81), Taylor (Abrahams 81).
Venue: Meadow Lane
*Main image @Official_NCFC the immense Kyle Cameron in action at Meadow Lane.