Notts Are Back

It’s official… You didn’t dream it… The Notts are going up!

Saturday’s drama somehow miraculously surpassed that of even the semi-final win against Boreham Wood, the agony suffered from going behind, the joy of a late leveller, the jitters and nerves as penalties approached, that winning moment, that Panenka, oh no, that winning moment again…

It’s been a season like no other, huge congratulations to Wrexham who beat the Magpies in the highest run chase in British football history, the celeb backed millionaires like marmite in these parts, but what both Wrexham and Notts County have done, is shine a light on National League football like no other, the two best teams in the division by a country mile, the two teams ‘eventually’ going up with over 100 points and 100 goals each… Chesterfield for their credit came to spoil the party… And so nearly they did.

Oh no not again!

It all started with optimism and enthusiasm as black and white scarves waved from the car windows down the M1 – a trip to Wembley for Notts County fans who missed out during the covid hit season when Harrogate would put the Pies to sword in the playoff final of 2020.

Two further failed attempts through semi-final losses frustrated, but this year felt different, a togetherness in the side led by the articulate southern spoken gent of a man in Luke Williams who has bonded not only the players, but the fans, through his total football philosophy, the non-league Man City were about to have one last go at promotion.

No sooner did the Wembley snaps and selfies in front of the arch get uploaded than did Chesterfield upset the applecart… Five minutes in and their goal, a penalty by Andrew Dallas, gave Notts fans a familiar feeling as recently felt as the Sunday before at Meadow Lane.

But this Notts County team is different to others of past nature… Ahead of the semi-final when asked by a reporter “is the first goal important” Williams stated, “yes, but it’s not the end of the world if we concede first” having belief in his team to get out of trouble is one thing… Having 25,000 Notts fans who believe it to, is something else. Inspiring is the confidence this club has, to achieve their goal.

For long periods it might not have looked like it would go to plan… For long periods it was painful, and disappointing, but patience is a virtue, Notts have it in abundance too, and will play, and play, and play, until they finally knock that door down, and knock it down they did, through John Bostock.

An 87th minute leveller from a player who’s played at the highest level in five different countries doesn’t tell the whole story, we’ve not got time for that today, but what we do know is, since signing for Notts County midway through the season, Bostock has been sensational under Luke Williams, and is showing the capabilities that had him once regarded as one of English football’s finest up and coming talents.

That goal took Notts to extra time and an air of relief was sighed amongst the many, until Armando Dobra scored that is, and the Magpies had to do it all again.

Enter Ruben Rodrigues… The Portuguese Playmaker, Mr. Reliable and another who has had an exceptional season, he always does, far too good for National League football, he’ll be too good for the league above, and probably the one above that too!

Rodrigues who missed a penalty and a hatful of chances didn’t have the best game in the semi-final and was substituted before the potential inevitability of a shootout was thankfully ended by a Jodi Jones winner, but Rodrigues much better on the day against Chesterfield, came to the rescue at Wembley, as he so often does, to take the tie to a shootout, where he would also coolly step up and score.

By then, Luke Williams had made the tactical decision to substitute his goalkeeper Sam Slocombe, to throw in relative novice, Archie Mair at the deep end, the young Scottish goalkeeper on loan from Norwich City, trusted with his big moment, every player in that Notts squad worth their weight in Black & White this season.

Mair saved from Darren Oldaker and Jeff King to put Notts within a shot of going up. All John Bostock had to do was score to send the Pies up… We all know what happened… The outcome in the end fitting, for Cedwyn Scott, a true warrior all season, who was probably still hurting from that last minute penalty miss against Wrexham, he soon put that record right by smashing home the winner to send Notts up.

Ever since, it’s been celebrations from Notts, players, staff and fans, drinks all around and happy spirits, a few sore heads today too… The work is done…For now… Four bloody tough years in the fifth tier of English Football… Notts County are once again… The Oldest in the Football League.

*Main image @Official_NCFC Notts County win the National League playoff final.

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