Stepping Up To End Years Of Pain

As Cedwyn Scott stood there in the North London sunshine, the weight of the world’s oldest professional football club rested on his shoulders. Two penalty saves from loan goalkeeper Archie Mair, first from DJ Oldaker then Jeff King, followed by an agonising chip against the crossbar from John Bostock, had presented the 24-year-old Geordie with the chance to send Notts County back into the Football League.

Four years of hard work behind the scenes had built up to this moment. Playoff losses in each of The Magpies’ three prior seasons in the National League had left a burning desire for everyone at the club to finally get the job done. A relentless title race, that saw Luke Williams’ men break countless records to push Wrexham right until the bitter end, had left everyone connected with the club physically and emotionally exhausted.

In truth though, this was more important than just the last four years. One promotion in the last 25 years, a then-record 534 days in administration from June 2002 until December 2003, four winding up petitions since 2002, you could go on and on. Even that sole promotion, in 2010, left the club on the brink of liquidation. Factor in four playoff losses and a relegation in the last five years, including a gut-wrenching defeat at a deserted Wembley at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, and you realise that an entire generation of Notts fans had never seen the club have any meaningful success. And all this coming in the context of a club who were in the top-flight as recently as 1992.

But one thing is certain, this team was different. It always had been.

2-0 down at half-time in the Playoff Semi-Final at home to Boreham Wood, Luke Williams’ men needed a hero. They got two of the most unlikely possible. Centre-back Aden Baldwin netted a brace (including a 97th minute equaliser) to force the game to extra time with his first professional goals. Then in the 119th minute, Jodi Jones, a man whose injuries prevented him from starting a single league game between November 2017 and February 2023, lashed home the winner to send The Magpies to Wembley for just the second time in 27 years.

Over 23,000 long-suffering Magpies fought train strikes and travel disruptions to see Notts under the arch, only to see Andrew Dallas give local rivals Chesterfield the lead from the spot in the 6th minute. As the seconds slipped away, the Magpies were on the brink again, but Williams’ men found a way to fight back, just as the club always has done. In the 88th minute, John Bostock’s free-kick caught out Spireites’ keeper (and former Notts man) Ross Fitzsimons at his near post and nestled in the back of the net to force extra time once more.

The extra 30 minutes followed a similar pattern, with Armando Dobra putting Paul Cook’s Spireites side back ahead in the 93rd minute (3rd minute of extra time). Yet again though, Notts dug deep and found something left in the bottom of the tank. Ever the man for the big occasion, Ruben Rodrigues was the hero this time, in what could prove to be his final game in a black and white shirt.  The lovable Portuguese’s scuffed volley looped into the back of the net in the 108th minute to bring Notts back from the dead yet again.

Ultimately, after all that had gone into a long, hard season like no other, Notts County’s fate would be sealed by spot kicks. After Bostock narrowly missed the chance to seal promotion with the fourth kick, Joe Quigley duly converted for Chesterfield, leaving Scott with the opportunity to send Notts up. The man who’d been left distraught just over a month earlier after his 97th minute penalty miss against Wrexham had all but ended Notts’ title hopes, now had the opportunity to make amends.

One final kick of the ball to earn the ultimate redemption, one final kick of the ball to end years and years of pain.

He stepped up and placed the ball down. The wait for the referee’s whistle seemed endless. When it finally came, Scott drilled the ball low into the middle of the goal to spark an incredible release of emotion.

As Scott charged away towards the Notts fans behind the goal, euphoria was pouring out from the black and white end of Wembley.

Years and years of pain were released and replaced by scenes of jubilation.

Notts County had, as it always had, found a way to fight back.

This team was different, it always had been.

*Article provided by Evan Shaw (Notts County Correspondent).

*Main image @Official_NCFC Cedwyn Scott was the man who’s kick sealed promotion.

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