No matter how much you convince yourself a Notts win will leave you content – the final whistle still hit you like a sledgehammer.
Regardless of that though there was still great pride to be taken from the final game as they ran out comfortable 4-1 winners over Colchester on a strange Meadow Lane afternoon.
Strange, because despite Stevenage’s comfortable 3-0 win at home to Bury – cheers were still echoing out around the ground suggesting Bury had in fact levelled the game twice. Cruel joke or honest mistake, it certainly confused matters considerably!
The situation at the start of the day was simple enough – better Stevenage’s result. A win would ensure that Notts kept Stevenage (and to a lesser extent Carlisle United in eighth) looking over their shoulders for the afternoon. An early goal would have been massive you hoped.
Keith Curle’s side went about the job admirably as well, looking dangerous through a speculative long-ranger from Jeff Hughes which was only just tipped around the post.
It was Jeff Hughes (voted last night as the Manager’s Player Of The Season) then who opened the scoring rising high at an Alan Sheehan corner ahead of visiting goalkeeper Ben Williams – sadly at the same time though Stevenage too were going 1-0 up.
What followed next was about as good as the day was going to get really.
A huge roar came up from the Kop with Notts in possession – you knew (or least thought you did) what that meant – Bury had drawn level at Stevenage. With Alan Judge running down the right wing he put in the perfect cross for Daniel Bogdanovic who’d header looped into the air.
“Knowing” Stevenage had been pegged back, the ball took what felt like an age to drop. When it did, and over the line, the roof came off! From Kop roar to the back of the net within ten seconds – Notts were well on their way.
However, in the minutes after you were trying to piece together where this phantom goal had come from. 3G signals on mobile phones were struggling for the whole afternoon so confirmation was hard to find. When the proverbial dust was settling though, it was abundantly clear that Stevenage were still in the lead.
Not that any of this would effect those on the field though – particularly Alan Judge.
Having spent the final third of our campaign actually finding the net as opposed to woodwork, his late assault on the Goal Of The Season competition continued with a near-identical scorcher to that which found the net last week at Wycombe. Cutting inside, his right foot powered the ball into the top corner. Some strike!
The scoreline of 3-0 at half time was somewhat peculiar considering Notts had really only forged four chances in the entire half – not that you were complaining of course. Down in Hertfordshire, Stevenage were walking a tight rope with their slender 1-0 lead.
We were no closer to knowing who would make the play-offs than we were at the start of the day so you had two questions in mind. Firstly, would Stevenage have the bottle to hold on? Or would Notts negate Borough’s efforts by finding 11 goals in the second half?
Well, we could dream couldn’t we?
Not that County didn’t try to chip away mind you – and in quite fantastic style too! Even if it was the last goal of our afternoon.
It was Kieron Freeman who was to finish off the scoring for the season after a quite beautiful move of 22 passes, finishing with Lloyd Sam and the Forest loanee linking up in the final third before Freeman checked inside and prodded the ball in with the inside of his boot.
Whether the foot was taken off the gas at this point with the game won and with an eye on a potential trip to Bramall Lane next Friday is unknown, but from there Colchester took a hold of the game and got to see more of the ball.
With 15 minutes left of the afternoon though, news broke of a second Stevenage goal. They led 2-0 and were heading to Sheffield despite all of County’s best efforts. As it transpired later – it was about as dodgy a penalty as you’re likely to see all season too! They added a third in injury time anyway to put the matter to bed.
As news of that 2-0 lead broke though, the atmosphere fell somewhat flat amongst Notts fans. That said, it did act as a timely reminder that there were Colchester fans in Meadow Lane – that second Borough goal was the cue for them to be the loudest they’d be all afternoon. Small victories eh?
Still there was time for another joker in the Kop to spread news news that Bury had equalised though. From Pavis side, we weren’t falling for it a second time no matter how nice it might’ve been.
With hopes dashed you just wanted the referee to the blow the whistle really. Instead we all suffered a final 15 minutes of constant reminders to stay off the pitch! They didn’t work of course in the end. As a parent you pick up one or two things along the one – in particular the more you tell your child not to do something, the more they’ll want to do it! Same principle applies here Notts.
Accompanying Stevenage in scoring in the dying frames were Colchester – and how. Anthony Wordsworth made amends for an early free-kick which had hit the post with the sublime volley from just inside the area past débutante goalkeeper Fabian Spiess (making a cameo appearance in place of Stuart Nelson).
Hard to argue their pressure hadn’t warranted a goal, and it was certainly one that deserved the applause it received from the County fans.
The final whistle came, and you weren’t left to cheer the season being extended, but standing to applaud the massive effort that the squad had put in this season. Rewind 12 months, and there was relief around Meadow Lane that we hadn’t been relegated! How far Notts have come in one year can’t be understated.
In the days that followed i’ve tried to reflect on the season and come away delighted with the season on the whole – how can anyone not be? But there’s always that small part of you that wonders what cost Notts a play-off place.
Certainly, the Juventus fans who had come over for the game were perplexed to see us missing out on goal difference – had we adopted the Italian head to head rule it would be Notts playing this week with Wembley on the horizon.
But all three play-off chasers have had great seasons and any other year without a division of behemoths would’ve likely occupied the top three. Personally I wish Stevenage Borough the best of luck.