The League 2 play-off final, in which Northampton whipped Exeter, was one of the best games I’ve seen since lockdown, and why wouldn’t it have been? Hopefully the same rules apply today.
Neal Ardley, Notts manager, says that the game will be decided on fine margins, and both he and Weaver will have prepared their teams well, but neither of them have a clue how they’re going to handle the occasion.
We’re watching tape of Roberts, Notts’ centre-forward. Town will need to keep a very careful one on him.
“I’m in a bit of a quandary with this match,” emails Phil Withall. “Notts County have been through a bit of a poor spell, mismanagement and poor planning (Sven!) And have a long and noble history. Harrogate are a classic fairytale waiting to happen, a breath of fresh air ready to join the big leagues. I’m siding with the Yorkshire side purely because having Barrow and Harrogate in the football league makes me happy and, probably, makes football better.”
I can see both sides of this. I guess the sentimental in me wants Notts back, but it’d be nice to get someone new into the league too. I guess Notts shade it, by virtue of being the opposition when one of my all-time favourite goals was scored.
Already into the Football League are Barrow. They won the division, finishing four points ahead of Town and seven ahead of Notts, who played a game more.
Harrogate’s chairman, Irving Weaver, tells BT that they’ve tried to build the club slowly, and get some excitement going around the town.
Simon Weaver, Town’s manager, says he’s tried to keep things as normal as possible, but it’s been difficult because “It’s come down to this,” – “this” being colossal. He’s not bothered that his team are slight underdogs, and has picked out areas in which his team might expose Notts.
It’s a nice place, Harrogate.
I actually went there once – my wife was in between jobs, so I arranged to take her away to north Wales. Then Manchester United drew Leeds United in the League Cup and it was necessary for me to be in attendance, so I schlepped her cross-country, having booked a spa hotel for her to hang out in while I went to the game. Then a spare ticket turned up and she decided to come, finding herself forced to literally step over bodies in order to walk through the turnstile. A rollicking anecdote, that – I think they’re making the film soon.
This is brilliant. Whatever happened to that Warnock individual?
On BT, we’re just having a look at Jack Diamond, Town’s centre-forward. He’s not been prolific this season, but he’s sharp, and in this kind of circumstance, a likely matchwinner.
Is that John Stead? Why yes indeed, that is indeed John Stead, of Premier League and G4 fame. He actually used to play for Notts, but is now Town frewnfrew.
Harrogate Town: Belshaw, Fallowfield, Burrell, Falkingham, Smith, Thomson, Hall, Kerry, Martin, Muldoon, Diamond. Subs: Leesley, Emmett, Cracknell, Harratt, Stead, Beck.
Notts County: Solocombe, Rose, Turner, O’Brien, Doyle, Dennis, Wooton, Brindley, Lacey, Bagan, Roberts. Subs: McDonnell, Rawlinson, Kelly-Evans, Boldewijn, Thomas Crawford.
What a match-up this is! Notts County are one of the oldest football clubs in the world, and in the final season before the formation of the Premier League, they played in Barclays League Division 1. But they finished second from bottom and went down, down, deeper and down, until, at the end of 2018-19, they lost their status as the country’s oldest Football League club. They need this, very badly indeed.
Harrogate Town, on the other hand, are something entirely different. A small club with a skeleton staff, they have been professional for just four years; when Notts were last in the top division, they were playing in the eighth tier. But they got themselves organised, started winning promotions, and now stand on the cusp of the main event. They need this, very badly indeed.
When the sides met earlier in the season, Notts won 2-0 away from home, and when the season was deemed completed, sat a spot below Town in second place. But that was in another dimension, and will have no influence on what we see today; the teams have played once in four months, so we’ve not a clue what’s going to happen. It should be a treat.
Kick-off: 3pm BST