Forest and County

Notts County Turn Attention To Play-Offs Following Final Day Draw With York City 

Notts County defend a corner against York City at Meadow Lane
Rhys Thomas

County went into Saturday’s fixture sitting on a ridiculous 106 points, yet neither that total nor the 107 they ended up with was enough to secure automatic promotion to League Two. In what will hopefully be their final National League outing for many a year, their league campaign ended on a somewhat dull note with a 1-1 draw against York City. County, though, have proved their Football League worth time and time again this season and will pick themselves up to go again in the play-offs. Rhys Thomas and Dom Allin were there for Impact. 

Meadow Lane was bouncing ahead of kick-off, County fans safe in the knowledge that their second-place finish was secure, a whopping 25 points clear of third-place Chesterfield. It’s been echoed countless times that two automatic promotion spots are overdue in this league, but it’s well worth stating again as this is a side and a club which deserves to be promoted without the drama and unpredictability of the play-offs. 

Regardless, those opinions do not change the fact that County will have to rise twice more to begin their ascent back up the football pyramid. Though this final day fixture was ultimately a dead rubber – York City were safe from relegation barring a gigantic goal difference swing – it was a chance for County to continue their momentum. Neither set of supporters were prepared to let that fact dampen the occasion. County fans brought optimism and noise ahead of their play-off campaign, and York City made the trip down to Nottingham in great numbers to cheer their side on in their final game until August.  

The match kicked off under these raucous conditions, the ground not quite bathed in sunshine but certainly a great deal warmer than it’s felt for most of the season to the pleasure of over 11,000 fans. Just ahead of kick-off, Notts talisman Macaulay Langstaff accepted his Player of the Season and Players’ Player of the Season awards, much to the delight of home fans, who were hoping he’d be able to add to his incredible 41 league goals. 

County settled into a possession-dominating pattern in the minutes after, but failed to create anything significant

The striker almost did so immediately in the second minute as his goal-bound header from close range was bravely blocked by a York City defender. County settled into a possession-dominating pattern in the minutes after, but failed to create anything significant, with a poor final ball a consistent feature of the opening exchanges. The home side next came close through a Ruben Rodrigues free kick, which had York keeper Whitley scrambling but ultimately flew marginally wide. 

County continued to dominate the ball, moving it side-to-side in a bid to break the visitors down. Langstaff set up Austin who fizzed one high and wide from inside the area, before Baldwin tried his luck from 40 yards out and wasn’t a million miles away. 

The best quality effort came from Langstaff in the 20th minute. An immaculate first touch to shift inside and leave the defender for dead opened up a yard of space, but his fierce left-footed effort was straight at Whitley. 

As was the case against Wrexham, County’s opposition sought to expose the Magpies’ high defensive line. York lofted several balls into space behind County’s centre-backs, who were reliant on the linesman to flag them offside on each occasion. 

By the half-hour mark County were firmly camped out in York’s half, the visitors struggling to make any ground. Langstaff had another smart effort saved by Whitley. Though it wasn’t a procession of chances, it did feel inevitable that County would find an opener before the break. 

The Minstermen did eventually foray into the County box after 43 minutes, unsurprisingly from a set piece, but even that failed to trouble the home defence. 

It was looking as if the score would remain 0-0 going into the break, but the deadlock was broken in first half added time by the man himself, Macaulay Langstaff! A pinpoint through ball from Ruben Rodrigues put Langstaff 1-on-1 with the keeper, and you know the rest! 42 and counting! 

Assister almost turned goalscorer after the interval as Rodrigues bent a free kick towards the bottom corner from the edge of the D, but Whitley was down quickly to make a critical save as the rain began to fall. 

The rain was now pouring as York looked for an avenue back onto level terms. Their first shot came in the 57th minute, Slocombe reaching down to parry a strong effort out for a corner. It was then Whitley’s turn to make a save, diving to his left to make a fantastic reaction save to deny Austin a certain goal. Notts’ number eight then made way for Cedwyn Scott, who was immediately on hand to call Whitley into action yet again. 

Tensions flared seconds later after the referee took issue with a firm, but seemingly fair, Rodrigues tackle

County did eventually beat Whitley again… but not the post! It was Langstaff racing through once more, but his effort was inches too wide, and the score remained 1-0. Tensions flared seconds later after the referee took issue with a firm, but seemingly fair, Rodrigues tackle.  

With a few more half-chances and crunching tackles both ways, County were looking to see out the final minutes to record their 33rd win of the season and take their tally to 109 points. York City, though, had other plans. In the 88th minute substitute Shaq Forde raced through and beat Slocombe to send the away end into raptures. The limbs were admittedly a sight to behold, as Minstermen followers knew their side had mathematically secured survival regardless of any insane goal difference scenario.

County came close once again in added time, but Whitley again denied the home side to cap his performance as Impact’s man of the match. The Yorkshire side dug in to keep Notts from restoring their lead, and as the final whistle sounded, the visitors had escaped Nottingham with a point having survived a flurry of late corners.

It would be a travesty if County fell at the play-offs hurdle again. What they – and Wrexham – have achieved this season is nothing short of remarkable. Comfortably clearing a century of points is a superb feat, perhaps more so for Notts given they lack the financial firepower of their Welsh rivals.  

County will have to raise their game against tougher opposition, but if this season has taught us anything, its’ that they are more than capable

The play-offs, however, can be a cruel game. One-off knockout, winner-takes-all ties are the perfect place for an upset, where the cliché ‘form goes out the window’ truly does apply. County will have to raise their game against tougher opposition, but if this season has taught us anything, its’ that they are more than capable. 

County’s National League play-off semi-final will take place at Meadow Lane on May 7th, with tickets available at from May 1st.  

Rhys Thomas

Featured image courtesy of Rhys Thomas. Permission given to Impact to use. No changes were made to this image. 


In article image 1 courtesy of @nottscountyfc via Instagram. No changes were made to this image.


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