With Barnet safely sent packing in the play off semi final at Meadow Lane a date with Harrogate Town at Wembley beckons and a place in the Football League for the victors.
This will be Notts' 6th appearance at Wembley but their first visit since the stadium was re-opened as a new stadium in 2007. Memories of Notts' last visit, a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Bradford in a Div 2 play off final some 24 years ago lives long in the memory for some.
Notts Wembley record:
1989/90 | Notts Co 2 - 0 Tranmere | Div 3 play off final
1990/91 | Notts Co 3 - 1 Brighton | Div 2 play off final
1993/94 | Notts Co 0 - 1 Brescia | Anglo Italian Cup
1994/95 | Notts Co 2 - 1 Ascoli | Anglo Italian Cup
1995/96 | Notts Co 0 - 2 Bradford | Div 2 play off final
I have been wary of using recent form as an indication of how things might pan out due to the 4 month absence of competitive football. As it happens the form books proved to be right as the leagues two best performing clubs prior to lock down came through and there has to be a degree of justification in that.
If we are going to use stats to try and work out a likely winner then we will struggle as there is very little to separate two clubs with very similar records.
Both clubs rank very closely when it comes to recent form and home/away rankings etc. However, Notts do have an edge when it comes to defence with only Solihull conceding less. Notts have conceded 38 goals in 38 games whereas Harrogate have conceded 44 goals in 37 games.
If you add the play off semi final results into the equation then Notts have a goals conceded per game rate of just 0.97 compared to a rate of 1.16 for Harrogate. However if we look at 'recent' form then the last 6 games in all competitions for both clubs looks like this:
Harrogate P 6 | W 5 | D 1 | L 0 | GF 14 | GA 6 | GD +8
Notts P 6 | W 6 | D 0 | L 0 | GF 18 | GA 2 | GD +16
These recent form stats add some value to the argument that Notts defence will be very difficult for Harrogate to breach and could be the difference between the two teams on the day.
Harrogate have taken the lead 31 times in 37 league matches and were leading at half time in 12 of those games.
Additionally when conceding the lead they have managed to equalise on 9 occasions out of 18 giving them a 50% equaliser rate.
In comparison Notts have taken the lead in 19 of 38 games and have lead at half time on 12 occasions and have a slightly better equaliser rate of 57%.
When Notts have the lead they have allowed their opponents to equalise 35% of the time, Harrogate's opponents have an equaliser rate of 39%.
The following chart shows how the clubs compare for goals scored by time segment:
Same again here but for goals conceded:
The last and only meeting between the clubs was at the CNG Stadium early in the season and provided Notts with their first National League win, but only after a missed penalty by Harrogate and a sending off.
There is real belief within Harrogate Town and the local community that promotion to the Football League has been written in the stars which should work in Notts favour as the Harrogate players will be under some considerable pressure as their team coach surfs its way to Wembley on the crest of a very big wave of expectation!
One to watch is Jack Muldoon (pictured) who has netted 14 times for Harrogate in all competitions this season including the winning goal against Boreham Wood in the semi final.
Notts fans will also be hoping that former striker Jon Stead doesn't spoil the party for the Magpies.
Big question is does Neal Ardley tinker with the team he put out against Barnet or look to shake things up a little just to keep Harrogate guessing? It worked at Barrow and it worked against Barnet so maybe we should be ready for a surprise or two in the starting line up.
All the bookies appear to have Harrogate as slight favourites with 7/5 currently looking like the best you will get for a Harrogate win. You can still get 2/1 on Notts at William Hill and its 23/10 for the draw.
To conclude this really is too close to call, there seems to be an element of real camaraderie amongst the Notts players not seen at the club for a very long time. Equally the team spirit at Harrogate will be at an all time high. However, the difference between the teams after their semi final wins was evident, whilst the Harrogate players celebrated like they had already been promoted, the message from the Notts dressing room was quite clear, "the job is not yet done".
Fingers crossed they get the job done on Sunday.
Until next time . . . COYP!
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