Sunday, 20 May 2018

My Sixty-Fifth 17/18 Game - Notts County vs Coventry City - Play Off Semi Final Second Leg

The day had finally arrived, we'd had to put ourselves through the longest and most gruelling week of our lives all for the second leg of our play off match against Notts County. All the first leg did was make things even more tense with all the controversy surrounding it, however we were gift wrapped a way back into the tie with a late penalty at the Ricoh. My man of the match that night was Tom Davies, and he was dealt a retrospective 3 match ban for stamping. You couldn't make it up.

All of that meant we needed a win at County, a ground we haven't taken a victory home from since 1963 and who finished above us in the league. In fact this rounded off the play off semi finals, in all five leading up to it the home team in the second leg won, basically everything was pointing towards a Notts victory. However as our pretend motto says, we don't play by the script, so literally anything could happen. One thing was for certain though, I was an absolute nervous wreck, the day was spent mainly crying and rocking back and forth.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
Hyam
Stokes

Bayliss
Kelly
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Biamou

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
McDonald
Maguire-Drew
Barrett
Reid
Clarke-Harris
Ponticelli

Tom Davies getting suspended was a big blow to us, but it's not like Jordan Willis is a bad replacement, so he came in. Other than that we remained completely unchanged from the side who drew last Saturday. The word on the street was that Marc McNulty probably shouldn't have played after his head took a battering in training, as well as apparently something to do with his hamstring, from the off though, you really couldn't tell in the slightest.

First Half

Literally as soon as we heard the word go we were pouncing at the Notts County side like it was the last game of football we'd ever play. In less than 45 seconds, Maxime Biamou was played through on goal by a looping over the top ball from McNulty but I think out of general shock and surprise he got a chance that early on he scuffed it and the ball was immediately cleared. However, in the understatement of the century, he did go and make up for it ever so slightly a couple of minutes later.

A corner was whipped in and half cleared to Jordan Willis, he nodded it across the other side of the box where Maxime Biamou had his back to goal, got himself in the air, and flung his legs at the ball, striking into the far corner. One overhead kick is mad, two is an actual joke, how he can manage that is obscene. The fans were celebrating almost as much as the players, no one actually celebrated with Max, instead they all just sprinted towards the away end, amid a ridiculous amount of blue smoke.

On a personal note, I fell backwards onto the row behind in pure shock and elation, I wasn't even confident we'd do well, and we just came out flying and scored a worldie, it was almost too much. County were shellshocked, we were all over them, Doyler got a bit excited and as you can't get suspended for yellow cards at this point in the season he needlessly almost killed someone by diving at their shins.

We then pulled something off which is basically deserving of promotion, Shipley launched one about 60 yards straight to the feet of Marc McNulty, he squared it to Bayliss who carried to the edge of the box, dinking out to Liam Kelly. Somehow, barely even looking, he managed to pick out a ball through the sea of defenders to Sparky in acres of space, all he was left to do was stab into the completely empty side of the net. 2-0. Bodies flying absolutely everywhere.

Everyone was already booking their hotels at this point, and quite literally, as we were chanting "If we win, we're on the pitch" we let them get back in with a scrappy goal which was finished of at the back post by Jorge Grant. Grimmer was fouled in the build up by John Stead but Notts County fans only really see decisions that went against them because the whole refereeing situation is all a big conspiracy which we control...

Half Time - Notts County 1-2 Coventry City

Second Half

The collective feeling amongst the City fans was that the second half was going to go one of two ways, we'd lose 3-2 or batter them. The way it began, it really was looking as if it would be the former, we'd gone all Tony Pulis and decided that parking the bus when one goal ahead away in a game where the opposition are going to throw the kitchen sink at you was the best cause of action. I don't know who's bloody idea that was but it was a thick one. If things hadn't gone the way they did I would be crucifying various individuals.

Lee Burge has taken some stick this season, and I've always been a big defender of him and his work, but what a performance he had. Anything within 6 yards of him was either being claimed or sent into the River Trent with a belter of a punch. The key moment of his was John Stead shaking off Willis but Burge pulling off a fantastic save down to his right and flick it round the post. We were hanging on, and not long after we were dealt with our second huge slice of luck of this semi final tie.

The lumped a free kick into the box, it was nodded in the air and Forte beat Burge to the ball, heading it over him and into the empty net. Notts are already in raptures celebrating, scoreboard changed to 2-2, flags waving. However the linesman had other ideas, with his flag in the air calling it offside, you've never felt a bigger sigh of relief. However what we didn't see until after the game was that he was about a yard onside and it was a perfectly legitimate goal that had been disallowed. Oops...

This knocked the stuffiing out of the home side, and we were left to freely counter, with McNulty and Biamou playing a neat one two, the latter of which had the ball on the edge of the box. He pulls off a beautiful turn and slots it into the bottom corner like it was absolutely nothing. This was the point that we knew, as soon as ball hit net there was no doubt left in my mind, we're going back to Wembley. It was astonishing scenes, all the players and fans are in a big ball near the corner flag with legs in the air and everything.



To put the doubt beyond absolutely everyone Tom Bayliss did a Tom Bayliss and pranced through their entire team, shooting from 25 or so yards on the side foot, straight into the far corner. 4-1. 4-1 4 blooming 1. I've never been so happy as to how I was in those last 10 minutes, we've done it. The clock ticked down and we honsetly could have got 5 or 6 with Ponticelli's introduction. I encourage you to watch the full time reaction of the players if you haven't already, it's 7 minutes guaranteed to give you goosebumps and reduce you to tears.

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