Notts County 3-2 Chesterfield - I thought it was a magnificent performance from us, says Notts County boss Ian Burchnall

Saturday 05th June 2021
Notts County 3 – 2 Chesterfield
Kickoff 05/06/2021 16:00

Vanarama National League Play-Off Eliminator
Saturday 5 June 2021
Stephen McCartney reports watching on BT Sport

NOTTS COUNTY manager Ian Burchnall hailed his side’s magnificent performance as they claimed a deserved victory at the end of a pulsating Vanarama National League Play-Off Eliminator at Meadow Lane.


Sutton United sealed promotion into League Two for the first time after winning the league title with Matt Gray’s side finishing top with 84 points from their 42 league games.

Torquay United finished four points behind and Stockport County finished in third on 77 points.

Hartlepool United finished in fourth-place on 76 points, followed by Notts County (73) and Chesterfield (69), while Bromley finished in seventh-place and qualified for the play-offs for the first time after a final day 1-0 victory over Notts County at Hayes Lane seven days ago to sneak in on 69 points.

Chesterfield snatched the lead courtesy of Danny Rowe’s drilled 30-yard free-kick before Notts County equalised just 117 seconds later through striker Kyle Wootton.

Chesterfield grabbed the lead just three minutes before half-time through Liam Mandeville’s finish.

However, an injury to Chesterfield goalkeeper James Montgomery ten minutes into the second half with a suspected injury to his right knee proved to be the turning point in the game and Wootton levelled with 19 minutes remaining before Mark Ellis came up from the back to bury a dramatic 90th minute headed winner.

Notts County reached the Promotion Final last season but lost 3-1 to Harrogate Town at Wembley Stadium and are two wins away from returning to League Two after a two-year absence.

“I have to calm down a little bit,” Burchnall told BT Sport afterwards.

“I thought it was a magnificent performance from us, I really did. Right from minute one, we were attacking the game, we were positive when we were 2-1 down.

“I thought they did their game plan well, they tried to kill our rhythm. They took time with everything, they had a good defensive shape to try to frustrate us but we stood to the way that we wanted to play and in the second half it was just waves of attack and I thought we were fantastic.

“I think it shows belief, it generally shows the belief that we’ve got and I’ve seen it grow and grow and grow.

“I think the last time BT Sport were here was against Sutton when we had the same kind of situation (3-2). We should be on the TV more often with these sort of games, it must’ve been a great one to watch.

“I’m so proud how they stuck to the principles and played in the second half.  When you see a keeper injured it can change your dynamic, you start taking shots from silly areas but I think we stayed calm and we created the same kind of chances, which is why I think we won.” 

Notts County started the game in explosive manner, creating a couple of chances inside the opening 43 seconds.

A long ball over the top wasn’t dealt with by Chesterfield centre-half Gavin Gunning and he let in Wootton but Montgomery rushed off his line to smother the ball.

Dutchman Enzio Boldewijn then cut in from the left wing before curling his shot around the top of the far post.

Notts County’s central midfielder and captain Michael Boyle was a driving force during the first half and in the 15th minute he picked up a ball inside his own half, drove forward before slicing his left-footed shot harmlessly wide of the mark from 35-yards.

Chesterfield, however, weathered the early storm and grabbed the lead against the run of play in the 28th minute.

Mandeville was pushed over by midfielder Jake Reeves and Rowe ran up to drill his powerfully struck right-footed free-kick from 30-yards into the roof of the net, helped by the diving Sam Slocombe, who got a hand to the shot but all he could do was push it into the net.

However, Notts County responded brilliantly and deservedly equalised just 117 seconds later.

Curtis Weston was inside the Chesterfield centre-circle and passed the ball back to sloppy Gunning, whose clearance was charged down by the pressing Ruben Rodriques.

He raced into the box, was upended by the onrushing goalkeeper and the ball ran loose for Wootton, who slid his left-footed shot through a crowd of four Chesterfield players into the centre of the goal.

The home side linked up well down the left with left-wing-back Adam Chicksen feeding winger Calvin Miller down the left and he floated a cross towards the back post where former Bromley right-back Richard Brindley rose above his marker to steer his deflected header over the crossbar from the corner of the six-yard box.

Chesterfield started to venture forward as the game approached half-time and they were rewarded by taking the lead for the second time.

Good play down the left wing from Rowe saw him hold the ball up as he waited for support. It came in the shape of Jack Clarke who cut in from the left and from the fringes of the penalty area put the chance on a plate for Mandeville, who slid in to poke the ball across the keeper into the bottom far corner from six-yards.

Burchnall made a tactical masterstroke during the interval by taking off defender Connell Rawlinson and bringing on striker Jimmy Knowles.

This meant Brindley slotted in on the right-hand side of a three-man defence alongside Ellis (centre) and Chickson on the left-hand side.

This move almost paid dividends after only 75 seconds when Brindley ventured forward and played the ball inside to Reeves, who took a touch before lashing his shot over the Chesterfield crossbar from 25-yards.

Doyle was on the centre spot and played a sublime long ball into the Chesterfield penalty area and after watching the ball drop from over his right shoulder Wootton stabbed the ball straight at Montgomery.

However, there was to be concern for the 27-year-old former Gateshead keeper who was struggling after pulling up and appearing to have injured his right knee after clearing the ball upfield.

Chesterfield were also hampered when Emmanuel Oyeleke was substituted through an injury at the same time.

This gave Notts County the impetus in the game as Chesterfield sat back on their slender lead and the home side upped their intensity levels.

Alex Whittle failed to stop Boldewijn getting to the by-line down the right before floating a cross towards the near post where Wootton rose to steer his header over the crossbar from the corner of the six-yard box.

Notts County deservedly equalised in the 71st minute following an out-swinging corner from Rodrigues down the right.

Two of Chesterfield’s centre-halves were at fault for the goal.

Will Evans was outjumped by Ellis at the far post, allowing the 32-year-old to steer his header towards goal and Laurence Maguire – the brother of England and Manchester United captain Harry – failed to prevent Wootton to stab the ball past Montgomery from six-yards.

Chesterfield squandered two glorious chances to snatch victory after replacing Rowe with lone striker Nathan Tyson, playing against his former club.

Clarke threaded the ball through into Tyson’s path via a deflection and he skipped past goalkeeper Slocombe but a heavy touch took him closer to the by-line than the goal. He cut the ball back to former Gillingham midfielder Curtis Weston, who drove his first time shot screaming past the far post.

Tyson failed to deliver the knockout punch with 15 minutes remaining.

Mandeville was inside his own half and his long ball split open the Notts County defence to put Tyson through on goal but his left-footed shot from 14-yards was superbly blocked by Slocombe, using his right leg to make a vital block in a match defining moment.

Notts County then peppered the Chesterfield goal with Miller and Rodriques hitting shots over from just outside the penalty area and Maguire put his body on the line to ensure Reeves’ shot from six-yards went over the crossbar too.

However, Notts County claimed the deserved winner with only 19 seconds of normal time remaining, albeit in controversial circumstances.

Gunning was penalised by referee Tom Reeves for fouling Rodrigues on the left touchline, although Rodriques flew to the ground in a theatrical manner.

Appearing to have taken a knock, Rodriques swiftly recovered to float in the resulting free-kick with his right-boot towards the far post and Evans failed to track the run of Ellis, who sprinted in front of him and buried his free-header past a struggling Montgomery, finding the bottom far corner from three-yards.

Burchnall added: “Mark Ellis can keep doing that. It’s a good habit to have.  You know what, he came in the dressing room and said ‘it weren’t his best game defensively today’, which maybe it wasn’t at times but he was there when we needed him and it was a fantastic header for the winner.

The goal brought ecstatic scenes of celebration from the Meadow Lane faithful and now all attention turns to a trip to Torquay United in the Semi-Finals next Saturday.

“When I came into the club, I said I wanted to play attacking positive and brave football. I think we did that.  We were true to that and that’s what we want to do.  We want to provide fans with this sort of football.

“We got caught on the counter and we were a little sloppy now and again but our general intensity and the positivity is what we want for the fans’.

There was still to be some more drama to this excellent game of fifth-tier football.  The impressive Clarke teed up Chesterfield substitute Jak McCourt, who smacked a first-time drive towards the top right-hand corner from 25-yards, only for Slocombe to dive high to his left to tip the ball behind for a corner, which Chesterfield almost scrambled in before the 33-year-old smothered the ball on his goal-line.

Chesterfield manager James Rowe insisted the free-kick for the dramatic late winner should not have been given.

“The talking point, it wasn’t a foul for their goal, it’s a dive,” Rowe told BT Sport afterwards.

“I’m in the gantry (serving a four-match touchline ban) and people are diving on the pitch and the season comes down to that and the free-kick shouldn’t be given, so no surprise.

“My players’ have been magnificent to a man for the season but it wasn’t to be, with the goalie and then Manny coming off injured, they were two big hits for us.

“I toiled putting a goalie on, someone asked me a question yesterday, why (can’t we have) seven substitutes at this level? We’ve had seven substitutes in every elite level for the last decade and we’ve got five.

“I’ve chosen the wrong option not to put the goalie on.  I just stayed with it and that was the decision I made at the time and also as it got worse later on, I already made my three subs so I had to wait for extra-time for the (chance to make) the fourth.

“I’m really disappointed to lose on a goal like that. The free-kick shouldn’t have happened.  It’s a bit bitter at the moment losing in that manner but we can hold our heads up high from being 21st in the table to finishing sixth. It’s a bitter way to lose, I think. We should be losing fairly not unfairly.”

Tomorrow at 14:30, Andy Woodman’s Bromley play at Hartlepool United, looking to earn a trip to Stockport County in the Semi-Finals, looking to finish off the excellent work from his predecessor Neil Smith at Hayes Lane and keep the dream of winning promotion to the Football League for the first time.

Bromley are the only side in the play-offs without previous Football League experience but will be looking to join their bitter rivals Sutton United in League Two next term, while Chesterfield will be spending their fourth season in non-league football when the new campaign gets underway in August.

Notts County: Sam Slocombe, Richard Brindley, Adam Chickson, Jake Reeves (Dion Kelly-Evans 90), Mark Ellis, Connell Rawlinson (Jimmy Knowles 46), Calvin Miller, Michael Doyle, Kyle Wootton, Ruben Rodriques, Enzio Boldewijn.
Subs: Ben Turner, Jordan Barnett, Regan Griffiths

Goals: Kyle Wootton 30, 71, Mark Ellis 90

Booked: Mark Ellis 32

Chesterfield: James Montgomery, George Carline, Emmanuel Oyeleke (Jak McCourt 59), Gavin Gunning, Will Evans, Laurence Maguire, Jack Clarke, Curtis Weston, Danny Rowe (Nathan Tyson 66), Liam Mandeville, Alex Whittle (Joel Taylor 78)
Subs: Tom Whelan, Josef Yussuf

Goals: Danny Rowe 28, Liam Mandeville 42

Booked: Laurence Maguire 24, Emmanuel Oyeleke 32, Gavin Gunning 65

Attendance: 4,569
Referee: Mr Tom Reeves
Assistants: Mr Alex Gray & Mr Daniel Robinson
Fourth Official: Mr Scott Tallis