Notts County back in Football League after dramatic penalties victory over Chesterfield
Chesterfield 2 (Dallas 5 (pen), Dobra 93)
Notts County 2 (Bostock 87, Rodrigues, 107)
Notts County win 4-3 on penalties
Specialist stopper Archie Mair was the hero as Notts County won promotion back to the Football League at the fourth attempt thanks to a penalty shootout win over Chesterfield at Wembley.
Mair made two fantastic saves in the shootout after County had twice come from behind – once in normal time and again in extra-time - to draw the game 2-2.
The result was harsh on Chesterfield who, despite finishing 23 points behind County in the table, were the better side for much of this encounter.
Five minutes of madness from County goalkeeper Sam Slocombe at the start of the game looked to have cost his side dearly.
First he conceded an indirect free-kick eight yards out after twice kicking the ball from a goal kick, then he gifted the Spireites a spot-kick with a rash challenge on scorer Andrew Dallas.
Chesterfield held on to their lead until the 87th minute when John Bostock’s inswinging free-kick from the left squirmed under the body of Ross Fitzsimons, who should have kept it out.
The Spireites led again in extra-time thanks to Armando Dobra, the Albania U21 international curling a beauty into the far corner form the left-hand side for a goal which would have lit up any Wembley final.
But County were not done, and equalised again thanks to a freak goal from Ruben Rodrigues, who volleyed the ball into the ground and watched as it bounced up and looped apologetically over Fitzsimons for 2-2.
Jodi Jones thought he had won it for the Magpies when he curled a shot just wide as the clock ticked down to 120 minutes.
County then immediately brought on Mair for Slocombe in goal as penalties loomed, and the decision proved the difference, with the Scott saving kicks from Darren Oldaker, low to his right, and from Jeff King, with a trailing leg.
Bostock chipped a Panenka down the middle and against the bar for County, but the Nottingham side had one more chance to win it – and Cedwyn Scott held his nerve
For County it was fourth time lucky after three consecutive losses in the play-offs, twice in the semi-finals and once, in 2020, in the final, 3-1 to Harrogate Town.
Although not at their best on the day, seemingly crippled by the enormity of both the occasion and the expectation in the 90 minutes, County deserved their promotion, finishing as they did with an almighty 107 points, in second place behind Wrexham.
And the win means they can once again call themselves the oldest league club in the world.
Chesterfield: Fitzsimons, Grimes, Mandeville (Akinola, 89), Colclough (Banks, 70), Dobra (Maguire, h-t/e-t), King, Palmer, Oldaker, Dallas (Quigley, 79), Clements, Jones
Notts County: Slocombe (Mair, 120), Cameron, Rawlinson (Brindley, 118), Austin (Scott, 66), Langstaff, Nemane, Baldwin, Palmer, Rodrigues, Chicksen (Jones, 56), Bostock