Notts County rounded off the season with an impressive performance but had to settle for a share of the spoils. The Magpies twice moved in front, through Tyrell Waite’s first career goal and Krystian Pearce’s first of the campaign, though Coventry City secured a final day point with John Fleck and Franck Moussa strikes.
First team manager Chris Kiwomya made only one alteration to the side that overcame high-flying Doncaster Rovers seven days prior. Goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski returned to the side following an illness and Fabian Spiess dropped out of the matchday squad through injury.
Bialkowski was the first of the stoppers to be tested, as Coventry threatened inside the first minute from a hopeful ball down the centre. Lively frontman Callum Wilson aimed low with a volleyed effort from just inside the area but Bialkowski reacted quickly down to his left to smother.
The Pole was called into action again moments later, after Jamal Campbell-Ryce sent John Fleck tumbling to the turf 25 yards from goal. From the resulting free-kick, away skipper Carl Baker curled around the wall but Bialkowski fisted clear with a full-stretch save.
County pieced together numerous sharp attacking moves but it was a mistake in the Sky Blues’ defence that led to their first opening, as Jamal Campbell-Ryce anticipated centre-back Adam Barton’s stray pass. The winger’s deep cross found Waite, whose nodded attempt was blocked by Aaron Martin and the danger was eradicated before Alan Judge
could pounce on the loose ball.
On 24, Judge won a free-kick on the left wing, which he curled into the six-yard box and narrowly evaded the head of Jeff Hughes. Then, shortly after, from a breakaway attack, Wilson came close for the visitors with a low drive that skidded past the right-hand upright.
The Magpies progressively gained the upper hand and looked increasingly dangerous in the wide areas. Following determined work in the right channel by Waite, Labadie had a shot charged down and, from the other wing, Judge fed the ball inside to Campbell-Ryce, who forced away goalkeeper Chris Dunn into an acrobatic tipping save.
The subsequent corner was cleared as far as Judge but the Irishman’s powerful volley was not able to make its way through a wall of City defenders. This led to another corner, which saw the Magpies make the most of their dominance.
A short corner routine was rounded off with Labadie’s dragged shot, only Arquin kept the attack alive with a touch into the path of Sheehan. The left-back rifled towards the corner to force Dunn into an impressive parry but he was unable to scramble to his feet in time to keep out Waite’s headed rebound.
It was almost 2-0 before the celebrations had died down, when a diagonal delivery into the box saw Arquin apply a dangerous knockdown, which Martin headed inches wide of his own goal. Sheehan then provided another excellent corner that the Coventry defence struggled to clear and Dean Leacock’s low effort was denied by an instinctive stop.
Just before the break, Notts came close again, when Jeff Hughes nodded another Sheehan corner across goal. Leacock sent it back and Pearce cleared the bar to complete the mini game of head tennis.
At the break, the goal-scorer Waite was withdrawn and replaced by Andre Boucaud for his first game back following a two-game ban. Boucaud lined up in midfield and Hughes moved up front to partner Arquin.
Although up against it at the end of the first half, City started the second period well and the bumper away following were on their feet in celebration when David Bell fired towards the top-right corner. Bialkowski was beaten but the ball cannoned back off the crossbar and County escaped.
On 51, the visitors got their equaliser and it arrived in quite spectacular style. Fleck from the corner of the box unleashed a stunning half volley across goal that dipped under the bar and into the corner of the net.
It did not take the Magpies long to get back on top, as a lofted pass from Boucaud was met by Hughes’ run. The Northern Ireland international guided the ball over Dunn with an outstanding placed header, which rebounded back off the post to allow Pearce to prod home.
Notts were hungry for more and Campbell-Ryce delivered a chipped cross from the left byline. Arquin rose well at the back post to head into the side netting, though the boisterous Kop made their views clear that it should have been a corner.
Neal Bishop replaced Labadie in a straight swap for the Magpies’ second substitution of the afternoon. County continued to sweep the ball around with confidence but City were not out of the game.
On 73, the tricky wideman Bell cut inside from the left wing to rifle inside the near post but was prevented from scoring by Bialkowski, who made a terrific tipping save. The following corner caused problems and Fleck nearly found the net with a shot that skidded wide of the left-hand post.
Judge looked determined to clinch the club’s Golden Boot award by levelling Arquin’s nine goals and he nearly found it in quite odd circumstances. The energetic forward charged down a clearance and his block saw the ball bounce inches off target.
City mounted the pressure late on and pressed the Magpies deep into their own half. The away side were restricted to long-range efforts, though it did not stop them from threatening, as both Bell and Moussa, who had been introduced from the bench, drilled fractionally wide.
Moussa did not miss with his next attempt, following a poor kick from Bialkowski. The midfielder tricked his way into the box, as the County defenders retreated, but there was no stopping his stunning hit, low into the bottom corner.
Hughes may have grabbed a late winner, when he slid to connect with Arquin’s low centre but was unable to make a connection. At the other end, a defensive lapse saw substitute Cody McDonald round Bialkowski, only to fire into the side netting.
Despite not holding out for the win, Notts left the pitch to a positive reaction that was fully warranted on the balance of the play. The supporters remained in the stadium to applaud their team’s efforts throughout the season and, following three positive performances to finish off 2012.13, there is plenty to be optimistic about after the summer.