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Kick off 15:00 (UK)

3-1
02 August 2020 Venue Wembley Stadium Attendance

Kick off 15:00 (UK)

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Match Reports

Harrogate 3-1 Notts

Not our day in the capital

2 August 2020

We suffered a 3-1 defeat to Harrogate Town in the Vanarama National League play-off final.

At an empty Wembley we struggled to get going and found ourselves 2-0 down going into the break.

Cal Roberts curled home a free-kick immediately after the restart but Town rode our subsequent wave of pressure and added a third to secure their passage to the EFL for the first time in their history.

Neal Ardley named an unchanged squad from the one that convincingly beat Barnet in the semis.

That meant Sam Slocombe was in goal behind a back four of Joel Bagan, Ben Turner, Alex Lacey and Richard Brindley.

Captain Michael Doyle was partnered by Mitch Rose in central midfield, with Cal Roberts and Jim O’Brien providing the width and Kristian Dennis playing off Kyle Wootton up front.

Warm sunshine bathed Wembley as the match kicked off and Harrogate were out of the blocks quickly, taking the lead inside the opening six minutes when Ryan Fallowfield’s low cross was met with a neat finish by Thomson at the near post.

It was so nearly 2-0 shortly afterwards when Aaron Martin expertly controlled a long ball over the top before sending a shot narrowly wide.

And Jack Muldoon was next to go close when a cleverly worked set piece on 13 minutes presented him with a close-range shooting opportunity. He could only hook the ball off-target and we breathed another sigh of relief.

We had really struggled to get going but carved out an opportunity when Lacey played a lovely ball into the channel for Brindley, whose excellent low cross matched the run from Dennis who saw his shot well blocked by a defender.

But Harrogate were well in the ascendancy and added a second after Bagan was booked for a foul on Ryan Fallowfield, allowing Town to whip a free-kick into the box which Connor Hall turned home at the back post.

Things nearly got even worse when Jack Diamond was played through one-on-one with Slocombe only to get his lob wrong, and we enjoyed more good fortune before the break when Martin struck the post from close range after Lacey had blocked his initial shot.

Ardley sent on Enzio Boldewijn and Wes Thomas for O’Brien and Dennis at the interval and Thomas made an immediate impact by winning a free-kick on the edge of Town’s area immediately after the restart. Roberts curled the ball over the wall and into the bottom corner to haul us right back into it.

The Geordie, who picked up a booking for a cynical foul shortly after his goal, then came within inches of equalising when he snaked his way in from the right and saw his 20-yard shot bend away from goal at the very last moment.

Wootton then saw an effort blocked at the near post before, a minute later, Boldewijn worked his way through the middle of the pitch before firing a shot over.

It was our brightest spell of the match by far and we had another shooting opportunity just before the hour when Thomas turned nicely into space and drew a cynical foul from Hall, who was booked. This time, from longer range, Roberts couldn’t hit the target.

And that proved to be the beginning of the end for us as the tide turned back in Town’s favour, with a goalmouth melee on 66 minutes ending with Muldoon sending his shot wide.

That was only to be a temporary reprieve, however, as Jon Stead, a second-half sub, played Muldoon in down the right. He produced an excellent low cross with Diamond did brilliantly to finish.

We knew it wasn’t going to be our day when, with 14 minutes to play, Thomas saw a shot well saved by James Belshaw before Doyle’s shot was blocked on the follow up.

And, after Brindley had hobbled off for Dion Kelly-Evans and five additional minutes had been indicated, Stead should have put the icing on the cake when the ball broke favourably to him in the area but he could only hit the post.

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