It's almost 26 years to the day since our remarkable win at Wembley against Tranmere Rovers. We've dug out the Nottingham Evening Post report on the game.
(With thanks to the Nottingham Evening Post and Up The Maggies)
Nottingham Evening Post Reports
WEMBLEY’S JUST THE JOB FOR MAGPIES
TOP-GEAR NOTTS TURN ON A SUPER SHOW
By David Stapleton
In theory the ‘Old lady’ and the world’s oldest league club were made for each other. But who would have imagined that Wembley and Notts County might have harmonised as perfectly as they did to send 15,000 Nottingham fans rapturously home on Sunday? Notts were magnificent as they swept aside Tranmere Rovers to recover a Second Division place after five years. The 2-0 scoreline failed to do their performance justice. They moved the ball smartly in boiling stamina sapping heat, while intelligently preventing their play off rivals from slotting into the rhythm which brought them the Leyland Daf Cup at Wembley a week earlier. It was remarkable how Notts - not Tranmere - settled down immediately at the venue of legends which, by its aura and atmosphere, has reduced some of them to anonymity.
They carried the fight to the Merseysiders and, having created a position of authority, rarely looked like surrendering it. Teenager Tommy Johnson’s 20th goal of a long-drawn-out season came in 21 minutes to give County a 1-0 interval lead not nearly representative of the play. And once the side had repelled strong pressure early in the second half they could have used Craig Short’s timely 62nd minute goal as the springboard for a hefty win.
Tranmere, increasingly desperate, were architects of an interminable amount of injury time. When the constant sun disappeared in the 91st minute, the lights had gone out for club seeking Division Two status after a 51 year lapse. For County and their emotion filled players, the result was justice on more than one score. They had finished third - seven points ahead of Tranmere - and many believe passionately that teams in that position should go up of right. But as the “Super Notts, Super Notts” anthem of praise drifted over the twin towers, the fans would have promotion no other way.
A tear filled captain Phil Turner went up to the Royal box to receive a special trophy containing an illuminated scroll, which will be retained by the club to commemorate their first Wembley appearance in their 128 year history. The players - by then bedecked in a variety of headgear 'borrowed' from the joyous fans - then went on their laps of honour while manager Neil Warnock stayed resolutely on the pitch, joining the applause. It was only interrupted when chairman Derek Pavis arrived at his side to embrace him warmly."
Warnock's feats have been prodigious in the game for a young manager, taking Scarborough into the Football League and now achieving promotion in his first full season at Meadow Lane. He, along with his chief coach, Mick Jones, had prepared the side brilliantly for the big occasion, evidenced in the way Notts might have had the game all but won in the first 15 minutes. Charlie Palmer, whose ability on the overlap caused much of the early danger, missed a particularly good chance, bringing down Turner's hoisted pass but failing to get hold of his shot on ,the far post. Short, who along with Nicky Platnauer fully justified his inclusion after an injury scare, might have given away a goal with his only mistake of the match in 24 minutes, He made a hash of an attempted back-pass to put Chris Malkin in to the right of goal, but the tall striker shot feebly into Steve Cherry's arms.
Johnson, the Magpies' 19- year-old top scorer, finished in lovely, clinical fashion to collect the important first goal. Palmer linked up with Bartlett down the right and Johnson gathered the striker's low cross, sharply turned a defender and struck a low, left footer from 12 yards which took the merest deflection on its way past the 'keeper. Tranmere, coming into the game for the first time at the start of the second half, made particular efforts to get behind Magpies' left-back Platnauer. who had been doubtful with a problem at the bottom of his back. But he gritted his teeth to win the confrontation with the speedy Tony Thomas. However, a superb save by Cherry prevented a Tranmere equaliser in 59 minutes which could have been a turning point. Central defender Mark Hughes met Jim Harvey's long throw full tilt with his head, but Cherry revealed marvellous reflexes with his tip-over.
Three minutes later the Magpies struck the second goal, which was effectively the promotion clincher. Johnson floated a free-kick. from the left beyond the far post, here Short climbed high above statuesque defenders to head Solidly inside the near post. County's defence hardly put a foot wrong: the midfield prospered under the dynamic influence of Dean Thomas and the front players posed problems. It was the sort of team performance that has characterised the season, with embellishments appropriate for the occasion.
Further Reports by John Lomas
JONNO'S NERVES MELTED AWAY
COUNTY'S teenage hot- Shot Tommy Johnson - at 19 the youngest player in the Magpies side - was astonished to find his Wembley nerves melt away. “I was really excited, but the nerves 1 had felt pre-match just disappeared and I found myself able to laugh and joke and really enjoy it, which surprised me. Everyone seemed to think I would suffer at Wembley because of my old stamina problem. But that's all over now. I did wake a few times the night before with nerves and I woke up feeling quite tired. But that was good because I always seem to play really well if I wake up reeling tired. I said before the start that it would be a bonus if I scored. The main thing was obviously for us to get promotion. But in my first full season. I've scored at Wembley and got promotion. What more could I ask for?”
AND WE CAN HOLD OUR OWN
THE STARK reality behind County's Wembley triumph was pointed out by Neil Warnock shortly after the final whistle. “Victory means we will now be able to make ends meet,” he said. “Playing clubs like Sheffield \\'edncsday and Newcastle United next season will be marvellous financially and for the fans.” He also issued a warning to anyone who felt that Notts might struggle in better company: “We are not going into the Second Division to make the numbers up. We have some young players here who have grown up over the last six months and I think we may surprise a few. I'm not saying we will take the Division by storm. But we will certainly hold our own as long as everyone keeps their feet on the ground - and I will make sure they do. I thought we thoroughly deserved our win. I don't think it was a poor performance by Tranmere, either. They just couldn't combat our overall team performance. “Our’s was a team performance - there were no stars -and I felt we played some entertaining soccer on a hot afternoon. Our fans were brilliant.”
TEARS OF TRIUMPH
NOTTS skipper Phil Turner admitted he was overcome by emotion as he climbed those famous Wembley steps to receive the commemorative play-off trophy. “I was so proud last week when I got the player of the Year Trophy,” he said. “But emotion just took over at Wembley and I couldn't stop myself crying as I went up the steps. To receive that trophy and turning to face the fans was an absolutely marvellous moment and I couldn't have been any prouder . You know your family and friends are up there watching you.” Turner also had a word for those who didn't make the starting XI: "Winning promotion was a real squad effort. It wasn’t just down to the eleven who played and I felt sorry for those who didn't play. But the manager had got to upset some and it was great to see everyone getting involved. We just played our usual game on the day and didn't give them any space at all. We knew if we allowed Jim Harvey and Neil McNab any room, they would start picking their forwards out. We knew we shouldn't change our game just for Wembley and it worked a treat. We showed people that we deserved to go up after having finished third and we were the better side over 90 minutes.”
NOW FOR THE FIRST DIVISION
CHAIRMAN Derek Pavis saw Notts achieve promotion just short of three years after he took over the club. He said: “Now the object is the First Divsion, and Sheffield United are a club we must try to emulate. They gained promotion to Division One 12 months after reaching the Second. I think there is a possibility with the playing staff and manager we've got.” On Sunday, Mr Pavis is taking the players on a week's holiday to the Spanish resort of Marbella.
DON GETS A KICK-IN
GENIAL Irishman Don O'Riordan was one of the unlucky players who missed out on the big day. But he was still there for the kick-in and was the first to run on to the pitch with water for his gasping team-mates. “This was my first time here and I was very grateful when the boss allowed me to get changed and go out there and have a knock-around. Just to do that was a great thrill.”
CRAIG’S GOAL SURPRISE
CRAIG SHORT admitted he was surprised to net Notts’ decisive second goal at Wembley - because things didn’t go quite according to plan. “We have worked that free-kick so many times in training, but the ball usually gets knocked to the near post,” he said, “This time it came long and it came off the top of my head. I think Eric Nixon did get his hands to it but couldn’t keep it out. It was great to score here because I don’t get many.”