In January 2017, sitting 23rd in League Two and on a run of 10 defeats in a row, even the most optimistic Notts County fan couldn’t have imagined the ride which was in store for them over the next 16 months.
But with a new owner, a new manager, a mid-table finish and then a top-five finish this season, the prize of a place in the Sky Bet League One is just two games away.
Last Saturday, Notts came agonisingly close to bringing a 1-0 lead over play-off semi-final rivals Coventry City back to Meadow Lane, until an 87th-minute penalty saw Marc McNulty draw the hosts level.
Manager Kevin Nolan will now be urging his players to make the most of home advantage in the semi-final second leg tomorrow night.
The Magpies have lost just two of their home games this season, winning 14 and scoring 43 times. Coventry’s away form during this campaign has seen them win nine and lose nine, scoring 28 goals on their travels.
With more than 16,000 tickets already sold, the atmosphere inside Meadow Lane will be electric as County and City look to reach the final at Wembley.
The home fans can play a massive part once more. Raise the roof, sing your hearts out and let the nation hear you roar us to Wembley!
Notts boss Kevin Nolan says…
“I thought the turn-out of our fans was absolutely amazing at Coventry.
“What we want now is for them to pack Meadow Lane to the rafters because we’re going to need them.
“It was a fantastic performance from our lads, I thought they handled the occasion really well.
“The players did themselves, Nottingham and Notts County proud. We’re dreaming of Wembley now and we need everyone to be on our side to help us realise that dream.”
Coventry boss Mark Robins says…
"We have had a mixture of rest, recovery and training this week. Ever since the game finished on Saturday we have been looking forward.
"We played really well in the first leg and only made one or two mistakes, but sadly that cost us a goal.
"We need to send our supporters home happy. It will be a good game and it might even go all the way. We need to be prepared for that."
It remains to be seen whether Jonathan Forte, who in the first leg limped off in second-half injury time, will be fit to play, with Nolan saying 'We’ve had a few injuries - a few lads have missed training. We’ve got to give them another 24 hours but hopefully they’ll be okay. I won’t know until late on Thursday.'
Coventry will be without defender Tom Davies, who was given a three-match ban for his infamous stamp on Richard Duffy.
"Tom has been stupid and has apologised," said his manager. "He has hurt himself big time. If we progress then he misses the final.
"He cannot blame anybody but himself for it and he has been punished accordingly by the powers that be and the club too.
"On the injury front, there is nothing different. We still have the same long-term injuries."
We’ve met before…
In last Saturday's first leg at the Ricoh Arena, Nolan’s side were looking good for a 1-0 win courtesy of Jonathan Forte’s superbly-taken goal until a contentious late penalty was awarded to Coventry.
Matt Tootle was wrongly penalised for his challenge on Sky Blues’ Tom Bayliss in the area and Marc McNulty stepped up to draw Coventry level from the spot, setting up what should be a thrilling second leg at Meadow Lane.
This season’s League Two encounters saw Coventry secure a 3-0 home win on the opening day, with County winning the Meadow Lane clash 2-1, Forte claiming both goals.
What are the odds?
Sky Bet have Notts and Coventry both priced at 5/6 for the win. A goalless draw is 9/1.
If you think it will go all the way to penalties, both teams are priced at 11/1 to win that way.
If you’re looking at the exact score, you can get Notts at 9/1 for a 2-1 win and 7/1 for a 1-0 win.
Supporters who sign up to Sky Bet using this link can help the club financially.