10:14PM, Sunday 15 May 2022
Maidenhead’s Sam Barratt squares up to County keeper Sam Slocombe. Photo: Darren Woolley.
Maidenhead United 0, Notts County 1
There was little riding on the outcome of this end of season game between Maidenhead United and Notts County - aside from play-off position for the visiting Magpies - but they produced an entertaining and feisty affair to bring the curtain down on the campaign.
Both teams had reason for wanting a positive result to round off the campaign, County to earn the point they needed for a home tie in their play-off eliminator, and Maidenhead to extend their unbeaten league run in the National League to a club record eight matches.
It was County who achieved their little win, thanks to Callum Roberts' 71st minute penalty, but Maidenhead can be satisfied that they gave as good as they got, especially in the closing stages of the second half when they came mightily close to what would have been a deserved equaliser.
The result means Maidenhead drop to 17th, 17 points clear of the bottom three, while County will play Grimsby Town at home in their play-off semi-final having held on to fifth place.
County brought a healthy following to York Road for this final game, including many in fancy dress. A T-Rex, Hulk Hogan, Tellytubby and Captain America clapped their team onto the field and saw them create the better of the first half chances.
The first good one fell to Roberts who was sent through on Dan Gyollai's goal in the 12th minute. As the Hungarian stopper went down, Roberts rolled the ball the other side of him and agonisingly wide of the post.
United also looked lively when they got the ball forward but failed to carve out the same chances. Charlee Adams went close in the 15th minute after persistent play from Shaun McCoulsky down the left side of County's defence to set up the chance. Taking a touch to steady himself he sent a curling shot inches wide of Sam Slocombe's right hand post.
In the 17th minute came the moment of the match, and possibly the save of the season from Gyollai. The visitors sent in a brilliant ball from the left and, as the Magpies' defence switched off, in nipped Roberts to flick the ball goalwards. Everyone in the ground expected the net to bulge but instead, Gyollai managed not only to get a hand to it, but also had the strength to force it away from goal.
County continued to play well, Roberts was denied by an excellent sliding tackle from the covering George Wells in the 30th minute and a fabulous move of one-touch football late in the half resulted in the heavily involved Roberts sending a deflected drive over the bar.
Maidenhead were much better in the second half and County's goal, when it came in the 71st minute, was against the run of play. Before that Maidenhead had peppered Slocombe's goal with attempts. The lively McCoulsky beat the offside trap to race onto Adams' through ball in the 49th minute but his half-volley was well held by Slocombe.
Sam Barratt then turned the ball over the bar from an Adams corner.
On the hour mark, the tigerish display of Shaun Donnellan was very nearly rewarded with a goal. Collecting an excellent Wells' cross on the right he cut inside his man before letting fly, only to see an outstretched boot turn the ball behind for a corner.
From the resulting set piece, Maidenhead went close again with a move straight off the training ground. Barratt sent the ball to the edge of the box where Adams fired at goal, the ball skimming the crossbar as it flew over.
Barratt then went down injured off the ball, having forced another corner, and was replaced by Reece Smith. Barratt's replacement would inadvertently have a big say in the outcome of the contest but generally played well and looked a threat for the hosts.
County took the lead from the penalty spot in the 71st minute and it was Smith who clumsily conceded it.
Roberts was the man who won it, nipping in front of Smith as he attempted to clear the ball. There was clear contact and little hesitation from the referee as he pointed to the spot. Roberts dusted himself down and smashed the ball down the middle of Gyollai’s goal.
United had their moments in the final 10 minutes. Nathan Blissett, on as a substitute for Emile Acquah, nodded Wells' cross just over in the 82nd minute.
With a minute to play he then wasted a gilt-edged opportunity to draw the home side level. Another of the second half substitutes, Bradley Keetch, did well to work the ball in from the right touchline but, six yards out and with the goal seemingly at his mercy, Blissett pulled his shot just wide of the mark. County saw out the remaining minutes for the win and will now turn their focus to gaining promotion to League 2 through the play-offs.
Magpies boss Alan Devonshire was satisfied enough with his team's final day display and then handed out the trophies along with chairman Peter Griffin at the club's end of season awards. It was a bit of a one-man show, with top goal scorer Josh Kelly winning the golden boot, manager's player, and player's player, however, it wasn't quite a clean sweep as he finished runner up to goalkeeper Dan Gyollai in the supporter's player of the season award.
It's always a team effort with Maidenhead United but between them, Kelly and Gyollai played a massive part in redefining Maidenhead's season after Christmas.
All lines are currently blocked between Reading and London Paddington stations due to a person being hit by a train.