THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

20 April ~ Stevenage's 1-0 win over Carlisle on Tuesday night has left Notts County in pole position to snatch the last play-off place in League One. County's last three games, starting with tomorrow's early kick-off against Bury, are all winnable. Two are at home and we can enter the other, away to our old bogeyside Wycombe, with confidence if we win tomorrow. Our rivals for the play-off place, Stevenage and Carlisle, have to face one of the Sheffield clubs, who are vying to join Charlton in the Championship next season. We have ground out results with steely determination (and the occasional blip) since Keith Curle's arrival as manager in February, but this is Notts County. We never do things the easy way.

Had you told me before the season that we would be pushing for a play-off place with three games to go, I would have thought you had lost your senses. Martin Allen and Keith Curle have done a remarkable jobs in steering a squad of hard-working players through our second season back in the third tier.

Having walked League Two during the surreal Munto Finance season, when there was clearly no money and we made far more enemies than friends, many thought we would be a shoo-in for the play-offs this time last year. But the gulf between the divisions seems to get wider each year. In the end we were happy to survive our first season back, after seven years in the basement.

The turnaround this season has been remarkable. We have a chance of sneaking the last play-off place to face whichever Sheffield team are not promoted automatically. Both the Blades and the Owls have done the double over us this season, including a 5-2 home drubbing by United three days after Wednesday beat us at Meadow Lane.

Having not had a dalliance in the play-offs since our embarrassing non-performance at the old Wembley in 1996, when Bradford beat us 2-0 and brought three times as many fans as we did, we are maybe not as used to the pressure as other clubs.

Apart from the Munto Finance season, we have spent most of our Saturday afternoons and Tuesday nights at Meadow Lane since 1996 looking down anxiously at the results of the teams below us, hoping they have lost. If we blow it and Stevenage, Carlisle or Brentford sneak that last place, I hope one of those teams go up – preferably beating MK Dons along the way. Martin Naylor

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