Preview: Harrogate Town vs. Notts County – prediction, team news, lineups
Harrogate Town and Notts County head into Sunday’s National League playoff final just one win away from promotion to the EFL.
While Notts County are looking to bounce back from relegation last year, Harrogate are attempting to reach the fourth tier for the first time in their history.
When Notts County suffered relegation into non-league for the first time in their history last summer, there would have fears that they were in line to spend a prolonged period away from the EFL like many of the teams who have suffered the same fate.
However, Neal Ardley has produced a fine rebuilding job at Meadow Lane, putting the East Midlands outfit in a position where they can secure an immediate return to League One.
After a strong run of form before the enforced break, Ardley and his players would have feared that they would be denied the opportunity to scrap for promotion, albeit through the playoffs with leaders Barrow holding a seven-point advantage with a game in hand.
Nevertheless, arguably at a slight disadvantage having played a game less than semi-final opponents Barnet, Notts County defied a lack of match fitness to grind out a 2-0 victory over their London-based opponents.
Goals from Kristian Dennis and former Newcastle United youngster Callum Roberts got County over the line, and there will be a belief that they can capitalise on Harrogate participating in by far the biggest game of their history.
While the Yorkshire outfit have been on an upward trajectory for some time, reaching the playoffs in two consecutive seasons is some achievement for a club which have never experienced league football.
Long-serving manager Simon Weaver will be keen to avoid talk about any matters with regards to their history, instead preferring to build on having ended the regular campaign in second place.
Like Sunday’s opponents, they were seemingly at a disadvantage when taking on Boreham Wood, who had already got 90 minutes into their legs with success over Halifax Town.
However, Jack Muldoon‘s 14th goal of the campaign has handed the club a trip to Wembley Stadium, just over a year after suffering disappointment at the quarter-finals stage against AFC Fylde.
Harrogate Town form (all competitions): WWWWDW
Notts County form (all competitions): WWWWWW
Notts County manager Ardley is unlikely to tinker with the team which got the better of Barnet.
That will leave Wes Thomas and Enzio Boldewijn having to make do with a place among the replacements.
Harrogate boss Weaver has a selection dilemma regarding recent addition Aaron Martin and veteran Jon Stead.
While Martin impressed on his debut in the semi-finals, Stead finds himself in contention due to his big-game experience.
Barring any late fitness issues, the rest of the starting lineup is expected to remain the same.
Harrogate Town possible starting lineup:
Belshaw; Fallowfield, Burrell, Falkingham, Smith, Hall, Thomson, Kerry, Martin, Muldoon, Diamond
Notts County possible starting lineup:
Slocombe; Turner, Lacey, Brindley, Bagan, O’Brien, Doyle, Rose, Dennis, Wootton, Roberts