Harrogate Town will compete in the Football League for the first time in their history after beating Notts County 3-1 in the National League play-off final.
Harrogate Town Beat Notts County to Earn Promotion to League Two
Yorkshire Side Reach Football League for the First Time
But the Yorkshire side withstood the test of mental pressure, restoring their two-goal cushion through Jack Diamond with 20 minutes left and ensuring promotion to League Two.
It was a poor first half from County that set the tone – epitomised by the gift of an opening goal for Harrogate Town on just five minutes.
The Yorkshire could not have asked for a better start when they responded to County’s slow defending with an early goal. A cross-field pass picked out Ryan Hallowfield on the right wing, the winger delivered a first-time cross into the path of Thomson who poked the ball past Sam Slocombe from close range.
Town twice came close to doubling their lead in the moments following. Ben Turner’s poor positioning allowed Aaron Martin space inside the penalty area, but the 29-year-old arrowed a shot beyond the post.
Another long-ball forward troubled Notts County on 14 minutes, but Jack Muldoon ended up striking well over the crossbar.
It was not for the harm of trying, however, as the Yorkshire side eventually doubled their lead on 30 minutes.
Goalscorer Thomson adopted the provider’s role as he delivered an excellent free-kick into the box. Connor Hall did enough to twist away from Ben Turner and found enough space to meet the cross and bundle it beyond Slocombe.
Notts County, firm favourites heading into the tie, could have easily entered the break further behind than the 2-0 scoreline suggested.
Diamond’s clever flick over Slocombe concluded an attacking move forward from Harrogate, but Turner was on-hand to smash the danger away. Martin then came close five minutes before the break as he slammed a left-footed shot against the post with County’s defenders stood helplessly watching.
Second Half Improvement From Notts County
Neal Ardley’s words at half-time inspired an immediate reaction from the Magpies.
Twisting and turning on the right-wing, Thomas was eventually fouled on the edge of the box. Roberts stepped up and, with a powerful strike, wrong-footed James Belshaw to reduce the deficit just sixty seconds after the break.
The goal provided a clear rejuvenation to their confidence.
Roberts came close to netting a second when he turned away cleverly under pressure. He drove forward before striking towards goal, but his curling strike spun narrowly beyond the post. Boldewijn tested Belshaw’s reactions seconds later, cutting inside and arrowing a shot towards goal as Town came under a barrage of pressure.
After a slow first half, County dominated the second half; however, the drinks break proved a huge turning point.
Just a few moments after the pause in play, County were caught out by a brilliant attacking move. Former Notts striker Jon Stead made an arcing run down the right-wing, reeling onto a threaded through-ball. He slid a low cross into the box where Diamond’s excellent 20-yard run concluded, bundling the ball past Slocombe.
Belshaw produced a superb save to deny Thomas from close-range before Michael Doyle’s follow-up was blocked, but it was not to be as County suffered Wembley heartbreak.