Notts County Legg-ends provide a stormer

Last updated : 13 July 2005 By Matthew Taylor

Notts County made their debut in the Master’s tournament broadcast live on Sky, and what a debut it was, with the stylish magpies showing the few hundred Notts fans that had ventured down to the Nottingham Ice Arena that they still had it.

Notts had assembled a squad consisting of Steve Cherry, Dave Regis, Chris Withe, John Williams, Andy Legg, Gary Lund, Paul Harding, Ian Benjamin, Dean Thomas and Phil Turner. The Meadow Lane old guard were playing in the central masters along with Derby County and Leicester City.

The first match of the tournament saw Derby County take-on Nottingham Forest, winners of the 2000 tournament, and with the way they played, you could see why. A team that included Nigel Clough, Ian Woan, Nigel Jemson and, ofcourse, former Notts boss Gary Mills duly ripped apart Derby’s poor excuse for a team 4-1, with three goals inside the first five minutes. Jemson opened the scoring with three minutes gone, slotting in from the edge of the area. Peter Davenport then doubled the reds' advantage, with another low drive from the edge of the area. Then almost straight away Forest broke again, with Derby leaving Woan free unmarked in the area to lash home a powerful left-footed drive. Leo Glover added a fourth in the second half with Phil Gee forcing a blunder out of ‘keeper Ronnie Sinclair to get Derby’s Consolation.

Notts came out to face Leicester with the expectations of providing another humdinger as Forest had duly obliged to in the first match. And the Magpies started off as they meant to go on.

With a mean defensive streak, cutting out Leicester’s attacks and hoping to catch them on the break. Substitution’s were made every few minutes so there was not much in the way of formations, but plenty of spirit which has been missing in the first team at Meadow Lane in the past season.

Towards the end of the first half City broke down Notts resolve and Paul Groves split the defence to give the Foxes the advantage. Notts were then denied a blatant penalty as Tony Spiry handled the ball, but referee Lodge waved play on. Notts had to wait until three minutes into the second half to get the equaliser when Andy Legg capitalised on a mistake to draw County level.

Both teams went for a winner, but neither could find a breakthrough and it remained 1-1.

Legg: Star performer
Leicester stayed on to face Forest who by now were being regarded as the favourites, mainly by the Red clad fans in the stands. Forest started as they finished with Derby by getting amongst the goals with Woan scoring what would later be voted the magic moment of the day with a long-range effort that curled into the top corner.

Lee Philpot then reacted to a rebound to put Leicester back in the game with a close range tap in. Philpot was on the score sheet again within a minute with a cracking shot from distance. Forest, not wanting to be outdone, hit back through Dave Phillips with another long-range effort. The first incident of the second half was the sin-bin for Parry for an elbow on Gary Mills.

Forest took the advantage of having an extra player with Jemson striking a blistering volley. Groves equalised and then stole out of the keepers hands to put the foxes in the lead, and Tommy Wright made it 5-3 to Leicester with one and a half seconds to go.

Derby came out to face Notts with both teams hoping to avoid the wooden spoon award for finishing last. The match was pretty tame with neither side too adventurous in their play. The match itself ended 0-0, but both teams had chances to win it, with both ‘keepers pulling off decent saves, and Steve Cherry showed that even with his extra years and pounds he still had the class that made him instrumental in the Notts team of the 90’s. With the score at 0-0 nothing was decided and there was everything to play for in the remaining matches.

Leicester then played Derby, with Derby taking a surprise lead through Doncaster Rovers manager Dave Penney. But the blue army needn’t have been worried as Paul Groves equalised and David Oldfield grabbed two make it 3-1, and a comfortable victory for the foxes.

Now it was time for THE BIG ONE.

Mills: Well received. Ahem
Or, so the commentator at the Ice Arena said. Forget about the fact that Forest consider Derby to be their main rivals and that it was only a game, and that the ‘old geezers" were only having a kick about. This was the match everyone came for; this was the one the players were up for. The spirit of ’94 had been woken.

Sky had built it up to be the must win match for both sides as a win for Notts would put them into the final, though a draw was enough for the Reds. The noise inside the arena had reached the highest level of the day, with the Notts fans matching Forest for sound.

Almost instantly the Notts side looked sharper and more determined than in any other match, this was the one they had waited for. The Magpies didn’t have to wait long for a goal as Ian Benjamin chested down a long ball, and showing great control turned his marker and lashed a right-footed shot past Ronnie Sinclair.

The biggest cheer of the evening was when Hinckley Untied manager Dean Thomas felled ex-Notts manager Gary Mills, showing how unpopular last years self-proclaimed "saviour" had become with the black and white faithful, as was already being booed and jeered at every opportunity.

Forest were trying to get back on level terms but they couldn’t get past the formidable defence and the impressive Cherry in goal. In fact, the reds should have been on level terms as Woan jinxed three players, but then with Steve Cherry floundering on the floor, jinxed himself, managing to send his shot wide from two yards.

Forest had another golden opportunity saved when Jemson got a touch on a cross, but couldn’t beat the formidable Cherry. Notts were under the cosh, and only had a saved Dave Regis shot to show since the goal. That was until John Williams latched onto a Regis pass, fooled his marker and slotted home from three yards with his left foot.

The score stayed the same until thirty seconds into the second half when Regis and Williams exchanged passes again to leave Williams a tight angle to score from, of which he duly obliged to get his second of the game and County’s third. Notts were beginning to pull away.

Within a minute Williams had got his hat-trick when a low cross from Thomas was turned in by the 'flying postman' to give the now stylish Magpies distance between them and the not so tricky tree.

Forest may have been down and out, but someone should have told that to Mills who now had a personal vendetta against the Notts fans that were booing his every move. But try as his might to score every effort that was tame or sailed over the crossbar just bought more jeers from the stands.

Quote of the day must surly go to Mr Nigel Jemson for the perfect timing of his statement "by far, we’re the best team here." Just as Williams dragged the ball back for the tremendous Andy Legg whose powerful drive found the top corner from distance.

Legg must earn special praise for his efforts as he continues his fight against cancer. Lesser men wouldn't have featured at all.

It was now exhibition stuff from County as they tormented the Reds with the fans doing the Soccer AM style ‘easy’ chant, as they knew their team were in the final at the first time of asking. And they didn’t even need Sir Charlie Palmer.

For the summary of the final of the event, check back to NCM within the next couple of days.