Sitting in the Notts County office this morning, like any fan I can’t help but reflect constantly on the weekend’s events. County’s history in the FA Cup found it repeating itself as they were drawn against Manchester City with the chance of another tantalising upset more at the front of everyone’s thoughts.
The last time the two clubs faced each other in the FA Cup, Neil Warnock’s Notts County recorded what would become a famous 1-0 win that booked his side a place in the Quarter-finals. On that occasion, the decider came from striker Gary Lund, who fascinatingly, was transfer-listed when he played in the match (only featuring due to first-choice David Regis being cup-tied). Both teams have changed considerably since that cold February afternoon. Where twenty years ago it was the likes of Colin Hendry and Niall Quinn lining up for the blues Sheikh Mansour’s billions have given way to a new wave of stars including James Milner, Patrick Viera and Edin Dzeko who all featured at Meadow Lane. Where for County it was Craig Short who had to brilliantly master Quinn, fast-forward to 2011 and it was the brilliant anticipation and determination of young Krystian Pearce given the job of marshalling the formidable partnership of Tevez and Dzeko.
The millions of pounds spent on the strong team City fielded would be frightening if we spent a moment adding it up, but Paul Ince made sure this did nothing to daunt his players, who made sure they showed as much attacking endeavour as their illustrious visitors. It was a surprise to all but those inside the ground when the hosts took the lead in the second half, midfielder Neal Bishop rising to head the ball in from a John Harley corner sending the sixteen thousand fans into ecstasy. Though the headlines might have been for Bishop’s goal, it would have been so without a superb delivery from the inspired Jon Harley, who reminded so many why he was tipped as a future England full back ten yeas ago.
The match continued in a typical cup tie atmosphere, with the Magpies being constantly roared on by a boisterous crowd. City manager, Roberto Mancini, visibly rattled made changes to his side as they searched for a breakthrough. As the game entered its final stages, new signing Edin Dzeko scored his first goal for the Manchester Club to level up the scoring. Both sides had chances to win it in injury time minutes but at the final whistle all the cheers came from the Home stands, as Notts County now relish a trip to Eastlands to take on the Premier League giants once more that will guarantee that, despite vital games against Walsall and Tranmere on the horizon, every County fan remains seduced by the magic of the FA Cup.