Notts County headed into this pre-season campaign on a high, after sealing their return to England’s fourth tier last time around following an eye-catching National League season.
In a dramatic tussle with Wrexham, the Magpies eventually fell short of the only automatic promotion spot, despite amassing an eye-catching tally of 107 points in their 46 league outings, and had to settle for a place in the playoffs as a result.
With the playoff semi-finals contested over a single leg, Luke Williams’s side then looked confined to another season in non-league as they trailed 2-0 against Boreham Wood, but a double from Aden Baldwin,
with the latter coming seven minutes into injury time, forced a spell of extra time, which Jodi Jones scored in at the death to book their place at Wembley in dramatic fashion.
The Magpies would meet Chesterfield in the capital and again relied on a late goal to force extra time, as they trailed by a goal to nil until John Bostock’s 88th-minute leveller, and after
Ruben Rodrigues drew them level for the second time in the additional half-hour, the tie went to a penalty shootout which Notts County prevailed in to seal their return to the football league after four years in the fifth tier.
Having already kicked off their pre-season preparations with a 3-0 victory over Nuneaton Borough on Tuesday, with Macaulay Langstaff, Jim qO’Brien and Cedwyn Scott getting on the scoresheet, the Magpies will look to continue their preparations for the League Two return with a positive result on home turf against second-tier opposition.
They meet a Stoke City side who turn their attention to a first full season under the management of Alex Neil, and their sixth consecutive term in the Championship.
Following the departure of Michael O’Neill early last term, the Scottish boss departed Sunderland to take over at the Potters, and in his 40 league games in charge, they managed 46 points.
That tally resulted in an eventual 16th-placed finish in England’s second tier, although they were set up to push for a top-half spot, only to endure a dismal end to the campaign,
in which they went seven league matches without a victory, while suffering five defeats in the process, culminating in a 2-0 beating away at Watford on the final day in the beginning of May.
Surely left disappointed by that end after a positive run in the first months of the new year, Stoke will be keen to improve and sustain a bid for a higher finish this time around, and they will hope to kick off pre-season in style in Nottingham before Levante, Derby County, Burton Albion and Everton in the coming weeks.