The top 10 best County games ever – by Adam Sundle
After the debate that the top 10 worst County games provoked, I decided it was only right to stimulate some positivity amongst the fanbase. Indeed, despite many bad days, since I started supporting County in 05/06 there have been some true classics and great days out. It is only fair that I pick my top 10 best County games as they have brought me such joy over the years. As I was only born in 1999, many great County games against the likes of Chesterfield, Man City and West Ham don’t make the cut. Not being born yet makes them quite difficult to judge and feel nostalgic about. But there are still some great games from the past 16 years to choose from….
10) Nuneaton 0-3 County, April 2019
Ok, now hear me out. I’m sure this game for many is at number 1. But what makes this match lower down is the game almost felt a bit too easy. Had County won it in the last minute, it would be straight at number 1. However, it felt like a bit of a foregone conclusion by half-time against bottom of the table. Whilst a great day for the club, the match almost wasn’t enough of a rollercoaster ride like other matches on this list might be. 3,500 County fans invading Nuneaton and occupying the entire ground made it a great atmosphere and a special day involved.
I do also have a confession to make on this game which slightly tinges the day for me. I couldn’t go. Yes, I had spent the past few years in this division travelling to Histon, North Ferriby and places like Boston and Workington on Tuesday nights only to not be able to go to the biggest game for years when we finally escaped the division and won our first title in over 50 years. Maybe this match is just so low down because I’m still a bit bitter.
9) County 1-0 Wycombe, May 2008
Whilst not an especially enthralling display, County showed tremendous grit to withstand wave after wave of Wycombe pressure. The match setup up our Wembley day out and sparked mass celebrations at the end. Liam Dickinson’s goal in this game is arguably my favourite County goal of all time. It epitomised every great attribute he had at the time. The strength, determination, the endeavour, the aggression, the pace to get away from the defender and the power to withhold the pressure from him, the finish and composure at the end to tuck it past Frank Fielding in the Wycombe goal and the raw passion in his celebration.
8) County 6-0 Wycombe, December 2007
Thanks to Wycombe for providing us 2 games in the top 10 (and in the same season). County were languishing in roughly 18th in the league and after recent defeats to bottom of the table Lincoln and 7th tier Staines in the FA Cup, County were really struggling. The Hatters came up against a Wycombe who were challenging in the play-offs. This game proved to be a dramatic turning point in County’s season as we would go on a sensational run that would eventually see us as play-off champions. It was a wet, miserable day and had all the makings for a poor game of football but, a young hatters side turned on the style with Adam Proudlock bagging a hat-trick including catching Fielding (again) off his line from close to the half-way line. A notable mention must also go to beating Southport 6-0 where the Hatters genuinely could have hit double figures that day.
7) Chester 0-6 County, April 2019
In County’s title winning season, this was the best we played. County played some brilliant attacking football against a strong Chester side. County’s 4th highlighted a great display with the Hatters escaping through the flanks and cutting a ball back to Darren Stephenson who calmly finished at the keepers’ near post.
6) County 0-0 Carlisle, May 2006
Yep, you read that right, a 0-0 is 6th on this list. But, this was the day Gannon’s side completed the great escape. At Christmas, after a 0-6 defeat to Macclesfield, County looked destined to drop in non-league. But when Jim took over for the second half of the season, a resurgent County whose form would have seen them in the play-offs if purely based on the results of the second-half of the season managed to stay up on the final day. The match was riddled with tension and a fantastic atmosphere aided by a large Carlisle following who were top of the league. Despite being a 0-0, both sides came close to scoring on several efforts including a Keith Briggs thunderbolt that hit the bar. It was in the days before real internet access on mobile phones so, fans were getting text updates from friends to keep them connected with the latest scores. It was a dramatic day with County being in the relegation zone at several points thanks to Oxford being ahead against Leyton Orient. After the final whistle, the Oxford game was still going so, the County players huddled round a radio to listen to the scores to see if they had done enough to avoid the drop. Indeed, Leyton Orient managed a late winner sparking pandemonium on the pitch and in the stands which caused a mass pitch invasion. You may suggest how little ambition I have with one of my favourite ever matches merely being a day where we narrowly avoided relegation. But, this was the sort of day that epitomised what it meant to be a lower-league football fan it’s not all the glitz of winning trophies and being in the Premier League but, sometimes it’s about those days where you narrowly avoid relegation. This was also my first season as a County fan. The second-half of this season and the tenseness it brought and subsequent successful end inspired me to keep supporting County and gave me a true flavour of what it means to be a lower-league football fan.
5) County 5-3 Bolton, November 2021
I had finished writing this article just before the Bolton game but there was no way I couldn’t include it. Our 3-0 win vs Swindon to make us record breakers in 2007 being the unlucky game to drop out of the top 10. The only match on this list which wasn’t managed by a Jim Gannon led side, this was an electric game on the pitch and in the stands. County from 2 goals down to beat a side 2 divisions above with 10,000 watching in the stands and hundreds of thousands at home watching on in a delirious cup tie. In my time supporting County I can only recall maybe 3 sell out games and this felt like hopefully the first of many to come in future years. I think what generated such excitement around this game wasn’t so much that it was a tie against a team 2 divisions above, but that it felt like a return to the Football League days which fans have yearned after years in Non-league. In all honesty, I don’t think the result was that much of a shock given County’s recent investment but, it sparked exhilaration amongst the fanbase that this could well be another stepping-stone in returning to the glory days once again.
4) Bury 0-1 County, March 2006
Again, another low-scoring affair but this game was a real 12-pointer for both relegation threatened sides. The match was played through a torrential downpour and on one of the muddiest pitches I have seen at a County game. It was a true lower-league game with passion, desire and battles all over the pitch but, with true quality involved too. Despite the game not too far from being abandoned it was a true spectacle with both sides showing ambition for the win and the game could have easily had several goals in it. The winner came late on when once again Liam Dickinson was one-on-one and smashed it past a young Kasper Schmeichel. There was a blaring atmosphere, and it was these sorts of nights persuaded me to fall in love with County. Indeed, the fact that it was a lower-scoring affair doesn’t matter. There immense tension for this game, spurring adrenaline amongst the fans which ebbed to the players who put on a spectacle.
3) County 2-0 Curzon, April 2019
This game ranks so much higher than the Nuneaton match because there was far more jeopardy involved. Whilst the County game itself was non-eventful, most of the fans’ attention was diverted to the Spennymoor v County game. Indeed, if it wasn’t for Glenn Taylor’s 94th minute winner that day, County probably wouldn’t have gone up. A special mention must also go to the forgotten hero of that day Aaron Gould who saved a Chorley penalty too. County fans were obsessively refreshing the scores to see if Spennymoor could grab a winner and Indeed Taylor’s goal gradually reverberated around the ground sparking hysteria at EP. Many fans didn’t know how best to celebrate. I kept smacking friends in the stomach for some reason. A fan in front of me didn’t believe that Spennymoor had scored and he shouted at me ‘I have to see it! I have to see if they have definitely scored!’ And indeed they had. This created a delirious atmosphere at the end of the game with fans running up to the dugout to show the players the score. The fact it was so dramatic is why this game ranks so high.
2) Rochdale 2-3 County, May 2008
A special day out breaking the Wembley curse for the Hatters. Despite falling behind, the Hatters turned on the style with a special mention to Paul Turnbull who at 18 years old bossed the midfield. We must not forget Nathan Stanton too who punched the ball into his own net to give County an equaliser
1) Rotherham 1-4 County, February 2008
This may appear to be a bit of a peculiar top choice but, this is genuinely the best I have ever seen County play. It was vintage liquid, Gannon football whose incredibly young side passed Rotherham off the park. A 19-year-old Tommy Rowe scored a hat-trick and the game epitomised everything great about that County side and the way they played that season. Indeed, it may not be at the forefront of the minds for the vast majority of County fans but, this is as close to total football as I have ever seen from a County side and they were a joy to watch. It was a great advert for lower-league football, proving that there is great quality to be seen. This felt like a very significant moment for this team and inspired belief that the club could continue their impressive form to achieve promotion. I have no doubt that if the club hadn’t gone into administration 14 months later, which meant having to dismantle this squad, then Jim Gannon would have led the core of this youthful County side to the Championship.
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