It was a bitterly disappointing end to the season for Nolan, who made one change to the side which played at Coventry, Lewis Alessandra replacing Matty Virtue in midfield.
Coventry were first to threaten in front of the crowd of over 17,600, Max Biamou challenging Adam Collin, but the keeper grabbed the ball at the second attempt. The first corner went to Coventry in the sixth minute and saw them take the lead. The Notts defence failed to clear the ball and it fell for Biamou seven yards out and his overhead kick found the bottom corner. Notts’ first chance came in the 11th minute, but Dan Jones’ teasing free kick into the box would not fall for Jonathan Forte and eventually a free kick was awarded to the visitors. Jon Stead was next to try his luck but he sent a difficult volley over the bar. Matt Tootle was yellow-carded in the 15th minute, bringing down Biamou as Coventry broke, referee Darren Drysdale playing the advantage, only for the visitors to be flagged offside. Marc McNulty had been quiet but he almost scored in the 21st minute, breaking into the left channel and firing narrowly over. Jordan Shipley was next to carve an opening for the visitors and looked certain to score until Tootle made a goal-saving block on the edge of the six-yard box. Coventry’s Michael Doyle was next into the referee’s book for a high challenge on Liam Noble, but the free kick came to nothing as Notts struggled to mount meaningful attacks. Coventry nearly went further ahead when Jorge Grant lost the ball on halfway and the visitors broke into the box, the ball being hacked out for a corner, which came to nothing. Alessandra was booked in the 31st minute for a foul on Chris Stokes wide left of the 18-yard box but the free kick was dealt with easily. Coventry went 2-0 ahead in the 37th minute when McNulty scored, confidently converting a low cross into the box from the right. But Notts were back in the game a minute before half-time as a long Elliott Hewitt throw was blasted home at the far post by Grant. During four minutes of added time a furious melee erupted, with several players clashing, McNulty and Shaun Brisley both being shown yellow cards when things calmed down. This proved the final action of a tense first half which ended with Coventry leading 2-1 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate.
Nolan brought on Michael O’Connor for Noble at the interval and he was soon in the action as Notts started at a much faster pace, firing a long-range shot goalwards, before Brisley headed a half-chance wide. Notts continued to pour forward and Grant showed some trickery on the edge of the box but his low shot was easily saved by Lee Burge, who then came out well to collect a long Collin free kick into the box. It was Coventry’s turn to attack and there was a clash of heads between Biamou and Richard Duffy, the visitors being given a free kick on the edge of the box, which Doyle curled just over the top. Stead was within inches of drawing Notts level when he worked his way into the box and saw Burge tip his effort just wide. And seconds later Forte headed into the net but the linesman had already raised his flag for offside, though television replays showed he was clearly onside. Forte was through again as Notts poured forward and was denied by a last-ditch tackle by Dominic Hyam. But Coventry struck a hammer blow in the 71st minute when Notts failed to clear the ball in their area and Biamou pounced to beat Collin with ease, though again television replays showed a Sky Blues player was offside in the build-up. Soon afterwards two-goal Biamou was replaced by Jonson Clarke-Harris, followed shortly by the arrival of Shola Ameobi for Alessandra as Nolan chased the game in the final 15 minutes. But the match was all over in the 86th minute when Tom Bayliss broke through and finished emphatically into the bottom corner to make it 4-1 on the night.
Notts County: Collin, Jones, Brisley, Duffy, Tootle, Grant, Hewitt, Noble (O’Connor 45), Alessandra (Ameobi 78), Stead, Forte.
Booked: Tootle, Brisley, Alessandra.
Coventry City: Burge, Grimmer, Willis, Hyam, Stokes, Bayliss, Kelly, Doyle, Shipley, McNulty (Ponticelli 90), Biamou (Clarke-Harris 74).
Booked: Doyle, McNulty.