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The Notts County manager Luke Williams borrowed from one of the greats of the game with his strategy for his side's National League play-off final penalty shootout against Chesterfield at the weekend.

Louis Van Gaal famously substituted Jasper Cillessen for Tim Krul at the 2014 World Cup finals as his Netherlands side entered the closing minutes of extra-time in a quarter-final against Costa Rica. Krul, once of Falkirk but by then the No.1 at Newcastle United was introduced in favour of Cillessen with his penalty-saving prowess deemed to be better than that of the Dutch national team starter.

Looking back now the statistical evidence was hardly compelling with Krul boasting two saves from the 47 penalties he had faced up until that point in his career. Still, that was a better tally than the zero successful saves from 17 faced by Cillessen.

Belief in who might save a penalty or not comes down to a subjective reckoning and, on this occasion, Van Gaal had got the call spot on as Krul went on to deny the Costa Ricans twice as the Netherlands booked their spot in the quarter-finals.

The night in question in balmy Bahia will hardly have been prevalent in Williams' mind when he asked another goalkeeper with Scottish Premiership connections to limber up for Saturday's shootout against Chesterfield. Archie Mair duly replaced regular No.1 Sam Slocombe, who had made some superb saves during the preceding 120 minutes. Williams' decision would have the same desired outcome as that which Van Gaal secured.


It is almost three years since Mair left Aberdeen for Norwich City hoping to make a name for himself at Carrow Road. After a bright start in East Anglia, the 22-year from Turriff has found himself out on loan four times – at Kings Lynn, Lincoln City Dartford and now County – without making a single appearance in the first team. Indeed, even his time at Meadow Lane has yielded only a mere four games but that did not mean he was not prepared to take his chance when the opportunity arose, producing two superb saves – one from Darren Oldaker and the other from Jeff King – to spark jubilant scenes among County fans, players and management.

"It was unbelievable," Mair told the club's official channels after the win. "We were speaking this week and Tom Weal (goalkeeping coach) has done all the homework on penalties and everything and telling us to celebrate whether we saved one or scored one. I might have got a bit carried away, but when I got behind them, I was going crazy. It was unbelievable to see the joy on people's faces. Everyone is going crazy in the dressing room but I had to take a step back, sit down and try to take it all in but everyone is overjoyed. It's what everyone deserves. We've been unbelievable all season.

"I've only been here since January but from the first minute that I've been here how hard everyone has worked, all the staff, the players and how good the fans have been – it's well deserved. This club needs to be in the league and thankfully we are there."

It was clear Williams had taken a risk but he relied on a little local knowledge and put his faith in his goalkeeping coach Weal, who was formerly with Mair at Norwich, believing it would give them the best chance of winning promotion.

"It's a really tough one to make," he said. "You have to remove a guy that has given everything on the pitch in a big occasion, but they are the calls that you have to make and Archie is an extremely good penalty stopper – he is a good goalkeeper full stop by the way. I think he has the edge on Sam Slocombe on penalty stops, and he did incredible."