Notts County remain on the critical list

Notts County 1 Luton Town 1
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Notts County fielded a Yugoslav keeper called Avramovic when they rubbed shoulders with the top-flight élite for three dizzy years in the early 1980s. Now, the world's oldest football club urgently need a sort of Abramovich. Reports of their impending demise should today prove exaggerated. But the patient remains critical.

Notts County fielded a Yugoslav keeper called Avramovic when they rubbed shoulders with the top-flight élite for three dizzy years in the early 1980s. Now, the world's oldest football club urgently need a sort of Abramovich. Reports of their impending demise should today prove exaggerated. But the patient remains critical.

No one should mistake the reprieve that lies in store at a Football League meeting in London for anything more. It is too early for the words "terminally sick" to be removed from the diagnosis.

Grateful for small mercies, the 7,505 crowd - County's biggest since Boxing Day and almost 2,500 higher than for the previous home game - filed away from Meadow Lane on Saturday, at least, convinced they had not just watched their final fixture there.

The match programme also reflected a business-as-usual approach, the commercial page promising action over the problem of pigeons messing spectator seats from their roost in the stand roof. Yet, even in the medium term, it will take much more than the scraping of buckets that rattled to the merry tune of fan donations on Saturday.

Only for now will a Nottingham City Council loan to the Supporters Trust spearheading the fight for survival prevent extinction as it helps raise the near-£1.4m demanded by the Inland Revenue as an alternative to winding-up proceedings. Major investment is still required beyond the scope of the rescuing consortium led by the former director Peter Joyce.

Debts stand at more than £3m and the club, founded in 1862, have made history by spending longer in administration (almost 15 months) than any of their stricken relatives.

"When this consortium's bid fell through last Monday, a lot of us thought that might be the end," said electrician Ian Mills, who last missed a League match involving Notts 1,038 games ago in August, 1980. "Now they have come back in, I'm optimistic we'll survive this deadlinebut the cash has to keep rolling in.."

In such adversity, the football family protects one of its own. The draw with Luton Town that brought bottom-of-the-table Notts only their second point and second goal of the Second Division season attracted fans from many other clubs.

It must be the first time that Nottingham Forest fans wearing their red shirts have taken up seats at Meadow Lane and been applauded for doing so. The Forest striker David Johnson went a step further and chipped in £500.

Celtic's Neil Lennon was present as well while a banner among Luton's fans - their club are £11m in debt and also in administration - said simply: Don't Go.

The centre-half Tony Barras did his bit with a 30-yard screamer just after the hour following Chris Coyne's glancing first-half header for a Luton side who had the midfielder Paul Hughes sent off for a second yellow card near the end.

Now some millionaire backer could make himself a hero.

Notts County 4-4-2: Mildenhall; Bolland, Barras, Livesey, Richardson; Baldry, McFaul (Stallard), Caskey, Baraclough; Platt, Heffernan.

Luton Town 4-4-2: Beckwith; Boyce, Coyne, Bayliss, Neilson (Davis 80); Foley, Hughes, Spring, Brkovic (Crowe 62); Howard, McSheffrey.

Bookings: Notts County: Barras, Caskey, Richardson. Luton: Howard, Bayliss, Hughes (sent off)

Referee: C Webster.

Man of the match: Tony Barras

Attendance: 7,505.

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