Tranmere Rovers have been promoted to League One after beating Newport County in the League Two play-off final at Wembley Stadium.
Connor Jennings headed in the winner for Tranmere with just a minute remaining of extra-time after the match had finished 0-0 following 90 minutes of normal time.
Newport captain Mark O'Brien had been sent off for a second yellow card in the 89th minute for pulling back James Norwood, in a tight game.
Tranmere overcame Forest Green on aggregate in their play-off semi-final tie, while it came down to penalties for Newport to beat Mansfield and secure their place in the final at the national stadium.
As expected, it was a cagey start to the game on a sunny day in West London, and it took until the 25th minute for the first real chance of the game. Norwood’s fierce volley looked to give Tranmere the lead, but his strike was straight at Newport goalkeeper Joe Day, who did extremely well to quickly react to the powerfully hit shot.
The hot weather was playing a part in the pace of the game, so much so the referee called a drinks break with 15 minutes to go before the interval.
With ten minute to go before half time, Tranmere midfielder David Perkins found himself in space on the edge of the Newport penalty area, but his tame effort was easily saved by Day. Rovers with the best opportunities of the game in a very evenly matched clash. 0-0 the score at the break.
The second half started in similar fashion to the end of the first, but Tranmere were looking the more likely to find the opening goal. Substitute Ben Pringle’s overhit free-kick almost caught out Day, but the 28 year old managed to tip the ball over his crossbar.
The game was starting to open up as player tiredness started to became a factor in the match and Tranmere felt they should have had a penalty with just over 20 minutes to go. Dan Butler’s clumsy challenge on Kieron Morris in the penalty area went unpunished by referee Ross Joyce, when really it looked as though it should have been a spot kick.
Despite Tranmere’s control of the match, they’d failed to create too many clear cut chances and were almost made to pay with just over quarter of an hour to play. Jamille Matt has 14 league goals this season and it should have been 15 when his close range header looked to have given the Exiles the lead, but somehow Scott Davies tipped the effort onto his near post. The score remained 0-0.
Newport had grown into the game and felt they should have had a penalty with just over five minutes of normal time to go. Matt looked to have been tripped and the referee blew his whistle, but for an offside decision rather than a penalty. The assistant referee raising his flag just before the foul took place.
With extra-time looming, the game had certainly heated up and in the final minute of normal time the Welsh side were reduced to ten men. Defender O'Brien was dismissed for a second yellow card after he brought down Tranmere’s biggest threat James Norwood as Rovers looked to catch their opponents on the break. Despite five minutes of added time, Tranmere couldn’t find a winner and the game went to extra time.
Newport were defending resiliently with 10 men, but it was the Exiles with the best chance of extra-time. Keanu Marsh-Brown’s low strike was beaten away at his near post by Davies as the game remained goalless.
Tranmere’s best chance fell to Ollie Banks in the second period of extra-time. His first time shot was struck with power and narrowly missed the top corner of Day’s goal.
But the winning goal came with just a minute remaining of extra-time. Newport were starting to look tired after playing 35 minutes with a man less and a simple cross from the right hand side was headed in by an unmarked Connor Jennings to send the Tranmere fans into wild celebration.
Delight for Tranmere right at the death as they claim promotion to League One, their second promotion in two years. Despair for Newport, who will remain in League Two in the next campaign.
Featured from our writers: