League Two - Play-off Final
Newport0Tranmere1

League Two play-off final: Newport County 0-1 Tranmere Rovers

Connor Jennings is mobbed by his Tranmere team-mates after his winner against Newport
Connor Jennings scored his 13th goal of the season to secure promotion for Tranmere

Tranmere Rovers earned a spot in League One thanks to Connor Jennings' last-gasp extra-time winner against 10-man Newport County.

Jennings headed home Jake Caprice's perfect cross to break the resistance of a Newport side who battled with great spirit despite a numerical disadvantage.

An even contest swung decisively in Tranmere's favour when County captain Mark O'Brien was sent off for a second bookable offence in the 89th minute.

It compounded Newport's misery as Michael Flynn's side felt they were denied a clear penalty just moments earlier when Emmanuel Monthe appeared to foul Newport forward Jamille Matt.

Rovers' win was their second play-off final success in as many years.

Rovers return to familiar stage

Rovers were participating in their first Football League play-off final since 1991, when they beat Bolton Wanderers at Wembley in the third-tier final, but the stadium has been a home from home for them the past three years.

While neither side has been a stranger to Wembley in recent seasons, Micky Mellon's side have been finalists in the previous two National League play-offs, and were chasing back-to-back play-off promotions.

Tranmere, unchanged from their semi-final success over Forest Green Rovers, struggled to impose themselves in a scrappy first period, but arguably had the clearer chances when they did manage to test Newport goalkeeper Joe Day.

James Norwood in action for Tranmere Rovers against Newport
Tranmere top-scorer James Norwood went close for Micky Mellon's side

The best opportunity fell to top scorer James Norwood on 26 minutes, but he blasted the ball straight at Day as he volleyed at goal first time from Caprice's excellent cut-back.

Norwood, the joint-top scorer in English football this season with 32 goals, came into this contest knowing just one goal would see him eclipse Sergio Aguero and lead the standings outright for 2018-19.

He headed over just before the interval from another fast counter, but it was increasingly clear there was a very fine margin between the sides who finished sixth and seventh in League Two.

Rovers thought Dan Butler's clumsy challenge might have earned them a second-half penalty, while County had their own protests waved away for a possible handball from a Matt shot.

Norwood's big chance finally came in added-on time, but he poked wide with the goal at his mercy.

Tranmere struggled against County's 10 men in the first period of extra time but Jennings' pinpoint through-ball presented Norwood another chance, with the shot deflected wide.

Rovers pushed and pushed, but seemed destined to fail to find a winner until Jennings' vital touch with just a minute of extra time remaining.

County's arduous road to Wembley a step too far

Incredibly, Wembley was the stage for Newport's 62nd game of the season, with the Exiles having reached the fifth round of the FA Cup and the knockout stage of the Checkatrade Trophy on the way to their eye-catching end-of-season run that saw them reach the play-offs.

In the top four tiers of English football, only Chelsea, who will play their 63rd game of the campaign when they face Arsenal in the final of the Europa League, have competed more times this season.

The Exiles also came into this contest with a run of 12 games unbeaten, their best since 1938, but game 13 proved unlucky for the Amber Army.

The Exiles looked sharp from the get-go with Matt heading wide within the first minute and within inches of opening the scoring when Padraig Amond flicked on a free-kick that evaded Matt's touch by inches as Newport showed why they have been in such fine form.

Jamile Matt is brought down by Manny Monthe
Newport were denied a penalty after Jamile Matt was brought down by Emmanuel Monthe

The Exiles were direct but effective throughout the first period, with Matt and Amond stretching Rovers' defence and allowing midfielders to make late runs into the box and Joss Labadie covering an implausible amount of ground on an energy-sapping day.

However, like their opponents, most of Newport's first half efforts were off target, a continuation on a theme from their semi-final second leg at Mansfield's Field Mill where more than 60 efforts on goal from both sides yielded a 0-0 stalemate.

The Exiles were unable to look as threatening after the interval, though they were rarely troubled themselves before an absolutely outstanding save by Scott Davies denied them on 73 minutes, with Davies incredibly managing to tip Matt's point-blank header onto the post after Dan Butler's imperious cross.

The Exiles were also denied what looked a huge penalty shout for a foul on Matt with only four minutes of normal time remaining and saw another penalty claim turned down seconds before O'Brien was sent off for a foul on Norwood that produced a second yellow card.

Extra time saw Flynn's side forced to defend as Tranmere pushed with their numerical advantage, though they did threaten Davies through Amond's header and a shot from a narrow angle by substitute Keanu Marsh-Brown.

They seemed set to earn a penalty shootout, but Jennings had other ideas.

Line-ups

Newport

  • 1Day
  • 26PooleBooked at 112mins
  • 25O'BrienBooked at 89mins
  • 28Demetriou
  • 3Butler
  • 7WillmottSubstituted forMarsh-Brownat 105'minutes
  • 16SheehanSubstituted forBakinsonat 90'minutes
  • 4LabadieSubstituted forDolanat 72'minutes
  • 17Bennett
  • 11MattBooked at 55minsSubstituted forAzeezat 103'minutes
  • 9Amond

Substitutes

  • 2Pipe
  • 8Dolan
  • 10Marsh-Brown
  • 14Azeez
  • 15Bakinson
  • 22Crofts
  • 27McKirdy

Tranmere

  • 1Davies
  • 14Caprice
  • 4NelsonSubstituted forBuxtonat 115'minutes
  • 6Monthe
  • 3Ridehalgh
  • 28Banks
  • 19MorrisSubstituted forMcNultyat 82'minutes
  • 8HarrisSubstituted forPringleat 53'minutes
  • 17PerkinsBooked at 77mins
  • 11Jennings
  • 10Norwood

Substitutes

  • 2Buxton
  • 5McNulty
  • 9Mullin
  • 22Gilmour
  • 25Pilling
  • 27Pringle
  • 29Dagnall
Referee:
Ross Joyce
Attendance:
25,217

Match Stats

Home TeamNewportAway TeamTranmere
Possession
Home47%
Away53%
Shots
Home22
Away23
Shots on Target
Home5
Away6
Corners
Home3
Away6
Fouls
Home18
Away20

Live Text

Match ends, Newport County 0, Tranmere Rovers 1.

Second Half Extra Time ends, Newport County 0, Tranmere Rovers 1.

Foul by James Norwood (Tranmere Rovers).

Keanu Marsh-Brown (Newport County) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Hand ball by David Perkins (Tranmere Rovers).

Goal!

Goal! Newport County 0, Tranmere Rovers 1. Connor Jennings (Tranmere Rovers) header from very close range to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Jake Caprice with a cross.

Attempt missed. James Norwood (Tranmere Rovers) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Oliver Banks with a cross.

Foul by David Perkins (Tranmere Rovers).

Adebayo Azeez (Newport County) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Substitution

Substitution, Tranmere Rovers. Adam Buxton replaces Sid Nelson.

Booking

Regan Poole (Newport County) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Connor Jennings (Tranmere Rovers) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Regan Poole (Newport County).

Attempt missed. Oliver Banks (Tranmere Rovers) right footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Ben Pringle.

Foul by David Perkins (Tranmere Rovers).

Keanu Marsh-Brown (Newport County) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Sid Nelson (Tranmere Rovers).

Mickey Demetriou (Newport County) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Corner, Tranmere Rovers. Conceded by Dan Butler.

Attempt blocked. James Norwood (Tranmere Rovers) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Connor Jennings.

Corner, Newport County. Conceded by Scott Davies.

Attempt missed. Keanu Marsh-Brown (Newport County) right footed shot from the right side of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Matthew Dolan.

Second Half Extra Time begins Newport County 0, Tranmere Rovers 0.

Substitution

Substitution, Newport County. Keanu Marsh-Brown replaces Robbie Willmott.

First Half Extra Time ends, Newport County 0, Tranmere Rovers 0.

Corner, Tranmere Rovers. Conceded by Dan Butler.

Attempt saved. Padraig Amond (Newport County) header from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Robbie Willmott with a cross.

Corner, Newport County. Conceded by Oliver Banks.

Substitution

Substitution, Newport County. Adebayo Azeez replaces Jamille Matt.

Offside, Tranmere Rovers. Oliver Banks tries a through ball, but Liam Ridehalgh is caught offside.

Attempt blocked. David Perkins (Tranmere Rovers) left footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Oliver Banks.

Attempt blocked. James Norwood (Tranmere Rovers) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Connor Jennings.

Offside, Tranmere Rovers. Jake Caprice tries a through ball, but Connor Jennings is caught offside.

Attempt saved. Matthew Dolan (Newport County) left footed shot from more than 40 yards on the left wing is saved in the top left corner.

First Half Extra Time begins Newport County 0, Tranmere Rovers 0.

Substitution

Substitution, Newport County. Tyreeq Bakinson replaces Josh Sheehan.

Full Time

Second Half ends, Newport County 0, Tranmere Rovers 0.

Attempt missed. James Norwood (Tranmere Rovers) right footed shot from the left side of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Oliver Banks.

Dismissal

Second yellow card to Mark O'Brien (Newport County) for a bad foul.

James Norwood (Tranmere Rovers) wins a free kick on the left wing.

goal

As It Stood

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Lincoln City462316773433085
2Bury4622131182562679
3MK Dons4623101371492279
4Mansfield4620161069412876
5Forest Green4620141268472174
6Tranmere4620131363501373
7Newport462011155959071
8Colchester4620101665531270
9Exeter4619131460491170
10Stevenage462010165955470
11Carlisle46208186762568
12Crewe46198196059165
13Swindon461616145956364
14Oldham461614166760762
15Northampton461419136463161
16Cheltenham461512195768-1157
17Grimsby46168224556-1156
18Morecambe461412205470-1654
19Crawley46158235168-1753
20Port Vale461213213955-1649
21Cambridge461211234066-2647
22Macclesfield461014224874-2644
23Notts County46914234884-3641
24Yeovil46913244166-2540
View full League Two table

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