Newport County and Tranmere Rovers battle for final League One spot in play-off final


Tranmere Rovers will look to return to Sky Bet League One for the first time since their 2014 relegation when they take on Newport County on Saturday at Wembley.

The Whites’ relegation five years ago signalled the start of a spiral down into The National League, suffering two consecutive relegations before a spell of three-years stabilising themselves in the top tier of Non League.

However, under the guidance of Micky Mellon, Rovers target consecutive promotions after being promoted to Sky Bet League Two via the play-offs just twelve months ago.

Tranmere Rovers edged past Forest Green Rovers 2-1 on aggregate to reach the final as goals from Ollie Banks and James Norwood across two-legs made Joseph Mills’ strike worthless.

Meanwhile, Welsh side Newport County hope to reach Sky Bet League One for the first time in their history this weekend.

The Exiles scraped into the play-offs by just one point as Jamille Matt’s 87th-minute equaliser on the final day of the season meant the Welsh side leapfrogged Colchester United into seventh.

After scoring a controversial late penalty in their first leg to draw 1-1 with Mansfield Town, Newport County held on at the One Call Stadium to take the Stags to a penalty shoot-out.

The Exiles ploughed further disappointment into the Stags as, after missing out on automatic promotion on the final day, the Nottinghamshire-based outfit suffered heartbreak losing 3-5 on penalties.

Ones to watch

Credit: Tony Coombes / Liverpool Echo

Leading the line for Tranmere Rovers is likely to be top-scorer James Norwood (pictured). The striker has scored 32 goals from 52 appearances this season, leading to interest from Ipswich Town with the forward’s contract set to expire this summer.

However, Newport County will also need to cast an eye on Connor Jennings. The centre-forward has been the Whites’ main provider of goals this term (ten) and has also contributed ten goals.

At the heart of Newport’s defence lies Joe Day. The 28-year-old has kept a cleansheet on sixteen occasions this season, providing assurance in defence for Michael Flynn’s side.

29-year-old Robbie Willmott has endured another successful season with the Exiles. Contributing twelve assists, the tricky winger has become a popular figure at Rodney Parade as a result of his linking play with 23-goal striker Padraig Amond.

Form book

Newport County embarked on an impressive run of form to reach the national stadium. The Exiles are unbeaten in their last twelve league fixtures (including play-off games) and drew 0-0 with Tranmere Rovers in their last meeting back in early April.

On the other hand, Micky Mellon’s side have struggled to make the net bulge in the run-in to Saturday’s Wembley appearance. The Whites had won just once since the start of March prior to their play-off fixtures against FGR; however, Rovers have scored more than once just six times since the turn of 2019.

Team news

Tranmere Rovers and Newport County have no fresh injury concerns.

Mark Ellis, Luke McCullough, Evan Gumbs and Ishmael Miller all remain long term absentees for the Super Whites.

From the dug-outs

Michael Flynn, Newport County boss, hopes previous experiences of playing at Wembley will inspire his players this weekend.

“I think it can help [playing at Wembley previously]with the build-up and everything but once you get on that pitch, the players have to stand up and be counted.

“I think there’s only three players in the squad who haven’t been to Wembley in a playing capacity.

“We’ve got a very experienced team in regard to that but I’m sure a lot of the Tranmere players have been there as well. It can help in the build up with the pre-match nerves but it’s whoever handles the occasion best when kick-off happens.

Meanwhile, Micky Mellon, Tranmere Rovers boss, said that some of his players will have learnt from having been on the winning and losing side at Wembley in recent years and that will inspire them to do their best to win.

“I think we have learned awful lot. I think the first time that we went to Wembley, I’ve said before for myself and the rest of Tranmere, the impact it would have on a group that hadn’t been there before, so we learnt an awful lot about that.

“We are familiar there now and there is less to concentrate on in terms of the environment and it is as important as focusing on the game as that’s all we can effect.

“We’ll go down there and be able to concentrate more on what is important for us as a team and that’s the performance of the group and we need to make sure we get that right and if we do that, that will be enough.”


About Author

When not busy covering local news for EssexLive, Matt Lee can be found in the press box at Portman Road covering Ipswich Town's return to the Championship and push for the Premier League.

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