Tranmere Rovers moved to within one win of achieving back-to-back promotions as they overcame 10-man Forest Green Rovers to reach the League Two play-off final.
Micky Mellon’s side, who went up through the National League play-offs last term, will face Newport County at Wembley on Saturday, 25 May for a place in the third tier.
Leading 1-0 from Friday’s first leg, Tranmere were initially pegged back at The New Lawn as Joseph Mills headed in for the Gloucestershire club.
But a well-taken volley from the division’s top scorer James Norwood against his old club quickly put Tranmere level in the second leg and restored their lead in the tie.
The hosts’ Carl Winchester was shown a controversial second yellow card with 23 minutes remaining and the 10 men could not find a goal to force extra time.
The result ensured Mellon’s team will be going to Wembley for the third year in a row.
Tranmere are bidding to return to League One for the first time since their relegation in 2014, which was followed by another relegation and then three years in non-league.
Forest Green are now set for a third straight term in the fourth tier, having reached the English Football League for the first time with a win over Tranmere in 2017’s National League promotion final.
An extra man for about 100 minutes
Tranmere had the advantage of an extra man for about 100 minutes over the two games, with Gavin Gunning shown a straight red card early in the first leg and then Winchester’s second-half dismissal on Monday.
Yet the hosts – who have been named as the greenest football club in the world – gave themselves real hope when Junior Mondal’s inswinging free-kick from the right flank was nodded home by former Perth Glory left-back Mills.
But Norwood – who missed numerous chances in the first leg at Prenton Park – restored Tranmere’s advantage after David Perkins’ clipped ball forward was knocked into his path by Kieron Morris’ guided header.
Just a point had separated Tranmere and Forest Green in the League Two table, with Mark Cooper’s side winning both of the league meetings between the two this term.
But Tranmere and Newport’s progression means the teams that finished the regular season in sixth and seventh respectively have reach 25 May’s decider, having both eliminated sides that finished closer to the automatic promotion places.
Wirral-based Premier League referee Mike Dean – a Tranmere fan – was among the travelling supporters at The New Lawn, enjoying the moment as Mellon’s men celebrated a third play-off semi-final victory in as many seasons.
Tranmere manager Micky Mellon told BBC Radio Merseyside:
“We’ll enjoy this evening because you have to enjoy getting to Wembley – it’s every club’s, fan’s, player’s and manager’s dream.
“But we’ll get them prepared and get ready to go again to try to gain the next place out of the division.
“It was an unbelievable goal (from James Norwood) and I’m glad to see it go in.”
Forest Green boss Mark Cooper told BBC Radio Gloucestershire:
“Obviously we’re bitterly upset to have not got through.
“We’ve played half of the tie with 10 men and I don’t think it’s fair the way that a little club has been treated. I’m sure I’ll get another phonecall from PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited) tomorrow saying ‘we’re really sorry we’ve let you down again’. There was nothing in the sending off.
“It wasn’t meant to be. Anyone who saw those two games would say we didn’t get a fair crack of the whip.
“It’s been a brilliant season and we’ll have a quick break and then we start again. We’ll try and recruit well and bring in four or five good players.”
Credit: Source link