Newport 0-1 Tranmere: Rovers promoted from League Two play-off final – as it happened

Connor Jennings struck in the penultimate minute of extra-time to fire Tranmere Rovers to League One, sealing successive promotions

Last-gasp Jennings header seals Tranmere promotion

Now, get a load of Jacob Steinberg’s report from Wembley:

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The victorious Tranmere manager, Micky Mellon, talks after securing successive promotions. “Let’s give every credit to both sets of players, Newport kept fighting, it was a bit of a slog at the end but we’re delighted we came through it,” he says. “We are absolutely made up. Gary Brabin stopped the rot, I have just carried that on and I’m delighted to carry this group with such big hearts.”

Tranmere Rovers’ Scott Davieson and team mates celebrate winning the League Two Play-Off Final
Tranmere Rovers’ Scott Davieson and team mates celebrate winning the League Two Play-Off Final Photograph: Tony O’brien/Action Images

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Some post-match reaction, with Tranmere goalkeeper Scott Davies dropping a F-bomb which amuses the match-winner, Connor Jennings, no end. “I’m so proud of these boys, everyone wrote us off at Christmas,” Davies says, before letting his emotions get the better of him. “I told everyone, we’re below our level, we’ve been playing below our level for years. Everyone’s fucking ... sorry, everyone’s showing it now. It’s been a long season, a long few years. People were laughing at Tranmere when I signed here a few years ago. Now who’s laughing?”

Tranmere Rovers are promoted to League One!

Connor Jennings’s extra-time goal seals victory at Wembley! Tranmere’s players are absolutely ecstatic, they have done it – they have secured successive promotions. They have won a play-off final at the national stadium for the second time in two seasons. Ten-man Newport’s crestfallen players are scattered across the pitch, they’re going home to south Wales empty-handed.

Tranmere Rovers players celebrate victory
Tranmere Rovers players celebrate victory Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

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120 min: There will be two added minutes.

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GOAL! Newport 0-1 Tranmere (Jennings, 119)

Jennings heads in! Is that the winner at the death? Buxton, the substitute jinked inside Bakinson to open up some space and then Tranmere recycled possession. Caprice flew down the right flank and whipped a wonderful ball in to the back post, it fizzes beyond James Norwood but not the unmarked Jennings, who powers a header in beyond Joe Day. And Tranmere’s No 1 fan goes wild – Mike Dean runs along to the stairs and punches the air with glee. Joyous scenes unfold in the Tranmere end.

Tranmere Rovers’ Connor Jennings scores
Tranmere Rovers’ Connor Jennings scores Photograph: Carl Recine/Action Images
Jennings celebrates
Jennings celebrates Photograph: Tony O’brien/Action Images

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117 min: Day holds after Norwood heads at goal! Tranmere patiently probe on the edge of the box, Banks swings a neat ball in towards the front post, where Norwood gets in front of his man to steer a header towards goal. It was just wide but Day had to be doubly sure, and dived to his left to gather.

116 min: Demetriou winds one up but McNulty thumps the ball clear.

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115 min: Perkins, who has already been booked, drags down Azeez on halfway. Dolan fires a free-kick in. That is cleared but they win a throw-in, which Micky Demetriou will launch in from the right-hand side. Can they?

113 min: Newport launch the ball forward, the knockdown lands at the feet of the substitute Keanu Marsh-Brown and he rattles an effort towards Scott Davies’s front post. It required attention. Tranmere are readying some fresh legs of their own, with Adam Buxton replacing Sid Nelson.

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112 min: Poole catches Jennings with a tired challenge, a nasty one and the Manchester United loanee picks up a booking for his efforts.

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110 min: Ollie Banks, who sent a rocket into the top corner against Forest Green, arrows a shot over Joe Day’s goal. It bobbled ever so slightly before he hit it and, therefore, it was always rising.

109 min: Marsh-Brown buys a foul from Perkins on halfway but McNulty, the Tranmere skipper, stands his ground.

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108 min: Marsh-Brown tries to wriggle away from David Perkins but the Tranmere midfielder does brilliantly to hold his man up before smuggling the ball away. Tranmere promptly go up the other end and Norwood bends an effort goalwards but it is deflected wide by Dan Butler. Alert Newport defending.

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107 min: Marsh-Brown has a crack at goal after Dolan wins the ball 25 yards out. It is rifled low and hard, and Davies gets down to make a smart save.

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106 min: Keanu Marsh-Brown is on for Robbie Willmott, a positive substitution. Newport get the second half of extra-time under way at Wembley.

Half-time in extra-time: Newport 0-0 Tranmere

We head into the final 15 minutes of the season with penalties looming. Tranmere have not really made the most of the one-man advantage. Monthe and Ridehalgh got in each other’s way at the crucial moment as that corner came in.

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105 min: There will be one added minute. Tranmere win a corner ...

104 min: Newport win a corner out of nothing. Bakinson gees everyone up. But Willmott’s header is comfortably dealt with by Scott Davies.

103 min: Ade Azeez replaces Jamille Matt, who has put a real shift in. Matt was at the centre of that huge penalty call and also tested Scott Davies with a brilliant diving header.

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100 min: Jennings picks the ball up on halfway and gets his head up. There is only one destination in his mind: James Norwood. Jennings’s ball is decent, he sends it fizzing upfield but, just as Norwood is racing on to it, Demetriou dives into him and hauls him down. A livid Norwood screams for a penalty but the referee Ross Joyce shakes his head back at him. Replays shows Demetriou may well have got away with one there. The Newport defender was the last man, too.

99 min: Ridehalgh tries to reach a mammoth cross-field ball before Joe Day but it bounces out of play before either of them can get there. Meanwhile, Newport are readying another change: Ade Azeez is getting stripped in the dugout.

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97 min: Monthe does superbly to shepherd the ball away from Padraig Amond, who looks just as alert now as he did at kick-off. The Newport striker has not stopped running. He and Matt have caused trouble all afternoon.

95 min: Jennings wants to slide in Norwood but he overcooks a fairly routine pass. A sheepish-looking Jennings knows that was not good enough.

94 min: A robust challenge by Ollie Banks helps Tranmere win the ball back on halfway. Mark O’Brien, the red-carded Newport skipper, is tucked inside the tunnel watching events unfold. It’s been a low-key start to extra time.

92 min: Bakinson confidently strides forward, getting a few early touches of the ball before Ollie Banks brings the Bristol City loanee to a halt. Will Newport just want to get to penalties or will they believe they can still topple Tranmere despite being a man down? Michael Flynn’s side will certainly not roll over.

91 min: Tranmere get the first period of extra time started. Tyreeq Bakinson is on for Josh Sheehan. He slots into the Newport midfield.

End of 90 minutes: Newport 0-0 Tranmere

We will go to extra time. Newport are down to 10 men.

90+2 min: James Norwood pokes just wide! The striker makes a superb run – and the ball over the top of the Newport defence is exquisite – but Norwood cannot get his strike on target. He is all smiles as the ball drops comfortably wide. Joe Day had charged out of goal to try and make life difficult for the Tranmere man.

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90 min: Bennett has dropped into centre-back for Newport. There will be five added minutes at Wembley. Can Tranmere make the advantage pay in normal time?

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89 min: Mark O’Brien, the Newport captain, is sent off! Seconds after Amond is adamant Steve McNulty upended him in the box, Tranmere punt the ball forward towards James Norwood, who is blocked off by O’Brien. The referee is quick to race over and show O’Brien a second yellow card. Newport are down to 10.

Mark O’Brien picks up a second yellow card.
Mark O’Brien picks up a second yellow card. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA

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88 min: Banks fouls Dolan, and Newport earn another chance to throw the ball into the area. Jamille Matt will be licking his lips ...

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87 min: We are in for a nervy finale.

84 min: Newport want a penalty as Monthe stands on Matt’s big toe – but the linesman’s flag comes to Tranmere’s rescue. Ross Joyce blew his whistle and Newport were just waiting for the referee to point to the spot but, before the foul was committed, Matt played the ball into the path of the Newport skipper Mark O’Brien, who was fractionally offside. A big – but correct call.

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82 min: Jennings strikes over the bar! Ben Pringle jinked in the box, opening up a yard of space away from Mark O’Brien but Newport throw a sea of amber bodies on the line to prevent that situation from escalating. Lennie Lawrence is having a word with Michael Flynn in the Newport technical area, trying to dream up a way of nabbing a late winner. This game is very much opening up.

81 min: The silver-haired Steve McNulty replaces Kieron Morris.

79 min: Davies gathers a tame Amond shot. Newport continue to ask questions of a vulnerable and quaking Tranmere defence. We are edging closer towards extra time, which neither team want.

78 min: Dan Butler raids down the left and Sid Nelson comes across to sweep the ball out of play for a throw. The Newport full-back made up far too much ground for Micky Mellon’s liking. He looks a little concerned on the touchline. Mellon has just had a word with Steve McNulty as regards to their next move.

76 min: David Perkins picks up a booking for a shove on Dolan.

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73 min: How has that not gone in? Tranmere switch off at the back but – somehow – they survive. Dan Butler whips a wonderful ball in towards the back post, where Jamille Matt darts across his man to get a diving header on goal. It has everything – it is on target, it has sufficient power, it is heading in – but Scott Davies is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and tips the ball on to a post with his left hand. Davies then has to get the ball to safety. That was a huge scare for Tranmere.

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72 min: Matty Dolan replaces Joss Labadie. A straight swap in the heart of the Newport County midfield.

68 min: Jennings fluffs his lines! Butler, this time cleanly, comes across from left-back to steal the ball away from the Tranmere striker, who just could not get the ball out of his feet. It stemmed from smart interplay between Pringle, Jennings and Norwood, whose shot deflected into his strike-partner’s path. A big chance goes begging for Tranmere, who suddenly look a little brighter.

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67 min: Morris hits the deck – and Tranmere scream for a penalty – but the referee Ross Joyce is having none of it. Jennings did brilliantly to keep the ball alive for Tranmere, helping the ball on and as Morris swivelled to control it, he went to the ground under Dan Butler’s challenge. It was a clumsy barge from the left-back, who took the Tranmere midfielder by surprise in the box.

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66 min: Mark O’Brien goes into the book for a clumsy challenge on Jennings.

63 min: Caprice does well. He gets back up off the turf, dinks a clever ball into the area for Jennings to hook across goal. But in the end the Tranmere striker just runs out of pitch to manoeuvre into. It was a nice idea.

62 min: Norwood is released down the right, he thunders forward but eventually is crowded out with no one up to support him after a couple of Tranmere shirts got in each other’s way on halfway. Caprice goes down with a touch of cramp. A long season is beginning to take its toll.

Jamille Matt reacts to a challenge from Sid Nelson.
Jamille Matt reacts to a challenge from Sid Nelson. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

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59 min: O’Brien fouls Jennings. Tranmere earn a free-kick 20 yards from goal. Ridehalgh has a go but the Newport wall stands firm. Danger averted.

58 min: Tranmere play a quick free-kick, Newport go to sleep but Micky Demetriou is alert to it, getting down low to block Morris’s shot. In the end it trickles towards Day in the Newport goal and that’s that. Up the other end, Joss Labadie, once of Tranmere, scuffs painfully wide. Another half chance.

56 min: Ben Pringle loops a high cross into the box but it almost ends up catching out Joe Day, the Newport goalkeeper. Pringle’s ball in ends is nowhere near anyone in a Tranmere shirt but it ends up crashing towards the Newport crossbar, so Day nips in to push it over. Newport clear the resulting corner but that was a minor scare. The closest we have come to a breakthrough remains that Norwood chance in the first half, when Day repelled his thumping volley.

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55 min: Jamille Matt is booked for impeding Scott Davies as the Tranmere goalkeeper looks to release the ball early after gobbling up a Dan Butler free-kick. Davies looked to play it upfield early and Matt hooked a foot in to block. The referee Ross Joyce was deeply unimpressed but Newport are furious.

54 min: “Funny, the photo of the Tranmere fans in Mike Dean masks,” emails Peter Oh. “If Rovers lose, I imagine that some of those masks will be discarded and trampled underfoot as deflated fans shuffle out of the stadium. A shrewd photographer might want to locate Mike Dean and snap a photo of him sadly regarding his likeness staring back at him from the floor ... ” I like it!

53 min: Ben Pringle replaces Jay Harris for Tranmere.

51 min: Tranmere run into trouble deep inside their own half and Nelson has to make an immaculate last-ditch challenge on Jamille Matt to prevent the Newport striker from racing through on goal. Monthe did superbly initially to calmly nick the ball away from Amond but then Tranmere shot themselves in the foot.

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50 min: Micky Mellon is readying Ben Pringle.

49 min: Monthe and Nelson block to keep Sheehan at bay! Robbie Willmott did superbly, sashaying upfield, while Matt and Amond surged forward to leave the Tranmere defence in a muddle. Plenty of space opened up and Willmott slipped in Sheehan, who had a crack at goal. But Tranmere made life difficult and the ball cannoned away from danger. A slick move by Newport.

47 min: Scott Bennett makes a strong challenge on Caprice to keep the heat on the Tranmere backline. Newport have looked very assured.

46 min: Ollie Banks swings a corner in towards the back post but he overcooks it a little and Morris cannot latch on to it. Newport will pump it forward.

46 min: Tranmere get the second half under way. No changes at the break by either Micky Mellon or Michael Flynn.

The teams are back out. Here we go ... !

Some half-time, er, Mike Dean chat. “I’m playing the Mike Dean drinking game here which involves taking a drink every time Mike Dean is mentioned in the MBM or pictured or mentioned on the TV,” emails J.R. in Illinois. “If you post this email does that mean I have to take another drink or should I be exempted when it’s me mentioning Mike Dean? Seeing as it’s not yet 10 in the morning here it is apparent the rest of this day is going to be a write off ...”

Mike Dean, out in force.
Mike Dean, out in force. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA

Half-time: Newport County 0-0 Tranmere Rovers

Goalless at the interval.

45 min: There will be one added minute.

44 min: Tranmere get a free-kick, and earn a little respite just as Newport were beginning to make life difficult again, with O’Brien causing trouble in the box.

41 min: Norwood fumes at Perkins. Norwood engineered a gaping hole behind the Newport defence but rather than being slipped in, Perkins spread play to his right. As Tranmere probe, Norwood stops and turns around to let Perkins know what he thinks about that. When the ball came back in, Norwood does get up to head at goal but his heart wasn’t in it. He promptly gives Perkins another ear-bashing. Norwood certainly wasn’t flowering any of his feelings up.

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39 min: Newport re-apply the heat, with Matt and Amond darting around, but Regan Poole gets his cross horribly wrong. He raises his hands apologetically as another move breaks down.

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36 min: Demetriou’s long throw causes havoc once more, O’Brien flicks it on but Newport cannot divert it goalwards. Another half chance goes begging and Tranmere break through Norwood, who buys a foul out of Demetriou. Joe Day takes the sting out of the attack, gathering a low Perkins strike from 20 yards.

35 min: Perkins is late on Labadie. Things are beginning to open up – and are also getting a little spicy. The next foul is nailed-on to be a yellow card. The teams are certainly testing Ross Joyce’s patience.

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32 min: Demetriou gets a ticking off after exuberantly following through on Caprice. It was not pleasant but it was hardly filthy. The referee Ross Joyce has a quick word and that’s that. A penny for Mike Dean’s thoughts ...

31 min: Another half chance for Newport! As the ball cannons in from the left, Mark O’Brien nods into the path of Amond, but he cannot swivel on to the ball to get anything on it. Newport have asked plenty of questions of the Tranmere defender.

30 min: Tranmere are hesitant in defence and concede a cheap corner. Nelson dallies on the ball and ends up getting an earful from Perkins. It all stemmed from more shrewd play by Jamille Matt, who prodded the ball through for Padraig Amond. They patiently recycled possession, with Butler whipping it in from the left and Tranmere ultimately failed to cope with a routine ball.

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27 min: The referee blows his whistle for a drinks break, and it’s an opportunity for Micky Mellon and Michael Flynn to rev up their players once more.

OK.
OK. Photograph: BPI/Rex/Shutterstock

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24 min: Brilliant save by Joe Day in the Newport goal! Norwood thumps a volley at goal after latching on to a smart Caprice cut-back. Perkins led a Tranmere break forward, slipping in the overlapping full-back and Norwood peeled off towards the penalty spot to hammer a first-time strike at goal. It was straight at Day, in truth, but the power Norwood generated left him with work to do.

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23 min: It has not all been doom and gloom for Tranmere. Not for Liam Ridehalgh, anyway. He has lasted a lot longer than the last time he was at Wembley, when he was sent off after 48 seconds in the National League play-off final last season.

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19 min: Newport continue to run the show. Labadie, whose shirt is tucked in and whose shorts are pulled right up to his waist, is relishing – and winning – the midfield duel. A few groans from the swell of Tranmere support as they cheaply lose possession. They are yet to really put a foot on the ball.

16 min: Newport get another ball into the box, as Sheehan dinks a cross into the back post where Padraig Amond is lurking. The Newport striker rises highest to get something on it but heads off target. Newport are enjoying themselves, while Tranmere appear a little trapped. They are being penned in at times.

15 min: Banks fouls Matt on halfway. Matt is causing no end of problems, particularly when coming slightly deeper to pick the ball up. No wonder Flynn was so desperate for his striker to be fit.

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14 min: Sid Nelson deals with another dangerous Robbie Willmott cross, this time from the right. He sends the ball back where it came from with a thumping header before Scott Bennett lashes the ball over the bar. Another whiff of the Tranmere goal for Newport. Plenty of encouragement for the amber army.

11 min: Jennings shapes to find the top corner – but blazes his right-footed effort high and wide. It was always rising. James Norwood’s movement was again the catalyst for Tranmere in causing problems. It was panic stations in the Newport defence, with Norwood happy to pull a couple of defenders out with him before looking for Jennings. Tranmere are growing into this.

10 min: The suited and booted Newport manager, Michael Flynn, is deep in conversation with his assistant Wayne Hatswell down on the touchline. But Newport will be very happy with the start they have made. They are seeing plenty of the ball and have already threatened on a couple of occasions.

8 min: Matt cannot latch on to it at the back post! It’s a conniving ball in from the left by Willmott, bent into towards the front post, where Amond flicks the ball on, helping it into the path of Matt. But the Newport striker cannot apply the finish.

7 min: Joss Labadie drives forward from midfield and, despite tracking him all of the way, Ollie Banks drags his man down. Willmott will swing it in ...

6 min: Norwood drifts wide to the edge of the 18-yard box and squares the ball for Jennings – but O’Brien makes a fantastic block. Tranmere suddenly came alive in the final third, with Norwood hammering a low pass across the box in search of his strike-partner. The Newport skipper did superbly to keep Jennings at bay.

4 min: Matt v Monthe is already proving a tasty battle. Regan Poole, the Newport youngster back on loan at the club from Manchester United, arced a ball into the box but the Tranmere defender did well to screen the striker.

2 min: Another Demetriou long throw bounces its way into the Tranmere box. Newport have certainly started on the front foot. Labadie won a big header on halfway, Matt used his frame to feed Padraig Amond, who surged forward, attempting to squeeze through on goal and Monthe had to be alert.

1 min: Jamille Matt rises to meet a Demetriou long throw – but his header is off target. Ridehalgh did well to clear the initial ball into the box by Willmott.

Peeeeeeeeeeep!

Newport get things started at Wembley.

The teams trudge out on to the sun-drenched Wembley turf! We are just the pre-match formalities – including the English and Welsh national anthems, sang by soprano Emily Haig – away from kick-off. Newport and Tranmere were allocated 16,500 tickets apiece, so around 30,000 fans are busy making a racket.

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A couple of stats to get stuck into before the off at Wembley: this is Newport’s 62nd game of the season – only Chelsea, who take on Arsenal in Baku in the Europa League final, will end up playing more; four players in the Tranmere starting lineup, including talisman James Norwood, featured in their previous two trips to Wembley; the team finishing seventh in League Two has gone on to win the play-off final in four of the last seven campaigns. Newport squeezed into seventh on the final day ...

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Tranmere manager Micky Mellon talks pre-match. “It’s massive for both clubs, isn’t it?” he says. “First and foremost we just want to get the performance right and hopefully that will be enough to help us to the next level. I think the experience of being here before will definitely help us but we still have to give the performance. We have to go and express ourselves. It should be a good battle.”

The last time Newport County were at Wembley, they lost to Tottenham in a FA Cup fourth-round replay. That was last year and Tranmere are no strangers to the national stadium either, this their third play-off final in three years. “It is a lot of experience between the two squads at Wembley, which is quite surreal for League Two players,” Flynn says. “They have got a few good players – it is not just about James Norwood. We have to concentrate on what we can do as well.” As for their own 12-match unbeaten run, he says: “[Momentum] can help but Tranmere finished above us in the league so we know they are a team full of quality.”

Que será, será!

Some pre-match wisdom, courtesy of the Tranmere chairman Mark Palios. “Ever since, and even before we went down and out of the league, the fans were supportive and I think that’s one of those lessons for any of those clubs that have the unfortunate event of actually getting relegated out of the Football League,” he says. “The fans [will] stick with them, you know they’ll come back these clubs, and it’s a message for everybody that.” Tranmere are the first team to play in the National League play-off final and the League Two play-off final in consecutive seasons.

Team news news: Jamille Matt is passed fit for Newport, with the 20-goal striker shaking off a leg problem to start alongside Padraig Amond at Wembley. Tranmere manager Micky Mellon also sticks with the same team that did the business in a play-off semi-final victory. There are a couple of 20-year-old talents to keep an eye on at on both benches: Tyreeq Bakinson has made a big impression on loan from Bristol City, while the same can be said for Harvey Gilmour, the winger who joined Tranmere on a permanent deal from Sheffield United in January.

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The teams!

Newport County: Day; Poole, O’Brien, Demetriou, Butler; Bennett, Sheehan, Labadie, Willmott; Amond, Matt

Subs: Pipe, Dolan, Marsh-Brown, Azeez, Bakinson, Crofts, McKirdy

Tranmere Rovers: Davies; Caprice, Monthe, Nelson, Ridehalgh; Perkins, Harris, Banks, Morris; Jennings, Norwood

Subs: Pilling, Dagnall, Gilmour, Buxton, Pringle, McNulty, Mullin

Referee: Ross Joyce

Preamble

A coachload of Tranmere Rovers fans adorning Mike Dean (Wirral) masks have already filtered through the Wembley turnstiles. Last spotted dancing, quaking and trembling on the Prenton Park railings, proudly pumping both fists aloft, Dean, too, will no doubt again make himself known. For Tranmere, who are a win away from successive promotions, these play-off finals have become rather old hat: this is their third in three years. “He [Dean] has a season ticket, so does his daughter, and they follow us up and down the country,” said manager Micky Mellon. “Isn’t it good that a game of football can do that to somebody?”

In James Norwood, Tranmere boast a serial goalscorer. The 28-year-old is one – potentially decisive – strike away from bettering Sergio Agüero’s 32-goal haul in all competitions this season, a feat that would make him the most prolific striker in the country. “I was keeping an eye on how he got on in the FA Cup final,” Norwood said. “There’s lots to admire about him – his finishing prowess, his positioning – but one thing I won’t be doing is copying his silver fox look. I don’t think my thinning barnet could take it. It certainly seems as though the more hair I lose the more goals I score, so I might ask for a skinhead the next time I go to the barbers.”

As for Newport, the good times just keep coming. Under their miracle-worker of a manager, Michael Flynn, they have enjoyed brushes with Manchester City, Tottenham, Leicester and Leeds in the FA Cup over the past 18 months – but winning promotion to League One would top the lot. Given the job he has done, Flynn’s managing credentials require little enhancement but Mikel Arteta, Thierry Henry and Freddie Ljungberg, who studied for their Uefa pro licence alongside the Welshman, have all endorsed his talents.

Flynn’s side, who are unbeaten in 12 matches, geared up for this by training at Brentford on Friday, having spent the past couple of weeks preparing at the Cardiff City Stadium, because the training facility they use is undergoing scheduled maintenance work. “Evidently our providers didn’t have the faith we had that we were going to get to Wembley,” said chairman Gavin Foxall. Even optimists gave them little hope, given they were 14th and 10 points adrift of the play-off pack in February. Fifteen minutes from extinction to within touching distance of the third tier, Newport have come a long way. And they could go one step further yet.

Kick-off: 3pm (BST)