Tranmere reach playoff final
The Tranmere Rovers are one victory away from earning a second consecutive promotion after beating the Forest Green Rovers on aggregate to book a place in the League Two playoff final.
Micky Mellon's team, which earned its place in League Two through last year’s National League playoffs, will take on Newport County at Wembley on 25 May to fight for a place in League One, which would complete a resurgence for the Merseyside club after relegation from the League in 2015.
Tranmere held a 1-0 lead from the first leg on Friday, but sports betting companies found it hard to separate the two teams, which had finished a point apart in League Two, ahead of the second leg. The Forest Green Rovers had the better start when Joseph Mills headed in a well-placed free kick from Junior Mondo at 12 minutes to level the tie on aggregate.
However, that lead didn’t last long. At 27 minutes, former Forest Green striker James Norwood, who finished the season as the top scorer in League Two but had missed several chances in the first leg, scored with a smart volley to level the match on the night and restore Tranmere’s aggregate lead.
The home side was dealt a blow with 23 minutes of the game remaining when Carl Winchester received a second yellow card. Reduced to ten men, Forest Green battled hard but couldn’t find a goal that would have taken the tie to extra time.
The Gloucestershire club is now set to spend a third season in the fourth tier of English football following their win in the National League 2017 promotion final that, coincidentally, came against Tranmere. For the Merseysiders, who spent three years in the National League, this will be the third consecutive visit to Wembley in three seasons.
The tie was not without controversy, as the sending off of Gavin Gunning in the first leg and the dismissal of Winchester meant that Forest Green had to play with ten men for a combined total of 100 minutes across both games. While manager Mark Cooper was philosophical in his comments after the game, he suggested that the team had not had it easy.
"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," he said.
Words: Josh Dixon