It’s been nearly two days since Tranmere walked out at Wembley for the third time in three years to ultimately secure a return to League One.
In one of the tightest Wembley finals you will ever see, two teams build by excellent managers, two clubs ran the right way, and two sets of fans enjoying their respective clubs’ resurgence did battle in temperatures approaching the mid-20s in degrees.
Newport probably edged the first half and they certainly started the brighter, but the the best opportunities fell to Tranmere. First, James Norwood caught an excellent cross by Jake Caprice on the volley only to see Joe Day in the Newport goal palm it away.
Shortly before half-time, David Perkins went for accuracy with a side-foot effort to the bottom corner, but Day was equal to it once again.
The second period was much the same. Newport hammered the Tranmere penalty area with long throws and corners, but the rearguard stood firm. Micky Mellon, so often the man to pull off a tactical masterstroke, then made a substitution that many fans would have questioned. We really should know better.
Club captain Steve McNulty entered the fray in place of Jay Harris. Mellon clearly concerned by the aerial bombardment which was seeing Jamille Matt cause havoc physically. That was instantly nullified by McNulty’s presence. He was typically outstanding.
The other outstanding man to mention at this point is current skipper Scott Davies. He has had an incredible season and was forced to pull off another top-class save to deny Matt. It was a truly brilliant piece of goalkeeping.
Newport were reduced to ten in a mad couple of minutes. Matt thought he should have had a penalty for a foul by Monthe – to say we’ve seen them given is an understatement, burt the big striker’s theatrical dive probably did for him.
Within moments, Rovers tried to break and the Newport skipper O’Brien spotted the danger and dragged Norwood to the floor. Already on a yellow, it was game over. For the third play-off tie in a row, Rovers would play against ten men.
Tranmere created some great chances, Norwood flicking the ball wide when he latched on to a long through ball, while both Pringle and Jennings couldn’t quite get the ball out of their feet to shoot when well-placed.
Then came extra-time.
The heat had sapped both team’s energy, Newport brilliantly withstanding the pressure and also still creating chances themselves.
In the first half of extra-time, Norwood headed over from a Caprice cross, but he was angry at Perkins wasting a chance to play him in on-goal earlier in the move.
However, as the game went toward penalties, the moment we had all been waiting for arrived with barely a minute to spare.
Sub Adam Buxton roasted the Newport left-back, pulled it back to Pringle on the right edge of the box. He fed it back wide to Caprice who produced a cross of sublime quality which found Connor Jennings unmarked.
A man who excels at Wembley, Connor got a firm connection on the ball and sent it back across goal in to the far corner.
The Tranmere end of the stadium erupted. Connor wheeled away with the typical passionate cele we have come to expect from him. It’s been an incredible emotional couple of weeks for Jennings who lost his grandad on the day of the semi-final first-leg with Forest Green. That made this moment even more special and incredibly emotional.
Fans hugged, players shook off their fatigue to celebrate wildly.
There were a few minutes, as it turned out, for Tranmere to get through. It was nervy, but the boys did it. Again.
Absolute scenes. What this team has achieved for this club is truly incredible.
We’re back in League One and heading for a summer of absolute relaxation and reflection.