The Warm Down: Morecambe edge out Newport in controversial play-off final
Photo by Rob Newell - CameraSport via Getty Images

Morecambe secured their first ever promotion the the third tier of English football when they narrowly overcame Newport County in yesterdays League Two play-off final at Wembley. 

The crucial moment of the game came in extra time when Carlos Mendes Gomes slotted home from the penalty spot after referee Bobby Madley judged that John O'Sullivan had been brought down by Ryan Haynes in the area, in what has later come to be seen as a very contentious decision.   

This only compounded the frustration of Newport, however, as they had their own penalty appeal controversially waved away in the first half when Shrimpers keeper' Kyle Letheren misjudged his punch when attempting to clear the ball away from a corner and ended up connecting with the head of Scot Bennett

Morecambe reach new heights 

The Shrimps came into the final with their confidence high following an impressive league campaign in which they came fourth and only just missed out on an automatic promotion spot on the final, despite their budget being one of lowest in the entire EFL. 

This kind of season had not been expected by many though, with one bookmaker even famously having the Lancashire side at 5/1 odds of get relegated at the beginning of the campaign. 

Much of this seasons success however, can be put down to the management of Derek Adams

The 45-year-old took over in November 2019 when the club were sitting in the drop zone, but thanks to smart recruitment last summer along with Adams' tactics of making the Shrimps difficult to break down at the back while being brutally effective on the counter attack, they have become one of the best sides in the division this year.

In the play-off final its self, however, Morecambe found themselves largely restricted in chance creation. 

Partially due to the tightness of the game, and partially due to Adams' game plan to frustrate their Welsh opponents, real goal scoring chances were few and far between.

The Shrimps came closest in the early stages when Liam Gibson managed to beat goalkeeper Tom King with a low shot before seeing it cleverly blocked by defender Liam Shepperd.  

And they again nearly got themselves ahead late on when Sam Lavelle saw his glancing header bounce just narrowly wide after managing to get on the end of a corner from Aaron Wildig.  

Morecambe's League One dream finally came fruition in extra time though, when Mendes-Gomes manged to stay calm and slot home convincingly from twelve yards in the 107th minute. 

Exiles miss out on third tier return 

After going bankrupt back in the late 1980's, Newport were looking to get back to level where they feel they belong and return to the third tier for the first time since 1987. 

But it proved to be Wembley misery yet again for the Welsh side, who have won on just one of their five trips to the national stadium. 

It was a hugely frustrating afternoon for Michael Flynn's team who were left ruing both missed chances and decisions from the referee. 

Bennett came agonisingly close to giving his side the lead in the first half when his long range effort took a massive deflection, deceiving Letheren, and just ending up in the side netting. 

Josh Sheehan and Lewis Collins also both managed to test Letheren in the late stages of the game. 

The big chance came in extra time however, just minutes before Morecambe would eventually take the lead the ball feel to 42-year-old Kevin Ellison who failed to connect with Nicky Maynard's teasing cross which seemed sure to hit the back of the net if put on target. 

That miss, along with the earlier penalty calls may well haunt many a Newport fan for years to come with thoughts of what could have been. 

For Morecambe, on the other hand, the result sparked scenes of jubilation among their players and fans alike as they will now prepare for a season where they will be welcoming the likes of Sunderland, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich to the Mazuma stadium. 

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