Morecambe will play in the Football League’s third tier for the first time in their history, after Carlos Mendes Gomes’ contentious penalty sends them to League One at Newport’s expense.
The Shrimps’ magic moment came in the second period of extra time, when referee Bobby Madley judged Ryan Haynes had fouled John O’Sullivan.
Newport saw a first-half penalty appeal of their own controversially not given.
The Exiles also saw Joss Labadie blaze over in extra time with the score 0-0.
There is little doubt this contest will be remembered as a tale of two penalties, the one not awarded to Newport and the one awarded to Morecambe in the second half of extra time that seemed at best questionable, as Haynes’ challenge appeared to be outside the area.
Newport’s frustration was compounded as they had an extremely credible penalty shout waved away with the game’s first big moment, with Welsh goalkeeper Kyle Letheren missing his punch and connecting squarely with Newport’s Scot Bennett, but referee Madley was unmoved.
The Exiles shaded the first half with a succession of half-chances, the best of which saw Bennett’s shot from 20 yards take a huge deflection and wrong-foot Letheren, only to nestle in the side-netting.
The Shrimps were also restricted in their opportunities, with Liam Gibson coming closest when his shot beat goalkeeper Tom King but not covering defender Liam Shephard.
Lewis Collins and Josh Sheehan both tested Letheren from range after the break, while King – who like Sheehan played fresh from the heartache of missing out on Wales’ Euro 2020 squad, had to react sharply to save Ryan Cooney’s stinging effort.
Liam Shephard’s curling effort almost brought the opener with 13 minutes remaining in normal time but Letheren saved brilliantly, also tipping away Ryan Haynes’ injury time free-kick.
At the other end, Sam Lavelle had headed wide leaving the Shrimps also frustrated.
Extra time was much more even, with Labadie’s big miss followed by Morecambe’s contentious winner.
Dreamland for the Shrimps
Morecambe would have been happy enough to see former player Kevin Ellison taking most of the pre-match focus away from them as they sought a first appearance in English’s football’s third tier.
The Shrimps, whose budget among the lowest in the Football League, had narrowly missed out on a top-three spot on the final day of the regular season.
Morecambe finished five points in front of fifth-placed Newport, despite losing to the Exiles home and away, as they prepared for a contest between two teams whose fortunes have been transformed.
Mike Flynn led Newport’s great escape in 2016-17 as they narrowly stayed up in League Two, while Jim Bentley kept Morecambe from the drop on the final day of the following season.
The Shrimps were in the League Two relegation places when Derek Adams took charge at the club in November 2019, with Morecambe’s season an unquestionable success irrespective of the result at Wembley.
However, Adams’ side were able to complete their dream when Mendes Gomes kept his cool to send King the wrong way from the penalty spot.
Exiles’ Wembley misery continues
Newport were looking to complete their mission to get back to where they came from, having gone out of business in 1989 over debts amounting to less than £500,000.
The road back to the Football League’s third tier, via the Hellenic Leagues, a period of playing in Gloucestershire and a march up the leagues from tier eight, culminated in a chance for Newport to reach League One (the old Division Three) for the first time since 1986-87.
The progress has at times been slow, with Newport very nearly losing their Football League place in 2017 – only to pull off a miraculous escape in the last minute of the season, having been 11 points adrift with eight games remaining.
However, Wembley has not been a happy hunting ground for Newport who have now lost on four of their five appearances at the home of English football.
It could have been so different had they taken a huge chance just before Morecambe’s winner.
Ellison – at 42 the oldest player to play in an EFL play-off final – might have had a say against his former club, especially having left under a cloud after a falling out with manager Adams, who Ellison has admitted he “doesn’t like”.
The veteran was finally introduced with five minutes remaining in normal time and almost enjoyed a big moment just before the interval in extra time, but missed Nicky Maynard’s teasing cross and Joss Labadie fired over.
That miss – not to mention the penalty they saw turned down – will surely haunt Newport fans for many a year, the kind of moments you see in your nightmares.
For Morecambe the dream is now reality after reaching unprecedented heights.
Morecambe manager Derek Adams told BBC Radio Lancashire:
“I’m absolutely delighted to come to Wembley and win. It’s probably the best way to win promotion.
“Everyone would like to win automatic but to come to the national stadium to do it in the manner we’ve done today, the team spirit, the camaraderie it’s a fantastic achievement for Morecambe.
“It was a difficult game today. For us to get the penalty kick and then for Carlos to take it so well is fantastic for everyone in Lancashire and Morecambe.”
- 22GibsonSubstituted forMellorat 105’minutes
- 19McAlindenSubstituted forLyonsat 75’minutes
- 10WildigSubstituted forO’Sullivanat 90’minutesBooked at 112mins
- 11Mendes GomesBooked at 108minsSubstituted forKenyonat 114’minutes
- 8DolanSubstituted forHartiganat 63’minutes
- 28DemetriouBooked at 120mins
- 14LewisSubstituted forTaylorat 62’minutes
- 4LabadieBooked at 96mins
- 3HaynesSubstituted forFarquharsonat 111’minutes
- 9AmondSubstituted forMaynardat 80’minutes
- 21CollinsSubstituted forEllisonat 86’minutes
- Robert Madley
Match ends, Morecambe 1, Newport County 0.