Wembley! Wembley! We’re the famous Newport County AFC and we’re going to Wembley!
Newport County AFC will contest the League Two play-off final on May 25th after winning on penalties 5-3 at Mansfield Town following a 0-0 draw including extra time.
The Exiles have done it after Tyler Walker missed his spot kick and County scored every single one of theirs.
Manager Michael Flynn elected to make one change to the side from the first leg as Joss Labadie was deemed fit to start and replaced Matty Dolan in the midfield.
The Exiles also decided to go with a slight formation alteration to nullify Mansfield Town’s threats from the match on Thursday and went with a 4-3-3 system at The One Call Stadium.
Mansfield Town manager David Flitcroft also made one change from the first leg and that also came in the midfield as Neal Bishop withdrew through injury and was replaced by Willem Tomlinson.
The Stags also went with a different formation and it appeared that they also went with a 4-3-3 system from the first while in Nottinghamshire.
Labadie’s return made a massive different to the tenacity of the Exiles midfield as there was so much more organisation in the side and more attacking threat throughout the side.
In fact, I don’t think anyone in the stadium would have argued if County had put the contest to bed before the half-time whistle such was their dominance on proceedings.
It really could have been three or four nil by half-time, but County just couldn’t quite show that clinicality in-front of goal to put the bed beyond question in the first half.
Flynn bemoaned a slow start at Rodney Parade on Thursday night, but he could have no qualms with the start to this one as County got right into the faces of Mansfield from the first whistle.
Josh Sheehan appeared to be a man on a mission, and he had two gilt-edged opportunities to open the scoring.
First, he forced a smart save from Conrad Logan with a speculative drive from 30 yards, before he couldn’t find the target on 23 minutes when found free in the penalty area from a Dan Butler delivery and instead hit the stanchion behind the goal.
Mark O’Brien and Padraig Amond seemed to have a neat little partnership going from set pieces and on a few occasions the Irishmen almost combined with headers across the face of the Mansfield goalmouth.
Amond arguably had the half’s best chance on 24 minutes. Jamille Matt fed him in on the right flank, but the ball perhaps had a bit too much pace on it and he could only hit the side netting.
County also twice hit the crossbar in one of the best 45 minutes of football observed away from home this season, Labadie powering a header against it then Stags defender Ben Turner turned a cross out for a corner-kick via that route.
The Exiles’ performance was also replicated at the back before the half time whistle as Mansfield were prevented from creating anything other than half chances.
County were very disciplined in their idea of defending in banks of four when out of possession and the only thing to really test Joe Day was an ambitious free kick on eight minutes from Jacob Mellis.
Flitcroft was never going to allow his Stags charges to start the second half in anywhere near the fashion of the first and they did respond for a few minutes when Danny Rose should have done better with a snapshot.
But County continued to take the game to the home side and went and hit the crossbar for the third time just before the hour mark when Scot Bennett let one fly from 50 yards and was oh so close to breaking the deadlock.
Logan – the man of the match from Thursday’s contest – was again at his best to tip away a curling Sheehan shot as County were still creating the goalscoring moments.
Mansfield did create another period of possession for themselves around the 70th minute mark but still no goal could be found.
Substitute Mal Benning saw a free kick well held by Day, before the Exiles shot stopper had to make a world-class save to deny Turner with a menacing header to the far post.
Walker saw a 20-yard snapshot palmed wide then missed a glorious chance to win it five minutes remaining but somehow conspired to miss the far bottom corner when free 10 yards out.
You just couldn’t believe there wasn’t a goal in regulation time such was the flurry of chances in-front of goal, but the game was destined for extra time.
One of the best 0-0’s you will ever see.
The first half of extra time wasn’t half bad either as chances continued to be produced from the two teams in search of a crucial opener.
Hamilton – goal scorer on Thursday – really should have got it on 96 minutes but somehow blasted well over the top when sent in behind from a lovely chipped pass.
Just a minute later, Sheehan curled a shot around the far post as County started to get their foothold back on proceedings, but the half ended with some absolutely stunning defence from the Exiles.
Hamilton chased down what looked to be a lost cause to put the ball back into the area which Walker saw saved, before Will Atkinson followed it up and saw the shot blocked on the line by Regan Poole.
Walker sent another header wide on 110 minutes, but this always had the feeling of a penalty shootout from the moment regulation time ended.
Heartbreak for Walker who missed in the shootout but it’s County heading to Wembley for the fourth time in just over seven years.
✔️ Dan Butler to the bottom right corner
✔️ Nicky Ajose to the bottom left corner
✔️ Padraig Amond to the bottom left corner
✔️ CJ Hamilton down the middle
✔️ Mickey Demetriou to the bottom left corner
❌ Tyler Walker saved by Joe Day to the left side
✔️ Regan Poole to the bottom right corner
✔️ Mal Benning in off the right post
✔️ Matty Dolan to the bottom right corner
Newport County AFC (4-3-3): Day, Butler, O’Brien (C), Demetriou, Poole, Sheehan (Dolan 110’), Labadie (Azeez 76’) (McKirdy 110’), Sheehan, Willmott, Amond, Matt
Subs not used: Pipe, Marsh-Brown, Randall, Crofts
Mansfield Town (4-3-3): Logan, Sweeney, Turner, Pearce (C), Jones (Grant 120’), MacDonald, Tomlimson (Benning 45’), Mellis (Atkinson 91’), Rose (Ajose 105’), Walker, Hamilton
Subs not used: Smith, Khan, Smith
Referee: Michael Salisbury
Attendance: 7,361 (1,118 AWAY)
Next up for County: THE PLAY-OFF FINAL!!!!!!!!!