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REPORT | County narrowly beaten by Morecambe in Sky Bet League Two play-off final

31 May 2021

It was heartbreak for Newport County AFC as they suffered defeat to Morecambe in the League Two play-off final at Wembley.

A penalty was all that separated the two sides as Carlos Mendes Gomes converted from the spot to send Morecambe into Sky Bet League One.

The Exiles enjoyed large periods of dominance in the showpiece final and were roared on by an impressive showing from the Amber Army but were unable to find a way through.

Newport made one change with club captain Joss Labadie, who scored in the semi-final second leg at Forest Green Rovers, returned to midfield in place of Anthony Hartigan.

There was plenty of Wembley experience in the Exiles line-up with Labadie, Padraig Amond, Scot Bennett, Josh Sheehan and Mickey Demetriou, who all started in this fixture two years ago, involved. Matty Dolan, who came off the bench that day, also started.

Morecambe created the first chance when Liam McAlinden found a pocket of space to fire in a cross and Cole Stockton did well to meet it. His header struck Mendes Gomes but no one was able to get on the end of his cut back.

Amond launched a counter attack instantly with his long ball forcing a corner. From the resulting set piece there were appeals for a penalty when Demetriou was felled under a challenge from Nathaniel Knight-Percival but the officials were unmoved.

A clever throw-in almost caught Morecambe napping when Ryan Haynes found Liam Shephard free on the edge of the box but his effort hit Labadie. Demetriou’s throws were also causing problems and Sheehan was the next to get a chance but his shot was straight at Kyle Letheren.

The partnership between Lewis Collins and Amond continued to blossom with a back-heel from the former completing a great one-two before the Irishman’s effort was deflected for a corner, Sheehan then fired wide.

The Exiles started to dictate play but Morecambe continued to threaten and went close on the counter with Aaron Wildig’s shot rising over the crossbar after a well-worked team move.

There was a scare shortly before the break when the Shrimps forced their way through the County defence but Shephard was there to clear the danger after Liam Gibson had beaten Tom King.

However, Flynn’s men responded positively with Bennett and Demetriou both trying their luck before the half-time whistle.

The Exiles carried their momentum through the break and could have broken the deadlock a few minutes after the restart after Amond and Labadie combined to put Collins through but Letheren was equal to the youngster’s shot.

Ryan Taylor, who scored twice for Rotherham United in their 3-2 League Two play-off final defeat to Dagenham & Redbridge in 2010, replaced Aaron Lewis shortly after the hour mark with Hartigan coming on for Dolan at the same time. Those changes saw County move to a back four.

King was thrust into action to keep out a long-range drive from Ryan Cooney but it was Letheren who saw more of the ball as County piled on the pressure. The shot-stopper had to get down low to push Shephard’s curling effort round the post before Nicky Maynard and Kevin Ellison were introduced for Amond and Collins.

Haynes thought he had found a winner at the death but Letheren ensured his free kick didn’t sneak into the bottom corner and forced the game into extra time.

With players tiring under the intense London sun, extra time was a more cagey affair. Stockton enjoyed a free header in the opening few minutes but couldn’t keep it on target while Labadie fired over from close range after good work from Maynard.

The game was decided at the start of the second half when Haynes was adjudged to have fouled John O’Sullivan in the box and Bobby Madley pointed straight to the spot. Mendes Gomes stepped up and sent King the wrong way.

The Exiles showed plenty of character and desire to find an equaliser but it wasn’t to be.

Newport County AFC: Tom King; Liam Shephard, Matty Dolan (Anthony Hartigan 62), Mickey Demetriou; Aaron Lewis (Ryan Taylor 62), Joss Labadie (C), Josh Sheehan, Scot Bennett, Ryan Haynes (Priestley Farquharson 111); Lewis Collins (Kevin Ellison 86); Padraig Amond (Nicky Maynard 79).

Subs not used: Nick Townsend, Joe Ledley.

Attendance: 9,038.


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