From The Archive | Last Day Drama

The 2023/24 season comes to an end this Saturday when we head to Valley Parade to take on play-off chasing Bradford City.

To wrap up the season, we have taken one last look through the archives to deliver a bumper edition, focusing on three final-day matches from the last decade in League Two. 

Morecambe 1-1 Newport County - 2018/19

It’s fair to say that the 2018/19 season was a rollercoaster for County fans. After an opening-day defeat at Mansfield, we picked up a strong run of form that saw us lose just one of the next 12 games. 

This form would slowly tail-off, and by the mid-point of the season, we were sitting in 11th spot following a miserable 4-1 home defeat to Forest Green Rovers. Our form would continue to dip until mid-March when, starting with a 1-0 win against Cheltenham, we decided it was time to turn on the style once again. 

We would then go on to win six of the next nine games, with a 2-0 home win against Oldham on the penultimate day of the season putting us back into seventh spot. The playoffs were far from secure, though, and we went to Morecambe on the final day, knowing we would need to match or better Exeter’s result to book our spot in the end-of-season lottery. A defeat would also spell disaster, with our inferior goal difference meaning Colchester, Carlisle, or Stevenage could all sneak above us. 

The game got off to a bad start when Aaron Collins smashed home from the edge of the area. The former Exile had the good grace not to celebrate. Still, the goal left us potentially missing the play-off spots, with Exeter drawing 0-0 at Forest Green and Colchester 2-0 up inside half an hour away at already promoted Lincoln. 

Mark Halsted was on fine-form in the Morecambe goal, denying good efforts from Dan Butler and Padraig Amond. The Lancashire team also come close to doubling their own lead, with Joe Day keeping them out with several great saves. 

Finally, our perseverance would pay off right at the death. Dan Butler played a ball to the back-post, which Abe Azeez knocked back across the face of the goal, allowing Jamille Matt to tap home and spark jubilant celebrations among the travelling Exiles. 

Re-watch the classic match HERE. 

Southend United 1-1 Newport County - 2020/21

While the situation was not quite as intense two years later when we secured the playoffs at the end of the 20/21 campaign, we still went into our final game needing a point under difficult circumstances to make the top seven. 

After dominating the league in the early stages, our form had dropped off around Christmas time, and a run of just two wins in fifteen had all but ended our hopes of an automatic promotion.  

We had only spent a few days outside of the top seven all season, and we just needed one point to get ourselves over the line at the end. Back-to-back home wins meant we headed to Roots Hall full of confidence, but we knew the hosts would want to bow out of the Football League on their own terms, having been relegated the previous Saturday. 

A loss could open up the doors for any of Tranmere, Forest Green, or Exeter to take our spot in the playoffs, and once again, things got off to a stressful start. A dangerous ball from Terrell Egbri on the left caused confusion in the box, allowing Shaun Hobson to smash home from six yards out. 

We would get back in the game in the 56th minute when Mickey Demetriou was on hand to flick an Aaron Lewis long throw into the back of the net. While there were no Exiles in attendance that afternoon, it’s difficult to imagine there weren’t plenty of celebrations taking place in South Wales. 

There was still some drama on the cards, though. A handball from Liam Shepard five minutes later resulted in the ref pointing to the spot. Matt Rush stepped up to convert it for the hosts but he was denied brilliantly by Matt King. 

The final whistle confirmed our place in the playoffs, with the point confirming a semi-final showdown with Forest Green Rovers. 

Re-watch the classic match HERE. 

Newport County 2-1 Notts County - 2016/17

It wouldn’t be much of a final-day roundup if we didn’t revisit that iconic afternoon from May 2017. You will be hard-pushed to find a County fan who can remember a more difficult season since our return to the league than 2016/17. 

The campaign has started terribly, with the team winning just one of their opening 13 matches. By the time Christmas rolled around, we had won just four league games. This form bottomed out when we lost eight straight games between November 22nd and January 7th, conceding 22 goals in the process and scoring seven. 

When Michael Flynn took the job from Graham Westley in March, the season seemed lost. We were 11 points from safety with 12 games to go. 

What took place over the course of the next 11 games heading into the final is nothing short of extraordinary. We would win six of 11, drawing one and losing just four. This meant we would go into our final day encounter with Notts County with our fate in our own hands. 

County were two points clear of Hartlepool, who welcomed Doncaster Rovers in their final game. We knew nothing less than a win would secure our safety with Hartlepool having a better goal difference. 

After a cagey opening half-hour, Hayden Hollis brought Lenell John-Lewis down, and the ref pointed to the spot. Mickey Demetriou was the calmest man in South Wales as he stepped up to score from the spot, beginning cautious celebrations at Rodney Parade. Around the same time, Andy Williams had put Doncaster ahead at Victoria Park. At half-time, we were five points clear and looking at another season in the league. 

The next 45 minutes, however, had plenty of twists and turns. Some sloppy defending allowed Jorge Grant to poke home for Notts County in the 61st minute, reducing the gap with Hartlepool to just three points. 

Hartlepool were not willing to go down without a fight, and 18-year-old substitute Devante Rodney looked to etch his name into the Hartlepool history books, scoring his first two senior goals within nine minutes of each other to give them the lead in the 83rd minute. With seven minutes left on the clock, we were staring relegation in the face. 

County had others ideas, though. With the clock at 89 minutes, David Pipe played in a cross, which was flicked down to Mark O’Brien, who took the ball on his chest and fired home, sparking the wildest celebrations we have seen at Rodney Parade in the last decade. 

The full-time whistle saw relieved fans running onto the pitch and lifting their final-day heroes onto their shoulders, each of them securing their place in Newport County folklore. 

The Winner & After - From Behind The Goal Line