Tranmere Rovers manager Micky Mellon hailed his side’s character and endeavour as they overcame 10-man Newport County 1-0 in extra-time at Wembley Stadium in the Sky Bet League Two Play-Off Final to secure a back-to-back promotion.
Connor Jennings’ 119th minute header from Jake Caprice’s cross in front of the SWA sparked scenes of delirium as Rovers will return to Sky Bet League One for the first time since 2014 come August.
In a goalless 90 minutes, in which Michael Flynn’s Newport had captain Mark O’Brien sent off by referee Ross Joyce in the 89th minute for a foul on Rovers top-scorer James Norwood, the Final looked to be heading to penalties before Jennings’ late heroics for the Wirral club.
And boss Mellon was proud of his men as they battled the physical Exiles to make it two in a row.
Mellon said: “I’ve been here for a long time and I have seen the qualities that we have for a long time. Footballing ability, togetherness and fight and to see ourselves through was terrific.
“Many of that team played in the Conference National last year and I’m absolutely delighted for them and there has been a lot of hard, hard work involved to get there.
“I expected it to go to penalties if I’m honest, both sets of players deserve an amazing amount of credit, but I am delighted to get over the line and we were made to work very hard for it.
“We have some catching up to do, we went through the leagues so there is still stuff to do. We’re a Club that is recovering, but these group of players will fight for it on another level.
“Newport kept fighting, they kept up the pressure with their long throw-ins and set-pieces into the box, they were really big and made it really difficult for us.
“I’ve sat here and lost and it’s really hard, it’s tough to lose here so I’m just delighted to get the result.
“There was determination from both sets of players, and we came through, we are just delighted.
“They all have fantastic ability and I am proud of them all, some of them played in the National League last season and now they will be in League One next season.
“The save by Scott Davies is some save, it is a gamechanger and again if it goes against the team, it was going to be a real body blow, I really felt that. If one team got the goal, the other was going to really suffer, you expected it because it was so tight and intense.”
Mellon reserved special praise for promotion-winning hero Jennings, who recently lost his Grandad.
He added: “I’m so pleased for Connor (Jennings), he has had a tough couple of weeks, he lost his Grandad and he went out and played against Forest Green, he’s a tough cookie and it’s what football is all about that he goes and gets the winner and I’m delighted for him and his family.”
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