Forest Green 1-1 Tranmere (agg. 1-2): Tranmere reach League Two play-off final
Micky Mellon's side advance to League Two play-off final at Wembley, where they will face Newport on May 25
By Dan Long
Last Updated: 14/05/19 9:57am
Tranmere Rovers reached the Sky Bet League Two play-off final after a 1-1 draw with Forest Green at The New Lawn (1-2 on aggregate).
Forest Green skipper Joseph Mills' glancing header bounced under visiting goalkeeper Scott Davies to give Mark Cooper's men hope (12) on Monday night, but James Norwood netted a volley against his former side to restore their aggregate lead (27).
Forest Green: Ward (6), Shephard (7), Rawson (6), McGinley (7), Mills (7), Winchester (5), Collins (5), Mondal (5), Brown (5), Grubb (5), Doidge (5)
Subs: Williams (6), James (n/a)), McCoulsky (n/a)
Tranmere: Davies (6), Caprice (7), Nelson (7), Monthe (7), Ridehalgh (7), Banks (6), Morris (6), Harris (6), Perkins (7), Jennings (6), Norwood (7)
Subs: Gilmour (5)
Man of the match: James Norwood
Carl Winchester was sent off for the hosts after receiving a second booking, which all-but ended any hopes of a late fightback against a Tranmere side who managed the game admirably.
Micky Mellon's men will now face Newport in the Wembley showpiece on May 25, after the Exiles beat Mansfield on penalties on Sunday evening.
How Norwood booked Tranmere's Wembley date
Forest Green - who hadn't registered a single shot on target in the first leg - started in a laboured fashion for the return fixture, yet against the run of play, it was they who levelled up the tie early on.
It came from a needless foul committed by David Perkins 35 yards from goal; Junior Mondal whipped a free-kick into the penalty area, where Mills managed to glance a header past the stricken Davies.
They were ahead for just 15 minutes and, much like the opener, Tranmere's equaliser came after a lull in proceedings. Kieron Morris headed across the 18-yard box, where Norwood volleyed home, before celebrating in front of the fans of his former employers.
The half-time introduction of George Williams momentarily added panache for the home side but, as had been the case in the first leg, they were dealt a blow when Winchester was sent off, perhaps harshly, after an accidental tangle with Norwood.
Forest Green boss Mark Cooper was forced into a single change following Gavin Gunning's sending off in the first leg, with Lee Collins his replacement. Tranmere boss Micky Mellon, meanwhile, named an unchanged starting 11.
From there, Tranmere were in control. Norwood curled a shot narrowly over the bar inside the last 10 minutes, while Forest Green waited until stoppage-time to send their centre-backs forward, but when stopper Lewis Ward prematurely launched a goal-kick forward, Christian Doidge's look of disbelief summed their evening up.
Man of the match - James Norwood
Tranmere's star man may have been away from the heart of the action in the first leg at Prenton Park, but one of the most deadly strikers in English football popped up at just the right moment to remind everyone what he's capable.
The 27th-minute volley was the 32nd goal of a remarkable season for the 28-year-old striker, who could now cap his most prolific season with a return to League One for the first time since starting his professional career with Exeter in 2009.
Mark Cooper: "Obviously we are disappointed. You've got to remember, we've played over half of the tie with 10 men. We wish Tranmere all the best; I think they deserved to win the game tonight.
"I have to be careful what I say, but anyone who's seen the two games will know that we've not had any help at all. I think you know where I'm going.
"The PGMOL contacted me on Saturday morning saying that they'd completely, royally cocked-up and that we should have had a penalty and Tranmere should've had nine men in the first leg. We can't do anything about that, we can't do anything about the mistake for the sending off tonight.
"What can we do? We've played the tie with 10 men for half of it, but full credit to Tranmere and good luck in the final."
Micky Mellon: "It's great, but you know what I'm going to say - there's still a lot of work to be done. But certainly, it's fantastic for all of these fans that have travelled down and to be able to go to the big house and decide our next division is fantastic for the lads. We'll calm back down again very quickly and know that we've got work still to do.
"It's a great goal and we're delighted to see it go in. To get that goal, it calmed things down a little bit. He [Norwood] is a free spirit; he's one of those players that makes the runs and you've got to find him. He asked the questions of the man on the ball and if you are good enough to find him, you can see with the amount of goals that he's got, more often than not he'll bury them.
"We've come here in the past and, I'll be honest with you, every time we haven't met the tempo that Forest Green have set in the first 20 minutes. We spoke a lot about that and said we don't have the tempo set by anybody, we have to match that and come above it.
"It's a togetherness thing - you've got to have everyone rolling the same way. Certainly in the time I've been back it [the support] has been fantastic. We're delighted to go and fight for the last place."
Having progressed from the semi-finals, Tranmere will meet Newport in the League Two play-off final at Wembley on Saturday, May 25. For Forest Green, defeat means they remain in the fourth-tier ahead of the 2019/20 season, which kicks over the weekend of 2-4 August.