Newport vs Tranmere: Sky Bet League Two play-off final preview
Watch the Sky Bet League Two play-off final between Newport and Tranmere live on Sky Sports Football from 2.30pm on Saturday; Kick-off is at 3pm
Last Updated: 25/05/19 4:24pm
Newport and Tranmere meet in the Sky Bet League Two play-off final at Wembley on Saturday, having both faced a remarkable journey simply to reach this point.
When Michael Flynn took over at Newport in March 2017 they were bottom of the Football League and 11 points adrift of safety. A barely credible run to final-day survival followed before a comfortable mid-table finish last season. There have also been two impressive FA Cup runs that have seen them beat Leicester, take Tottenham to a replay and face Manchester City.
Tranmere, meanwhile, were relegated out of League Two in 2015 to end a run of 94 straight years in the Football League. Micky Mellon took over in 2016 and led them into the play-off final in his first season in charge, where they lost to Forest Green - although they got revenge upon them in the semi-final last week. Last season, however, they won at Wembley in the National League play-off final to return to the fourth tier after three years away.
For Tranmere, victory would mean a first return to League One since 2014. Newport, meanwhile, haven't played at that level since before their reformation in 1987. Even up to this point it has been a real journey for both.
Newport have no fresh injury concerns ahead of the clash at Wembley. Boss Flynn only made one change between the two semi-final legs against Mansfield, as captain Joss Labadie returned to full fitness to replace Matty Dolan.
Tranmere boss Mellon revealed his squad are in good shape ahead of the final. Long-term injury victims Luke McCullough, Mark Ellis, Ishmael Miller and Evan Gumbs will miss out but, other than that, the group is healthy after more than a week to recover from the semi-final win over Forest Green.
Newport boss Michael Flynn: "I think it can help [playing at Wembley previously] with the build-up and everything but once you get on that pitch, the players have to stand up and be counted. I think there's only three players in the squad who haven't been to Wembley in a playing capacity.
"We've got a very experienced team in regard to that but I'm sure a lot of the Tranmere players have been there as well. It can help in the build up with the pre-match nerves but it's whoever handles the occasion best when kick-off happens. The players deserve all the plaudits and the credit because they're the ones who go and do the business on the Saturday.
"We can prepare them as well as we can, but ultimately, when they cross that white line then they have to stand up and make their own decisions as well. It's not just a game of intelligence, patterns of play and philosophies, they've got to be able to handle the occasion as well. There will be no stone left unturned. We'll be as prepared as we can be, this week has gone well so far, and we'll have them ready in peak condition for Saturday."
Tranmere boss Micky Mellon: "We never set any targets because we didn't have anything, really, to measure it on," he told the Wirral Globe. "We had so many players, with all due respect, that hadn't played an awful lot in the Football League.
"But I definitely knew we had good players and definitely knew that we had a mentality and team spirit that would make us very competitive, but what I didn't want to do was ever race ahead of myself and start making mad, ridiculous statements. But as the season went on a picture began to emerge of the prize that we could be fighting for.
"We're very, very grateful to have put in performances that have put us through to the play-off final and given us the chance to compete for a chance to get out of this division. It will be a really tough contested game. It has been every time we've played Newport, they've done fantastic to get to the play-off final stage. The fact that we have both done so well is a great credit to both clubs. We know that we've got to play well, as do Newport, in order to try to gain the prize."
League Two play-off final memories
We take a look back at some of the most memorable moments from the League Two play-off finals in years gone by...
Newport County are unbeaten in four Football League meetings with Tranmere (W1 D3 L0), with their last defeat against Rovers coming in April 1988.
Tranmere Rovers are participating in their first Football League play-off final since 1991, when they beat Bolton Wanderers at Wembley in the third-tier final that season.
A victory for Newport County will see them competing in the third-tier of English football for the first time since the 1986/87 season.
Tranmere are appearing at Wembley in a play-off final for a third consecutive season - they lost the 2017 National League final against Forest Green, before winning 2-1 against Boreham Wood in last season's National League final to return to the Football League.
This is the first League Two play-off final between the sides finishing 6th and 7th since 2012/13, when seventh-placed Bradford City won 3-0 against Northampton Town; the side finishing 7th has been promoted via the League Two play-offs in four of the previous seven seasons.
If Newport are promoted, they would be only the second team in Football League history to be promoted without scoring more goals than they conceded during the regular league season (GD - 0) after Huddersfield Town in 2016-17, who were promoted from the Championship with a minus two goal difference.
The Key Battle - Joe Day vs James Norwood
Comfortably the best striker in League Two this season, it has been near-impossible for anyone to stop Norwood. One of the few goalkeepers to have managed that so far is Day, keeping a clean sheet at Prenton Park in a 1-0 win in September and again at Rodney Parade in a goalless draw in April.
Norwood has taken his return to the EFL like a duck to water, netting 32 goals in all competitions so far, and he struck the crucial goal at Forest Green in the second leg of their semi-final to seal the win for his side.
Day, meanwhile, was vital across both legs of their semi-final against Mansfield, and proved the difference in the shoot-out to send his side to Wembley. If he can keep Norwood out for the third time this season, Newport might just have a chance.
Fans' view - what would victory mean?
Jeffrey Challingsworth, Newport County AFC Supporters Trust
"Victory on Saturday would mean the world to all County fans. Since the old County went bust 30 years ago we have overcome so many hurdles - re-forming and working our way up from the Hellenic League. We have a rock solid defence, a well-balanced midfield and two 20+ goalscorers. It is not improbable for us to achieve the impossible."
Paul Harper, This Is Tranmere
"After back-to-back relegations in 2014 and 2015 from League One to non-league, a couple of successive promotions completing the circle would be just perfect. We never expected to be in this position so we're enjoying every second of it. We have had experience playing big games at Wembley recently and that will stand us in good stead."
I love what both these teams have done this season. With the greatest of respects you wouldn't have backed either to have made it this far back in August, but here we are!
Tranmere had just come up from the National League and Newport have one of the lowest budgets in the division, and both managers have done an incredible job.
It should be a great final for the neutral to watch and it will be a finely-balanced affair - as these games so often are. It could well be decided by a mistake from a defender or one real moment of quality from a striker. Tranmere's main man, James Norwood, has been the standout player in League Two this season and if anyone will provide that moment at Wembley, it will be him.
Newport have been brilliant in cup competitions under Michael Flynn, but I have to just about back Tranmere to nick it.
David Prutton predicts: Tranmere to win 2-1 (9/1 with Sky Bet)
All the ways to watch the play-off finals...
All three play-off finals will be live on Sky Sports Football.
Sky Sports subscribers can also stream games via the Sky Sports app or the Sky Go app.
- Watch on Sky Sports
- Create a Sky iD to watch highlights on the Sky Sports app and skysports.com
- Watch on NOW TV for £8.99
Non-subscribers can watch through NOW TV. A Sky Sports day pass is available for £8.99, a week pass for £14.99 or a month pass for £33.99. NOW TV can be streamed through a computer or apps.
If you can't watch live then you can also follow the action with our live blogs on www.skysports.com and the Sky Sports app, with in-game clips and highlights throughout the match.