Morecambe and Newport County both get their day out at Wembley Stadium on bank holiday Monday as the two sides go head to head for a place in Sky Bet League One, with Football League World’s Chris Thorpe set to be in attendance.
It was the Shrimps from Lancashire who secured their place in the showpiece match first, with Derek Adams leading his side to an aggregate win over a plucky Tranmere Rovers side in the semi finals as the club that finished fourth place in the League Two standings prevailed 3-2 over the course of two legs.
Whilst for Newport from Wales, the Exiles were made to put a serious amount of blood, sweat and tears into securing their fifth appearance at Wembley in recent years, with Forest Green Rovers pushing them all the way over the course of both legs as a late but great extra time goal from Nicky Maynard secured their passage through to the final.
The stakes are as high as ever for both sides heading into this one, with Morecambe in particular having been earmarked as a surprise package given the size of their budget and brilliant performances this season.
However Adams has been quick to maintain that the play-offs has always been the club’s target this term, with the 45-year-old telling The Visitor the following:
“It’s been a really great season for us.
“To get to where we are, on Bank Holiday Monday, everyone is looking forward to it.
“As a group, our aim at the start was the play-offs and we have been able to get there.
“We have gone through the semi-final (against Tranmere Rovers) and we now have one game to go and get into League One.”
Meanwhile, Newport boss Michael Flynn was also quick to heap praise on his opposing number and the Shrimps as a whole when he spoke to County’s official website recently:
“It is going to be a very, very tough game. I said every game would be close in these play-offs because there wasn’t much separating the teams.
“Derek Adams has done a fantastic job with Morecambe and it is a game I’m looking forward to. May the best team win and, hopefully, it’s us this time.”
It promises to be an intriguing encounter between the two sides under the famous arch as Morecambe prepare for a day that they have never experienced before in their 101 year history, with a victory for the Shrimps seeing them progress to League One for the first time ever, whilst Newport return to the site of their 2019 League Town play-off final loss to Tranmere in search of a long awaited redemption.
Adams is seemingly set to stick with the same team which got the Shrimps to this stage, with defender Stephen Hendrie having been sadly ruled out for the remainder of the campaign after picking up an ankle injury which saw him limp off at half time away at Tranmere in the first leg.
Whilst the likes of Brad Lyons, Liam McAlinden and Aaron Wildig should be given the green light to play in the final after coming through the second leg at the Mazuma Stadium unscathed.
This should mean that Morecambe will line up in their tried and tested 4-1-4-1 formation, with the likes of Carlos Mendes Gomes and Cole Stockton once again expected to be the men from Lancashire’s main key threats on Monday.
As for Newport, Flynn is set to have something of a selection headache ahead of this game with Joss Labadie, Kevin Ellison, Ryan Taylor, Nicky Maynard and Priestley Farquharson all making an i9mpact when they were introduced in the dramatic second leg against Forest Green.
However it is said that it would be a huge surprise if the Exiles did make any changes to the side which started in the semi final, with the eleven functioning well as an attacking and defensive unit in equal measure throughout stages of both games despite the chaotic nature of the return fixture at the New Lawn.
Therefore County are expected to be set out in their usual 3-5-2 formation as they once again seek to dominate possession of the ball by packing out the midfield.
Morecambe possible starting lineup (4-1-4-1):
Newport County possible starting lineup (3-5-2):
Morecambe will be looking to reach the third tier for the first time in their history, with the Shrimps having played in League Two for the best part of 14 seasons. The club have played more campaigns in the fourth division without going any higher up the Football League than any other side.
The Shrimps do also have a good pedigree at Wembley, with the club having won on it’s last two visits to the famous stadium, when they won the FA Trophy in 1974 against Dartford and the Conference play-off final against Exeter City back in 2007.
They have however lost each of their last three League Two matches against Newport, with the previous games this term between the two sides ending in 2-1 and 3-1 wins for the Welsh club.
The Exiles haven’t won a promotion in the Football League since the 1979/80 season, when they finished third in the fourth division. The club last played in the third tier of English football back in the 1986/87 campaign and last appeared in a play-off final back in 2019 as they lost out to Tranmere.
Newport have lost three of their last four visits to the national stadium, with those defeats coming against York City in the 2012 FA Trophy final, Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup in 2018 and the aforementioned game against Tranmere. Their one previous victory at Wembley came in 2013 as they won the Conference play-off final against Wrexham, with Flynn himself starting that game.
Monday’s game is also a big occasion for Newport’s 42-year-old striker Kevin Ellison, with the veteran frontman having spent nine years at Morecambe before being frozen out and subsequently released by Adams. Expect to see fireworks in the bank holiday fixture if he finds the net!
How to watch the final?
Coverage begins at 2.30pm on Sky Sports Football ahead of the 3pm kick-off.
The match can be viewed with either a Sky Sports subscription or a NowTV pass.