Forest Green Rovers are in the Football League for the first time in their history and after years of trying have finally managed to clinch promotion from Non-League football.
They tiny village with a population of less than 6,000 will host League Two football following a first half performance full of quality, where two goals from Man of the Match Kaiyne Woolery and another from top scorer Christian Doidge. It was easily good enough to blow below-par Tranmere Rovers away.
A pulsating first half at Wembley gave Rovers the foothold they needed to fulfill owner Dale Vince’s dream. He said it was inevitable that it would happen one day, and his moment came at the national stadium. For Tranmere, it was unavoidable.
This is not a cagey game with a place in the Football League at stake and both sides have gone for it in the Vanarama National League playoff final.
Forest Green dictated from an early stage in the first half and they were rewarded for having more of the ball.
Kaiyne Woolery was not closed down despite various opportunities and, left footed, fired his team ahead.
A fine goal from an excellent player, but there was an even better one to come.
After 22 minutes, Connor Jennings picked up the loose ball and tried to make something happen. After considering his options decided going alone was the best thing to do and he went for glory, past Sam Russell from outside the box and it flew right past him.
His wild celebration in front of the club’s 15,000 fans said everything about what it meant to the midfielder.
James Norwood, one on one, nearly scored after a great flick on but Russell this time was equal to the Tranmere threat.
It was Russell’s opposite number whose turn it was to shine soon after that. Keanu Marsh-Brown lobbed the seemingly stranded Scott Davies after his brushed off Steve McNulty but the keeper was outstanding as he back peddled to rescue his side.
Then, Jennings pass put in Andy Mangan but he was a Paul Gascoigne-like toenail away from tapping in.
There was another goal still to come. Christian Doidge cut in from the left, teased the Tranmere defenders and fut his foot behind it – too good for Davies who was clutching air four minutes before half-time.
It got better for Mark Cooper’s men. Doidge knocked on, Ridehalgh was robbed and Woolery stroked the ball beyond the keeper. Tranmere fans couldn’t believe it.
— Pitchero Non-League (@PHNonLeague) May 14, 2017
They still had heart and they started the second half like a side who weren’t out of it just yet.
Cole Stockton, who was quiet until now, flashed a header goalwards and Russell’s save was out of the top drawer.
The Forest Green keeper then lost his head. Trying to turn a Tranmere attacker not once but twice, he deserved to be punished but Stockton again couldn’t apply the finish. A big old let off that for the Gloucestershire club.
Micky Mellon’s side didn’t really stamp their mark on the final from that moment like many would have expected.
Even bringing Andy Cook on couldn’t inspire heavy pressure. Forest Green didn’t require a fourth goal, they knew by keeping the ball they were doing their job.
Jeff Hughes shot straight at Russell on 79 minutes, but it was obvious from an early stage in the second half that Tranmere didn’t possess quite enough to get themselves back into this.
Rovers held strong and take their place in League Two next season as Tranmere face up to a third year outside of the Football League.
— Forest Green Rovers (@FGRFC_Official) May 14, 2017