LOMAS ON STAGS: Tinge of jealousy as Morecambe make Wembley to confound all expectations

As Mansfield Town supporters sit and wait for news of summer signings, it's hard not to feel a tinge of jealousy as Morecambe and Newport County prepare to do battle at Wembley in the League Two play-off final.

Monday, 24th May 2021, 5:53 pm
Morecambe fans celebrate their side's play-off semi-final victory overTranmere Rovers.

At the same time it's hard not to admire the strides made at Morecambe

Year after year they were said to have the lowest budget in League Two following promotion from the Conference, yet year after year they got stuck in and survived, sometimes only just, under boss Jim Bentley.

Now, under Derek Adams, they have gone one step further and put themselves in with a very real chance of mouthwatering league games against the likes of Sunderland, Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich Town and Portsmouth if they can reach the third tier for the first time in their 101-year history.

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There is no doubt Stags have had the better quality players and the bigger finance than the Shrimps over recent seasons.

But they have not been able to translate that advantage into success.

After that knockback of failing to secure automatic promotion of the final day of the 2018/19 season at MK Dons, Stags promptly lost their two-legged semi-final with Newport and have been in a freefall ever since, stopped only by the arrival of experienced boss Nigel Clough.

Morecambe, meanwhile, suffered the heartbreak of missing out on automatic promotion by a single point on the final day of the regular season last week.

But they were able to quickly dust themselves down and pull off a sensational 2-1 first leg win at Tranmere before holding them 1-1 in the home leg.

The second leg of the other semi, played in similar monsoon conditions at Forest Green to when Stags were at the New Lawn this season, was a belter of a game which was locked at 4-4 over the two legs until on-loan Mansfield Town striker Nicky Maynard struck just before the end of extra-time.

It was a well-taken finish and made up for his dreadful miss when he missed a close range header when completely unmarked just before.

Either side could have gone through with the chances they had in a thriller on a lottery of a surface, but Maynard, released by the Stags this summer, forced his claims for a contract with the Exiles.

It was also heart-warming to see wily old fox Kevin Ellison, at 42, become the oldest ever goalscorer in the play-offs for Newport.

I think many Stags fans will be backing Morecambe in the final with their general dislike of Newport and memories of that semis penalties defeat by the Welsh club three seasons ago.

But some might also feel the presence of Newport next season could make life tougher for those with promotion aspirations.

In the meantime, Stags boss Nigel Clough has brought in his first summer signing in Elliott Hewitt and, if he is to be successful in his hopes of adding two or three by the end of May, it shouldn't be long before we hear more news.