Written By: Mark Armstrong
Result: Tranmere Rovers 2-2 Aldershot
Date: Saturday May 6 2017
Competition: National League Play-Off Semi-Final (Second Leg)
Venue: Prenton Park, Tranmere
Tranmere Rovers are one win away from returning to the Football League after making it through their Play-Off Semi Final second leg game with Aldershot, securing a trip to Wembley in the process.
Coming off their 3-0 win in the first leg, Tranmere could afford to sit back a little since the pressure was on Aldershot to create chances and attempt a major comeback, though one or two early goals could have blown the tie wide open again.
Nevertheless, it was Tranmere who were more ambitious heading forward in the early going with a few decent opportunities on goal. That being said, both sides looked a lot tentative during the opening 15-20 minutes, as it appeared that each team were desperate not to concede; Aldershot did eventually begin to create chances, as they would have to if they were to have any hopes of turning things around.
As the game passed the half-hour mark, the game reached its first flashpoint with Cole Stockton taking his chance well to compose himself and slot past Jake Cole, putting Tranmere in front to a raucous reception and giving Rovers a 4-0 margin on aggregate.
With Tranmere coming close to doubling their lead on the day through a fine attempt by Lois Maynard, it seemed like Aldershot’s chances of making a grand comeback were dead in the water, but Bernard Mensah changed that perception with a superb strike from outside the area right into the corner of Rovers’ net. The equaliser at least made Aldershot’s challenge a bit more realistic, but the away side would still have a mighty task on their hands to salvage anything in the second half.
Tranmere nerves really started jangling at 54 minutes when Matt McClure pounced on a ricocheting ball following a corner for The Shots and made it 2-1. Suddenly, with the aggregate score at 4-2, one more Aldershot goal could have set up a grandstand finish, though extra time would have still been required if they had completed the big comeback.
Aldershot had some great chances shortly thereafter and Tranmere looked shaken for a period, before Rovers began to settle things down and take control of the game again. Still, despite some close calls for the home side, it was Aldershot who almost got another goal when Scott Rendell headed it towards the net from mere centimetres, and Scott Davies pulled off a superb, and hugely important save.
After that, Aldershot were unable to come so close to reducing the overall deficit again, and Tranmere officially settled the tie when James Norwood scored in the 94th minute for a 2-2 draw on the day and a 5-2 aggregate win. Cue huge celebrations and a pitch invasion, which began before the final whistle.
So, Tranmere are heading to Wembley, and it’s no less than they deserve after a strong showing all season, and having looked particularly impressive in the last few months. Aldershot, to their credit, had a real go of it, and Rendell’s headed chance might have changed things if not for Davies’ save. Nevertheless, it’s Tranmere who are celebrating, and only 90 minutes and a trip to the capital separate Rovers from a return to the Football League.
Man Of The Match: Cole Stockton. Tight, high-pressure matches need somebody to step up and produce some magic, and Stockton once again rose to the occasion with a vital goal. A mention for Scott Davies, too, whose late save effectively killed Aldershot’s hopes of a miraculous comeback.