BRISTOL ROVERS 1
GRIMSBY TOWN 1
Bristol Rovers won 5-3 on penalties
LEE MANSELL scored the winning penalty as Bristol Rovers secured promotion back into the Football League at the first time of asking.
Birthday boy Lenell John-Lewis had given Grimsby an early lead but Ellis Harrison’s cool finish meant it was 1-1 at the end of a blistering first half. Neither side really kept up the pace and the game eventually went to penalties, where Rovers won 5-3 in front of a Conference record crowd of 47,029.
The game had started so well for Grimsby. Following a good run from Nathan Arnold, his low ball found John-Lewis whose first low effort saved by Will Puddy. The rebound, however, cannoned back off John-Lewis’ face and past the despairing keeper.
The game had a good intensity about it and there was a scuffle in the penalty area after James McKeown’s brave save ahead of Matty Taylor. Shaun Pearson objected to Taylor’s challenge but it was merely handbags.
The keeper and Taylor were involved again three minutes later. The former Forest Green striker rounded McKeown but he did well to recover and smoother the ball.
Sloppy play from Rovers allowed Grimsby to counter attack. Scott Brown’s low cross was diverted towards goal by John-Lewis but Puddy turned it around the post before Nsiala’s header from the resulting corner went over.
The Mariners started to dominate and the nervy Puddy went into the book for handling outside his area. Referee Ross Joyce determined Ollie Palmer’s shot he handled wasn’t going in so no red was shown. Arnold then fired just wide from 25-yards out.
But the Gas showed why they’ve had such a good season. Aristote Nsiala sliced a ball over his own bar and from the resulting corner, Harrison fire home when the ball fell to him in the 29th minute.
Rovers then thought they had a penalty five minutes later after Pearson had missed a ball over the top. Taylor tried to round McKeown but fell to the floor.
Gas fans thought the whistle meant a penalty but instead Joyce booked Taylor for simulation with little evidence of contact.
Both sides looked dangerous going forward, the Mariners doing well to block Andy Monkhouse’s effort after good work by Taylor and Chris Lines while Palmer was just denied at the other end before half time.
The second half began less frantically than the first with Taylor firing over after a Rovers penalty appeal was turned down.
Grimsby came closest a minute from time, sub Daniel Parslow’s brilliant ball across the face of goal just about evaded John-Lewis.
To extra time we went and it started much the same way as the second half, with both sides desperate not to throw their seasons away at the final hurdle.
Lines headed over from a free-kick in the second period but in truth, both teams seemed happy to settle for penalties.
Darrell Clarke took a leaf out of Louis van Gaal’s book by bringing sub keeper Steve Mildenhall just before the final whistle.
While the keeper didn’t make any saves in the shoot-out, Jon-Paul Pittman’s miss allowed Mansell to score the winner as the Gas celebrated promotion. They are the first team to bounce straight back into the Football League since Carlisle in 2005.
Bristol Rovers (4-4-2): Puddy (Mildenhall 120); Lockyer, McChrystal (c), Parkes, L Brown; Gosling (Balanta 75), Mansell, Lines; Monkhouse, Harrison (Blissett 80), Taylor. Subs: Leadbitter, Clarke.
Grimsby Town (4-4-2): McKeown; Magnay, Pearson, Nsiala, Robertson (Parslow 74); Mackreth, Disley (c), S Brown (Clay 99) , Arnold; John-Lewis, Palmer (Pittman 70). Subs: Hannah, Jolley.