Morecambe sink Newport to climb into League One amid penalty controversy

History was made. After 14 seasons in League Two Morecambe finally found the exit door but not how many would have expected. Carlos Mendes Gomes’ controversial extra-time penalty lifted a club that has spent much of its 101-year existence in non-league into English football’sthird tier for the first time.

Perennial relegation strugglers, Morecambe were languishing bottom of the Football League when Derek Adams took charge. Eighteen months on, and with the division’s lowest budget, the miracle is complete.

Adams has won many admirers and has been linked with Bradford City. Even in the aftermath of the Shrimps’ finest hour, though, he provided no assurances on his future. “Today was all about making history. We’ve done that exceptionally throughout the season. I’ve got a contract with Morecambe and that’s what we are playing to. All I can say is that there’s no deal done.”

The game contained much bluster but little by way of magic before a rare moment of quality led to Ryan Haynes bringing down the substitute John O’Sullivan. Bobby Madley awarded a penalty but what little contact there was appeared to come outside the area. “Our player gets across their defender and he’s lucky not to get sent off or booked,” said Adams defiantly. “It was a clear penalty kick.”

A dejected Michael Flynn, Newport’s manager, thought otherwise and was also left the rue the referee’s failure to award his side an early spot-kick. Mickey Demetriou’s long throw saw the Morecambe goalkeeper, Kyle Letheren, fly out to punch the ball clear. Scott Bennett arrived first and, while he nodded wide, Letheren landed a blow. It was not vicious but, had VAR been available, a different conclusion might have been reached.

Gracefully Flynn congratulated his opponents before addressing decisions that have huge implications for his club. “You’ve got to have VAR at these big games. They’ll come back with the excuse that we haven’t had it all season, so its unethical. That’s a load of rubbish. There’s not one game other than the play-off final that determines which league you are going to be playing in. So that’s a cop out. Its two terrible decisions and I’m gutted for my players, the club and the supporters.”

Newport dominated possession but could fashion only half-chances while it took Morecambe more than an hour to register an effort on target. After Ryan Cooney’s 25-yard shot was pushed away by Tom King, Letheren had to react smartly to palm Liam Shephard’s curling shot at the other end. Letheren tipped Ryan Haynes’ free-kick wide in injury time.

In between came the moment Morecambe fans feared most: Kevin Ellison time. The 42-year-old clocked up 391 appearances with Morecambe before Adams deemed him surplus to requirements. On the verge of picking up factory shifts before Flynn offered him a deal, Ellison scored when the two sides met back in March, celebrating wildly in his former manager’s face. A Hollywood script? Well, the chance came in extra time but he failed to connect with Nicky Maynard’s centre, his presence enough to put off Joss Labadie arriving behind him. Or that is what the Newport captain might have you believe after he somehow lifted over from six yards. A minute later the decisive goal came.

In the past 12 months Morecambe have suffered a trio of tragedies. The defender Christian Mbulu died suddenly last May aged 23, and the club have since lost the stalwart Dickie Danson and the 1974 FA Trophy winning captain, Bob Baldwin. Having preserved their Football League status on goal difference with a draw at Coventry City in 2018, the club will now be hosting Sheffield Wednesday, Sunderland and Ipswich come August. “If you believe, you’ll get somewhere,” said Adams.