Conference play-off final: Bristol Rovers promoted to Football League as Grimsby suffer penalty shoot-out agony at Wembley

Bristol Rovers 1 Grimsby 1 (Bristol Rovers win 5-3 on penalties)

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The Independent Online

Lee Mansell kept his cool to score the winning penalty as Bristol Rovers sealed an immediate return to the Football League with a 5-3 shootout victory over Grimsby in the Vanarama Conference play-off final.

Rovers manager Darrell Clarke took the bold move of replacing goalkeeper Will Puddy with Steve Mildenhall at the end of extra-time but the former Mariners stopper was not needed as Jon-Paul Pittman blazed his penalty over.

With every other penalty put away after the sides could not be separated following a 1-1 draw in 120 minutes, Mansell had the opportunity to win it for Rovers and he made no mistake to spark wild scenes at Wembley.

The Mariners needed more than a slice of fortune to take an early advantage as Lenell John-Lewis' shot rebounded off Puddy and onto his face before rolling across the line.

John-Lewis saw another shot saved by the Rovers stopper, who was then lucky to be shown only a yellow card after charging out of his box and handling Ollie Palmer's goal-bound effort.

Arnold curled a 25-yard strike just wide as Grimsby continued to turn the screw, but it was Rovers who got the all-important second goal.

Aristote Nsiala sliced a clearance over his own bar and from the resultant corner Ellis Harrison punished more bad defending by firing the ball home from close range.

The momentum was suddenly with Rovers and they thought they had a penalty when Matt Taylor rounded James McKeown and went to ground after capitalising on a mistake by Shaun Pearson, only for the referee to blow for a dive.

The Pirates had the first chance of the second half as Taylor shot over after good work by Jake Gosling, but the opportunities dried up with both sides desperate not to make a mistake.

Danny Parslow saw a cross flash across the Rovers six-yard box and Mansell sliced a shot over at the other end late on in normal time.

Extra-time was every bit as cagey as the second period, with Chris Lines' looping header and Pittman's cleared cut-back the only chances of note.

With Rovers leading 3-2 in the shootout, Pittman sent his spot-kick high over the bar before Mansell settled the contest and booked the Pirates' return to League Two.

"I'm just delighted it's gone in, I really am," man-of-the-moment Mansell told BT Sport. "I bet my missus is up there having a heart attack; she told me not to take a pen!

"We've had a lot of pressure all year and we've had to cope with that. We showed a lot of character again today.

"We're back at the first time of asking and not a lot of teams have done that. What a day.

"This football club is a Football League club again and I hope it stays that way for the foreseeable future."

PA

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