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Bristol Rovers secure Football League return with win over Grimsby Town

17 May 2015

Bristol Rovers sealed an immediate return to The Football League with a 5-3 penalty shoot-out victory over Grimsby Town in the 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, Lee 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.

Nathan 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 second half was a more tense affair, and extra-time was every bit as cagey, with Chris Lines' looping header and Pittman's cleared cut-back the only chances of note.

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

"I'm just delighted it's gone in, I really am," man-of-the-moment Mansell said after the game. "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."

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