League Two Play-Off Final: Tranmere for glory?5 min read
Flynn’s outstanding man management
Newport County have done superbly to reach the League Two Play-Off Final.
The Wembley finale will be the Exiles’ 63rd match of the campaign, chiefly due to the FA Cup underdog story that saw them beat the likes of Leicester and Middlesbrough.
To defeat the odds to this extent across two competitions, with one of the lower budgets in the division and one of the smaller squads, is quite remarkable.
How has Michael Flynn done it?
The Welshman is of course a more than respectable tactician, but a big factor is his ability to find marginal gains in areas that other managers sometimes overlook.
🗣 | Read and watch everything Manager Michael Flynn said to the Press yesterday following our incredible penalty shootout victory over @mansfieldtownfc in the Play-Off semi-final to take us to Wembley.
— Newport County AFC (@NewportCounty) May 13, 2019
For example, before extra-time in Newport’s penalty-shootout Semi-Final win at Mansfield, Flynn did his team talk in front of the fans: he felt that the passion and words of encouragement from those 1,100 supporters who had travelled that Sunday might give the players that extra lift.
Flynn is very much an intuitive, feeling manager: to him, at least as important as the technical side of the job is the emotional side – he invests a lot of energy into making his players feel part of something bigger than themselves, getting them to buy into the common cause.
It is perhaps for that reason that in most of his interviews, he talks not so much about tactics but what his players put into the performance and how that made him feel – it is not too difficult to see how the boyhood Liverpool fan has gained the admiration of Jurgen Klopp.
Flynn is often very praising of goalkeeper Joe Day, who has been outstanding for Newport County this season, as has Jamille Matt – the striker’s physicality makes him a threat in both boxes yet he is also unusually mobile and persistent for a target man.
Tranmere Rovers deserved to beat Forest Green 2-1 across the two Semi-Final legs, even if they were helped by playing a combined 98 minutes of the 180-minute tie with a man advantage.
The Super White Army have a very strong spine: James Norwood might not have been at his ruthless best in the first leg of the semi-final, but in the second leg he hooked home his 30th league goal of the campaign with a firm, first-time strike in a hardworking performance.
Centre-back Manny Monthe has been very commanding; his athleticism allows him to dominate next to loanee Sid Nelson, a likely summer target having been released by Millwall.
David Perkins, meanwhile, is a controlling influence in midfield; as a League One title-winner with Wigan as recently as 2017-18 – part of the XI that beat Man City in the FA Cup – he plays with real authority next to the lively Ollie Banks.
Because of those players, Tranmere have the nous to take control of games once they get ahead.
— Tranmere Rovers FC (@TranmereRovers) May 13, 2019
In 11 of the 18 games Monthe and Perkins have started simultaneously, the Super White Army have led in – they have held onto victory in each of those 11 encounters, conceding just one second half goal combined.
We can therefore suppose that if Tranmere are ahead at half-time, they will do the right things after the break: keep their shape and look after the ball to relieve themselves of pressure.
As much as Flynn and everyone connected with Newport County must take huge credit for getting to this stage, we think Tranmere Rovers will be playing in League One come August.
Tip: Half-Time/Full-Time: Tranmere/Tranmere