Wrexham 0-2 Newport County | Blue Square Premier play-off final

• Wrexham 0-2 Newport County

Newport County's remarkable 25-year journey back to the Football League is complete. Relegated from the fourth tier in 1988, wound up a year later and forced to start all over again at the bottom of the football pyramid, in Moreton-in-Marsh, 85 miles from their old home at Somerton Park, Newport supporters must feel like they have been to hell and back. This, however, was a day to make all the heartache worthwhile.

Two late goals, by Christian Jolley and the substitute Aaron O'Connor, vanquished Wrexham and secured the south Wales club a place in League Two next season. With Premier League handouts, TV money and increased gate receipts, promotion will be worth up to £1m for Newport but money was never the incentive here. This was about a football club that refused to die regaining its status.

There were raucous scenes at the end as Justin Edinburgh, the Newport manager, hugged Les Scadding, the lottery-winning chairman who has helped to make the dream possible, before joining in the celebrations on the pitch, where he was thrown into the air by his players. Edinburgh described it as the best moment of his career, both as a player and a manager, and said promotion was "life-changing for everyone in Newport".

"It's emotional," he said. "We spoke all week about the importance of the game, what with it being a centenary season and 25 years since we lost Football League status and going out of existence. We spoke about fairy tales. I thought I was a little bit old for them but now I do believe in them. I've accomplished what I set out to do.

"It means so much to so many people before me in reforming the club, through the Hellenic Leagues and leaving Wales to play, so there was a lot of emotion involved today, much more than a normal game."

This has been a golden year for Welsh football. Swansea City beat Bradford in the League Cup final, Cardiff returned to the top flight for the first time in 51 years, Wrexham won the FA trophy five weeks ago and Gareth Bale has been named PFA player of the year, young player of the year and the football writers' player of the year. Newport have now added their name to the roll of honour.

For Wrexham, defeat was a bitter pill to swallow. They had lost in the play-off semi-finals in each of the previous two seasons and, on an afternoon when they looked the more accomplished side for long periods, had enough chances to win this game. The best of those opportunities fell to Brett Ormerod, who blazed over the bar on the hour, after Lenny Pidgeley, who made several excellent saves, had denied Andy Morrell, the Wrexham player-manager.

Jolley was nothing like as forgiving in the 86th minute. Signed from AFC Wimbledon for £25,000 in January on the back of a successful loan spell with Newport, the 24-year-old striker outpaced Martin Riley, after David Artell could only flick on Andy Sandell's lofted pass, and dinked the ball over Chris Maxwell for his 15th Newport goal.

It was a sublime finish, as Morrell, who tried but failed to sign Jolley in January, ruefully reflected. "He's the difference between them going up or not," the Wrexham manager said.

The forward, who was born five days after Newport were relegated from the Football League, also had a hand in the second goal, teeing up O'Connor, who rammed the ball home deep in injury-time. There were wild celebrations among the Newport fans in a disappointing crowd of 16,346, which suggests the venue and pricing structure (£36 for the cheapest ticket), needs to be reviewed. Not that Newport were complaining come the end of a momentous day.

"I was lucky enough to play top level and I think you lose association with fans and people," Edinburgh said. "Coming to non-league was the best thing I ever did because I fell back in love with game. There's a lot of volunteers at this club who give up their time and effort for no money – this is pay back for them.

"It's been tough for them to see their city lose a football club. I was involved [as manager] with Rushden & Diamonds and I think those at levels above don't understand what impact it has on the community when that happens. I'm giving back something to all the people who worked tirelessly before me. We have special fans and this was a present for them."


Stuart James at Wembley

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