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2015 Conference Premier play-off Final

The 2015 Conference Premier play-off Final, known as the 2015 Vanarama Conference Promotion Final for sponsorship reasons, was a football match between Bristol Rovers and Grimsby Town played on 17 May 2015 at Wembley Stadium in London. It was the thirteenth Conference Premier play-off Final, the eighth to be played at Wembley and the first to feature either side.

2015 Conference Premier play-off Final
Wembley Stadium during London 2012 Olympic Games.JPG
Wembley Stadium, venue for the match
Event2014–15 Football Conference
Bristol Rovers won 5–3 on penalties
Date17 May 2015
VenueWembley Stadium, London
RefereeRoss Joyce

The two participants finished the regular season in 2nd and 3rd respectively to qualify for the play-offs. Bristol Rovers overcame local rivals Forest Green Rovers 3–0 over two legs while Grimsby Town disposed of Eastleigh 5–1.

Bristol Rovers won the match 5–3 on penalties following a 1–1 draw after extra time. Rovers therefore became the first club since Carlisle United in 2005 to secure an immediate return to the Football League,[1] after their relegation on the last day of the previous season. For Grimsby Town, it was the third successive season that they had failed to win promotion via the play-offs and were condemned to a sixth straight season in the fifth tier. The attendance of 47,029 was a record for a Conference Premier match,[2] beating the previous best of 42,669 when Oxford United defeated York City to win promotion at the same venue in 2010.

Route to the finalEdit

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
2 Bristol Rovers 46 25 16 5 73 34 +39 91
3 Grimsby Town 46 25 11 10 74 40 +34 86
4 Eastleigh 46 24 10 12 87 61 +26 82
5 Forest Green Rovers 46 22 16 8 80 54 +26 79[a]
  1. ^ Forest Green Rovers were deducted three points for fielding an ineligible player in their win over Southport on 9 August 2014.


First leg
Second leg



Grimsby Town got off to the perfect start when a purposeful run from Nathan Arnold set up Lenell John-Lewis to shoot from inside the penalty area. His shot was saved by Bristol Rovers goalkeeper Will Puddy but it deflected off John-Lewis' face into the goal, giving the Mariners the lead after just 1:38. Grimsby kept up the pressure and were unfortunate not to be playing against ten men as Puddy handled Ollie Palmer's shot outside the area. However, referee Ross Joyce deemed the offence only worthy of a yellow card. Just over 10 minutes later and Rovers were level after Grimsby failed to deal with a Jake Gosling corner, leaving Ellis Harrison to drive the ball past James McKeown.

The second half proved a much less open affair as players tired, defenders came out on top and errors were few and far between. Extra time was much the same, as chances for Chris Lines for Rovers and John-Lewis for Grimsby came to nothing. In the last minute of the extra time, Rovers manager Darrell Clarke switched Puddy for substitute keeper Steve Mildenhall for the inevitable penalty shoot-out, in a move reminiscent of that by Dutch coach Louis van Gaal at the previous year's World Cup.[3] Clarke later stated that he felt Mildenhall would have "a better chance with his bigger frame."[3]

The first five penalties of the shoot-out were successfully converted before Jon-Paul Pittman blazed his over the bar in front of the Grimsby fans. The following two were also successful, leaving veteran Lee Mansell with the deciding spot kick, which he powered in to McKeown's left.


Bristol Rovers1–1 (a.e.t.)Grimsby Town
Harrison   29' Report John-Lewis   2'
5–3 Disley  
Attendance: 47,029
Referee: Ross Joyce
Bristol Rovers
Grimsby Town
GK 25 Will Puddy   18'   120+1'
RB 4 Tom Lockyer
CB 5 Mark McChrystal (c)
CB 6 Tom Parkes
LB 3 Lee Brown
RM 11 Jake Gosling   75'
CM 14 Chris Lines
CM 7 Lee Mansell
LM 23 Andy Monkhouse
ST 10 Matty Taylor   35'
ST 17 Ellis Harrison   80'
GK 1 Steve Mildenhall   120+1'
DF 2 Daniel Leadbitter
MF 8 Ollie Clarke
MF 29 Ángelo Balanta   75'
FW 27 Nathan Blissett   80'
Darrell Clarke
GK 1 James McKeown
RB 6 Carl Magnay   41'
CB 22 Aristote Nsiala
CB 5 Shaun Pearson
LB 35 Gregor Robertson   74'
RM 7 Jack Mackreth
CM 8 Craig Disley (c)
CM 4 Scott Brown   87'   99'
LM 20 Nathan Arnold
ST 14 Lenell John-Lewis
ST 33 Ollie Palmer   70'
DF 19 Daniel Parslow   74'
MF 16 Craig Clay   99'
MF 34 Christian Jolley
FW 10 Ross Hannah
FW 18 Jon-Paul Pittman   70'
Paul Hurst

Match officials:

  • Assistant referees:
    • Paul Johnson
    • Joe Johnson
  • Fourth official: Martin Coy

Match rules:

  • 90 minutes.
  • 30 minutes of extra time if necessary.
  • Penalty shoot-out if scores still level.
  • Five named substitutes.
  • Maximum of three substitutions.


  1. ^ "Bristol Rovers 1–1 Grimsby". BBC Sport. 17 May 2015. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
  2. ^ "Record Crowd See Rovers Return". Football Conference. 17 May 2015. Archived from the original on 20 May 2015. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Bristol Rovers 1–1 Grimsby Town (5–3 pens): The Pirates secure promotion to League Two... and copy Holland at 2014 World Cup by changing goalkeeper in 120th minute!". Daily Mail. London. 17 May 2015. Retrieved 17 May 2015.[unreliable source?]