Friday, 10 June 2011

Tranmere Rovers - Prenton Park

14th February 2004

Tranmere Rovers 2-1 Swansea City

Being a bit of an Epsilon Male, I find I can easily empathise with the plight of Tranmere Rovers – struggling to make their way in the world, existing in the oppressive shadows of those pair of Alpha Males across the Mersey.  I seem to recall a period when the club chose to play their home matches on Friday evenings in an attempt to worm their way into the consciousness of the Good Folks of The Wirral.

The Kop Stand from the rear.

The main entrance to Prenton Park.

February 2003 found Tranmere Rovers although plodding along mid-table in Division Two, having somehow having sneaked into the Fifth Round of the FA Cup.  Their opponents in this tie were Swansea City, the only other club left in the tournament from outwith the top two divisions.  

Rovers therefore began the match as favourites, but would have been aware of the threat posed by visitors’ Liverpool born Lee Trundle.  Although perhaps not the most mobile of individuals (his surname was serendipitously apt), he undoubtedly could find his way to goal.  Trundle had scored 20 goals already during the season, including at least one in each of Swansea’s four FA Cup ties so far.  

In the event, however, Swansea manager Brian Flynn’s decision to play Trundle up front alone in a 4-5-1 formation simply left the big lad isolated for much of the match; a virtual spectator at times.  And yet it was the visitors who took a lead in the 16th minute, through former Tranmere midfielder Andy ROBINSON.  A lead which lasted all of seven minutes until Swans’ full-back Michael Howard (I think it was) inexplicably chose to shove over Eugene Dadi – Ryan TAYLOR did the needful from the resulting penalty kick.

What proved to be the winner came along in the 59th minute, Tranmere’s Canadian striker Iain HUME turning and impressively whacking one in from outside the box.  Play opened up considerably after this with chances aplenty at both ends, but it took until three minutes from time for Trundle to make any real contribution, his run and shot narrowly drifting past John Achterberg’s left–hand post.  Thus did Tranmere deservedly hold out, winning for themselves a trip to Milwall in the quarter-finals.

And the entertainment did not finish there, for leaving the ground I was treated to an event which used to be so common after football matches, but is rarely seen in these more civilised times: a fight.  I missed the start of it, but sort of stumbled into a clearing where one shaven headed clown was inviting (in a Welsh accent) a (presumably) Tranmere fan to “Come on then, If you feel you are Big Enough”, or similar.  

There then followed a brief but lively flurry of flailing fists and feet, with neither idiot managing to land any sort of telling blow, before the two individuals snarled at each other, then turned and continued on their respective ways – honour satisfied on both sides, one assumes.  What made the incident even more jarring was that these were not two tanked-up teenagers, but grown men –one might even say middle-aged, and the one in the Tranmere corner had a couple of kids with him.  

Hmmm – these Alpha Males.  Testosterone has a lot to answer for.

The visting Swansea fans.
Panorama of Prenton Park, Tranmere.

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