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League Cup 2nd Round 2nd October 1973

Until recent years the result at Highbury against a full strength Arsenal side, who had been 1st Division Champions only 18 months earlier, was regarded as possibly the greatest in Rovers’ history. While Rovers Chairman Bill Bothwell simply expressed the hope the team would not be humiliated, the national media understandably suggested the result would be a formality. Never mind that Rovers were 2nd in Division 3 with the meanest defence in all 4 divisions, Arsenal were 10th in Division 1 and could boast the likes of Bob Wilson, Alan Ball and Ray Kennedy among a galaxy of top players. No contest Surly. While Player-Manager Ron Yates was a colossus at the heart of Rovers’ defence marshalling his partner Ronnie Moore and Full-Back Ray Mathias and Syd Farrimond, the key element of the strategy development by Yeats and his number 2 John King was to shackle Alan Ball’s effectiveness and to that end Mark Palios – later to become chief executive of the FA and Owner of Tranmere Rovers – was deployed to specifically mark the inspirational England Playmaker until he limped off 10 minutes from time. Perhaps seeing Palios had been detailed to man mark Ball, referee Ray Toseland somewhat harshly booked Palios for his very 1st tackle in the 1st minute. Maybe Arsenal were overconfident, or for once just not at the races, but right from the 1st whistle Tranmere seemed comfortable. When Rovers lost possession of the ball, it seemed the Arsenal players were only too happy to give it back to them, so much so that Dickie Johnson was not seriously troubled during the early stage. That said, 5 minutes from time Johnson did earn his corn with a magnificent save from Radford. The crucial breakthrough arrived as the big Highbury clock approached 8:00pm. Tommy Young released winger Hughie McAuley – on loan from Liverpool – down the left enabling him to skip pat Pat Rice and deliver a teasing cross into the box which deceived both Simpson and McNab before dropping at the feet of Eddie Loyden, 6 yards out.  His 1st touch controlled the loose ball: his 2nd trashed it passed a startled Bob Wilson to give Rovers and unexpected lead. Not bad for a player who cost just £7,000. Territorially, Arsenal controlled the 2nd half as much as they did the 1st but continued to play into Rovers’ hands by using the high ball straight down the throat of Yates and Moore who were well use to such tactics in Division 3. Despite that, Tranmere almost increased their lead on 49 minutes when the disaster-prone Jeff Blackly mishit a back-pass right to the feet of an astonished Loyden, who could not dig the ball out from under his feet and miskicked his shot completely. Then, 14 minutes later, an astute Tynan pass feed Loyden 1 on 1 against Bob Wilson. This time his effort went wide. McAuly also grazed the bar with a neat chip shot as Rovers grew in confidence. The last 20 minutes, though, were purgatory for both players and supporters, but Rovers found an unlikely ally in the Arsenal south bank who were jeering their own players. At the final whistle the small gathering of Tranmere fans in the open clock end celebrated wildly and were surprised when Arsenal jeers turned to cheers of appreciation for Rovers’ gallant efforts. It was a result that sent shockwaves around the whole world.

Arsenal: Wilson, Rice, McNab, Storey, Blockley, Simpson, Armstrong, Ball (Chambers), Radford, Kennedy, Kelly.

Tranmere Rovers: Johnson, Mathias, Farrimond, Moore, Yates, Stevenson, Tynan (Crossley), Palios, Loyden, Young, McAuley.

Referee: Ray Toseland (Kettering)

Attendance: 20,337

Arsenal v Tranmere Programme Arsenal v Tranmere 1973 v Arsenal 73 v Arsenal 73



MOTTO: UBI FIDES IBI LUX ET ROBUR which means "Where there is faith, there is light and strength."

Designed by Ned O'Toole, Paul Harmon and Oisín Ronan.
Special thanks to Tranmere Rovers Football club for the information.