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Coca- Cola Cup Semi-Final 1st Leg , 16th February 1994

With 90 minutes of a pulsating first leg already up and seemingly unassailable 3 goal advantage in the bag most Tranmere Rovers fans were already making plans for an unexpected trip to their 2nd home, Wembley Stadium for the Coca-Cola Cup Final. But then 54 seconds into injury time Daylian Atkinson, a 1 time team mate of John Aldridge at Real Sociedad, bundled the ball in from close range to throw Villa a lifeline they hardly deserved as Chris Malkin was clearly fowled in the build up. Upon seeing the television replay, referee Rodger Milford apologised to John king for allowing the goal to stand and expressed the hope it would not cost them dearly. As usual, John King was philosophical about the injustice. He said, ‘if someone had said to me beforehand that we would take a 2 goal lead to Villa Park I would have settled for that. It’s just that we were worthy of a 3:0 lead because of our performance.’ Typically playing down his own role in the victory deserves much credit for masterminding the victory with an astute tactical change to a 523 formation which totally flummoxed Ron Atkinson and his players. With Tony Thomas suspended, Shaun Garnett was recalled in central defence at the expense of right winger John Morrrissey, Mark Hughes reverted to sweeper with Nevin and Nolan switched to the right side to test Steve Staunton while Ged Brennan dropped back to the left. Villa, who had clearly been expecting Rovers to field Morrissey and Nevin down the flanks, looked utterly confused in the early stages of Nevin jinked and twisted through several tackles before feeding the ball through to the overlapping Ian Nolan, who dispatched it past Bosnich from 12 yards with far more aplomb then 1 would expect from a rookie full back that had just stepped up from non-league Marine. A goal down after just 5 minutes, 1 might have expected a premiership outfit shaped by big Ron Atkinson to have responded more vigorously but it was Rovers who made all the running with Nolan and Nevin combining to set up chances for Aldridge and Irons. Even sweeper Mark Hughes felt confident enough to join the attack and was we who gave Rovers a 2 goal cushion on 23rd minutes when his header from a corner kick conveniently rebounded back to him off a Villa defender allowing him to adjust his position and hook a fierce volley into the far corner of the net. Prenton park exploded, as much in disbelief as celebration, but there was no doubting Rovers deserved their lead. Indeed, it was 5 minutes into the second half before Villa mustered a serious threat and even then Eric Nix saved the day by blocking Tony Daly’s effect. Villa, though, gradually turned the screw and on 68minutes only a last desperate lunge from John McGreal deflected Dean Saunders goal bound effect. The value of that defending was underlined 10 minutes later when John Aldridge made it 3:0. Kenny Irons caught the Villa backline square and treaded the ball through to Aldridge, who ignored protests that he was offside and advanced on goal. His first shot smacked a post but was an economical adjustment of his feet the master goal poacher slid the ball home to create pandemonium inside Prenton Park. In the end, though, Atkinson’s dodgy last gasp goal at Prenton Park did prove decisive as Rovers eventually lost a dramatic second leg at Villa park on Penalties after the tie ended level at 4:4.

Tranmere: Nixon, McGreal, Brannan, Nolan, Hughes, O'Brien, Irons Aldridge, Malkin, Garnett, Nevin.

Aston Villa: Bosnich, Bartett, Staunton, Mcgrath, Richardson, Houghton, Saunders, Atkinson, Dali, Townsend, Cox. 

Referee: Rodger Milford (Vristol).

Attendance: 17,114.





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.