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3rd Division Play-Off Final, 1st June 1991

52 years in the doldrums of the lower division came to end in spectacular fashion in the Wembley sunshine when substitute Chris Malkin scored the curtail goal against Bolton Wanderers in the 1991 Play-Off Final. Ironically Chris was on the pitch because Jim Steel sustained an injury after 14 minutes and had to limp off, forcing Rovers to change their game plan of one where they played Steel’s aerial strengths to exploiting the greater mobility of the gangly Malkin. Interestingly, Bolton had dominated the first 15 minutes play but as soon as Malkin entered the fray Kenny Irons and Dave Martindale were gradually able to assert their authority, capitalising on Malkin’s great pace to stretch the Bolton rearguard. With an outlet for their silky passes the Tranmere midfield – later boosted by the return of Jim Harvey – steadily took control and some of the one-touch passing was a joy to watch. Bolton though were not without opportunities. Steve Thompson abs Stuart Storer both went close with Barry Cowdrill fired wildly wide for a good position. But Bolton’s principal treat up front was being well marshalled by the Rovers defence. John King had asked Shaun Garnett to ‘give him Tony Cunningham’s head on a plate!’ Well, he didn’t do exactly that, but young Shaun man marked the big Bolton striker so effectively he was substituted by David Reeves in the 67th minute. Dave Higgins meanwhile took care of Tony Philliskirk. For the platform of being able to shackle Bolton’s dangerman, Rovers gradually swung the pendulum their way. They sould have been in fornt on 38th minutes when Chris Malkin’s superb header from a Morrissey cross was ruled out by pedantic referee Keith Hackett because Bolton players had encroached at a free-kick, effectively, Tranmere were penalised because Bolton broke the rule! Then 5 minutes after the interval Malkin was again denied, this time as his header cannoned off the crossbar. Steve Cooper also headed over from a good position, but Bolton came back as the 2nd half progressed. Philliskirk headed straight into the arms of Nixon, and then the big Rovers keeper had to be at his best to keep out a goalbound effort from Julian Darby on 70 minutes. It was nip and tuck with chances at either end right up until the final whistle of normal time. Paul Comstive and Phil Brown both went close for Bolton while Malkin should have done better when Harvey sent him free one-on-onewith Felgate with just 2 minutes left. But Malkin finally got it right at the 4th time of asking 9 minutes into extra time. Some nimble footwork out on the left by John Morrissey released Ged Brannan to bomb through the inside left channel. Felgate managed to stop Brannan’s right-footed shot with his outstretched foot but the rebound fell kindly for the inrushing Malkin who steadied himself, brought the ball under control and hammered it into the unguarded side of the Bolton net. The Tranmere fans in the 30,215 crowd went wild as Malkin attempted a forward roll to celebrate. For the remainder of extra-time chants of We are going up, say we are going up!’ sustained the team until Keith Hackett’s whistle signalled the start of a massive promotion party led by a very proud John King.

Tranmere: Nixon, Higgins, Brannan, Irons, Hughes, Garnett, Martindale (Harvey), Steel (Malkin), Cooper, Thomas.

Bolton: Felgate, Brown, Cowdrill, Comstive, Seagraves, Stubbs, Storer (Green), Thompson, Cunningham (Reeves), Philliskrirk, Darby.

Referee: Keith Hackett (Sheffield)

Attendance: 30,215




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.