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Layland DAF Cup Final, 20th May 1990

The newspaper headline in the daily post said it all. ‘Halfway to paradise’, it screamed in big bold, blue letters in the middle of Monday morning’s special pull-out. Phase 1 of Rovers Wembley double had been completed successfully and the press were united in their view that Merseyside now possessed a 3rd major soccer power. Next week phase 2 would see rovers face Neil Warnock’s high riding Notts County in the playoff final. But on 20th May Wembley belonged to Rovers and the legion of diehard, returning and newly-found fans that had swelled attendances fivefold in the previous couple of years. Yet Tranmere started the day as under dogs. Bristol rovers, managed y Gerry Francis, were worthy 3rd division champions and had beaten the whites home and away, the last occasion a few weeks earlier. John King, however, learned from that defeat and identified Shaun Garnett as the man to nullify the very real threat of Devon White. Dave Higgins missed the match through suspension. On a glorious sunny day, Bristol Rovers almost drew 1st blood after 4 minutes but were denied by an incredible double save by Eric Nixon. The 1st the big keeper hurled himself at Carl Saunders shot on the run and dramatically scrambled across his goal to claw away the loose ball as Ian Holloway seemed certain to score. Perhaps inspired by Nixon’s brilliance, Tranmere took the lead on 9 minutes thanks to a spectacular goal from Ian Muir – his 35th of the campaign. Sweeper Mark Hughes pumped a long ball into the Bristol penalty area where 1st Jim Steel challenged for it and then Chris Malkin nodded it down to the unmarked Muir, lurking on the edge of the penalty area, 20 yards out. With the most economic of movements Muir readjusted his balance to catch the dropping ball full on the volley with his right boot and it swerved and dipped as it hurtled past Bristol’s Birkenhead born Keeper Brian Parkin at a rate a knots. With Hughes marshalling a defence in which young Garnett and Tony Thomas were outstanding the champions were restricted to a meagre diet of chances and Malkin could have extended Rovers lead with a header by Steve Yates – later becoming a Rovers Legend – cleared it off the line. Bristol rovers though were back on level terms within 4 minutes of the commencement of the 2nd half. Devon White, for once managing to escape the limpet that was Shaun Garnet, was 1st to react when his header somewhat fortuitously rebounded back to him off Mark Hughes’ shoulder allowing him to fire high into the net with Nixon for once flatfooted. With Bristol Rovers increasingly turning the screw Tranmere battled their way back on 71st minutes to score what would prove to be the match winner. A long free-kick by Harvey fell to Yates on the edge of the penalty area but Justas he was about to clear the ball mark Hughes, up for the kick slid in with a block tackle to win the ball. Ian Muir, hovering nearby, stepped in to clip the loose ball to the far post where Jim Steel rose majestically to head past a clearly startled Parkin, with defender Geoff Twentyman protesting in vain that he was pushed in the back by steel. In the last 20 minutes Nixon capped a virtuoso performance with a clutch of fine saves to deny Bristol a second equaliser and so captain Jim Harvey fulfilled his dream and lifted the Leyland DAF trophy. Some 70,000 people greeted the team when they returned home to Birkenhead.

Bristol Rovers: Parkin, Alexander (Nixon), Twentyman, Yates, Mehew, Jones, Holloway, Reece, White, Saunders, Purnell (McLean).

Tranmere Rovers: Nixon, Garnett, Mungall , McNab, Hughes, Vickers, Malkin, Harvey, Steel, Muir, Thomas. subs not used: Bishop, Fairclough.

Referee: Vic Callow (Solihull)

Attendance: 48,402




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.
Also to Keith Taberer, Des Ferguson, Joanne Duggan for supplying some of the photos.