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Media hype often borrows phases like crucial, vital or decisive to ‘big up’ matches of greater then average significance. Such adjectives ought to be applied when a team stands to loose its league status by loosing a single match and that was the almost unthinkable prospect which faced Rovers in their final match of the 1986-87 season. Of course, teams did not just find themselves in that position by accident. Rovers had been on the slide for several months as chairman Bruce Osterman tried to wind up the club and did not even have sufficient full-time professionals to field a team of 11 players. Even though John King had returned 26 days earlier following Peter Johnson’s takeover in March he was forced to make do with the playing staff, including non-contract player Chris Comden, a Vauxhall car worker, and a midfielder Steve Edwards, he inherited because the transfer deadline had passed. The mathematics of Tranmere’s predicament were quite simple. Anything more then a win when they faced Exeter City at Prenton Park on the Friday night and they would spend Saturday sweating on the results of matches involving Burnley, Torquay and Lincoln City. With the treat of slipping out of the Football League hanging over them, the Birkenhead  public responded in their thousands causing the Friday evening Kick-Off to be delayed by 15 minutes to accommodate an official 6,983 capacity crow squeezed into 3 sides of the ground. It was Rovers’ biggest league attendance for over a decade. The crowd’s anxiety, though, transmitted itself to the players who were clearly nervous and apprehensive, making early mistakes to let in Exeter City. Billy O’Rourke had to be at his most athletic to deal with a shot from Dean Edwards after just 8 minutes and then in the 34th minute a lob from Mark Robson made the crossbar shudder with O’Rourke well beaten. The ground echoed to a collective sigh of relief. Whatever John King said to the players at half-time it worked a treat as Rovers were much improved thereafter. Driven on by stalwarts like Ronnie Moore and Steve Mungall, Rovers pressed and created a couple of half decent opportunities. Bell fired wide, Muir curled a shot wide and a Camden header landed on the roof of the net. But Rovers prolonged the agony until the 78th minute. Ian Muir teased and twisted his way around 2 Exeter defenders after gathering an Anderson throw on the left before whipping over a peach of a cross. Chris Camden cleverly made a run to the near post taking his marker with him. The space he vacated though was filled by onrushing left-back Garry Williams, who arrived with perfect timing to head past Shaw in the City goal. Bedlam! The final 12 minutes plus added time were sheer torture as Rovers defended their lifesaving advantage with increasing desperation. At the final whistle fans danced jigs of delight on the pitch while the players appeared in the director’s box quaffing champagne to acknowledge the role the crowd had played. The celebrations went on for most of the night. The following day, Burnley bet Orient 2-1 and Torquay got a last-minute goal to earn a 2-2 draw against Crewe, leaving Lincoln bottom of the table on 48 points after loosing 0-2 at Swansea. Around Prenton Park there was much relief. They had been to the precipice of the obyss and survived. From then on it would be onwards and upwards

Tranmere Rovers: O'Rourke, Mungall, Williams, Moore, Thorpe, Vickers, Bell (Morrissey), Edwards, Camden, Muir, Anderson.

Exeter City: Shaw, Harrower, Viney, Marker, Taylor (O'Connell), Brady, Pugh, Edwards, Kellow, Keough, Robson .

Referee: Gerald Ashby (Worcester)

Attendance: 6,983

Tranmer v Exeter 1987



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.