Looking Forward



Worthington Cup - Round 3

Tuesday 9th October 2001

There has been a tough start to the season for new Tranmere Rovers boss Dave Watson, who has taken over at the Prenton Park club after relegation form Division 1.  Tranmere fans have been giving him stick as Rovers won two games from their first eight Division Two games.  Things got to the stage where the club offered fans their money back after the 0-4 reverse against Brentford, but then a 5-0 win over Wrexham seemed to have prompted a change in fortunes.

It is not for lack of talent that Tranmere were relegated last term.  The squad has some experienced and skillful players, but they did not finish the chances they created last time around and that cost them dear.

Talented young keeper Joe Murphy (who had been linked with Spurs in the recent past) has dropped out of contention for the number one shirt and John Achterburg is the man in charge of the goalkeeping duties at the moment.  Agile for a big fella, the Dutchman can be prone to moments of madness and these can cost his team points and matches.  There would be nothing to gain from flinging high balls in towards the six yard box, as Achterburg will take most of them all day, so an alternative tactic of low hard balls across the face of the area could pay dividends.  The old Man. City and Wigan keeper.

The defence has some familiar names in it to with ex-QPR man Steve Yates, long-throw expert Dave Challinor and Richard Jobson (ex-Man. City, Leeds, Watford).  The first and last give experienced old heads to the back line, while Challinor can make a dangerous situation out of any throw-in in our half.  Rueben Hazell (nephew of former Wolves & QPR defender, Bob) is a talented young defender, who joined the club after failing to be taken on at Aston Villa, while Clint Hill is now the skipper after a run of impressive performances last season, although he sometimes gets into hot water with refs.  There is also experience in the defence with Graham Allen and Gareth Roberts, both hard-tackling men with some years behind them in the football.  Gareth played in Greece and is making a name for himself in the Welsh national team too, while Graham joined Tranmere from Everton, where he played six matches.  Ian Sharps has also been featuring lately, but his name is new to the side having come through the youth system at Prenton Park and this tall centre half has been playing well enough to get a regular starting place.

As the side usually lines up 4-4-2, Yates, Roberts, Sharps and Allen have been making up the defensive unit.

In midfield, they have one of the most coveted young players in British football.  Jason Koumas has attracted the attention of many Premier League clubs, including Spurs.  The Welshman has shown a style of play that has made a lot of people sit up and take notice.  His passing is good, has an eye for a defence splitting pass and can also score goals.  His decision to stay with Tranmere instead of deserting them after relegation is a rare show of loyalty in the game these days.  Micky Mellon down up from Blackpool and has brought some bite to the midfield, but that can get him into trouble sometimes, while Sean Flynn has been around (WBA, Coventry) and has seen it all.  He is the workhorse in the side's engine room.  Nicky Henry has also plied his trade around the North-West and has been a good player in his time, but the one to watch, who has caused a lot of damage to Premiership sides, is Andy Parkinson.  A speedy winger, who can finish well has caused defenders nightmares on the break and he has scored some of the goals that have taken Tranmere into the latter stages of Cup competitions.  

Leading the front line is elder statesman Wayne Allison, who has been around years with Swindon and Huddersfield.  He still can be a handful for defenders as his height is his main weapon, but he can use his experience to be in the box to finish with any part of his body, as good strikers should.  Playing with him is the little of the combination - Stuart Barlow.  He broke into the Everton side as a teenager, but failed to realise the potential they thought he had, so slipped off to Oldham and Wigan, before going back to Merseyside with Rovers.  He got a hat-trick recently against Notts. County and then another in the win over Wrexham, so he has his shooting boots in good form.  Seyni D'iaye is another strong, tall forward who can cause mayhem with his size on the end of Challinor's throws, while another ex-Evertonian, Paul Rideout, is still at the club and can still find the goal despite his advancing years.  

Despite being known for their cup exploits in recent years, Tranmere have shown that they can hold their own against Premier League sides (Sunderland and Everton probably being their biggest scalps).  Having beaten Preston from the Division above them, they have already had one giant-killing this season, but despite having home advantage, Tottenham will have had an international weekend off prior to the game, while Rovers will take on Blackpool in a local derby, which makes me think they will lose out ...

PREDICTION : -  Tranmere Rovers  1   Tottenham   2

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.



Tranmere Rovers  0   Tottenham  4                                    (Half time score: 0- 2)
Tuesday 9th October 2001
Weather : -  Chilly, dry
Crowd : -   12,386
Referee : -  Mr. P. Dowd (Staffordshire)

Scorers : -  Tranmere Rovers   -   None
                  Tottenham -  Sheringham (pen) 21, Anderton 39, Poyet 49, Rebrov 81


Tranmere Rovers :   Mellon (foul) 26, Henry (foul) 27, Mellon (foul - second yellow card) 33, Allen (foul) 36

Spurs :  Poyet (diving - ungentlemanly conduct) 16, Sherwood 73 (foul), Sherwood (dissent - second yellow card) 87, Anderton (foul) 90


Tranmere Rovers :  Joe Murphy; Graham Allen, Ian Sharps, Steve Yates, Gareth Roberts; Sean Flynn, Nick Henry (Richard Hinds 68), Micky Mellon, Andy Parkinson; Stuart Barlow, N'Daiye (Iain Hume 61).
Subs not used : -  Achterberg, Challinor, Allison

Spurs:  Neil Sullivan; Ben Thatcher, Chris Perry, Ledley King ; Mauricio Taricco, Steffen Freund (Tim Sherwood 72), Simon Davies, Gus Poyet (Oyvind Leonhardsen 82), Darren Anderton; Teddy Sheringham, Les Ferdinand (Sergei Rebrov 57)
Subs not used : -  Kasey Keller, Alton Thelwell

This match was a potential banana skin for Spurs given Tranmere’s record in this competition against Premier League Teams. It was also a return for Glenn Hoddle to the scene where his Southampton team surrendered a 3-0 win last season to lose 4-3! 

Prenton Park is a tidy little ground tucked away in a residential area on The Wirral. There is seating on all four sides with a particularly impressive stand behind goal for home fans. Locals apparently pride themselves on the fact they are not from Liverpool! We decided to take advantage of the Corporate Entertainment package on offer for the game. The cost was £36. The value was excellent. We enjoyed a three-course meal in the exclusive Dave Russell Suite. He apparently played for Tranmere many years ago and a black & white picture adorns the entrance to the lounge. The substantial meal of Prawn Cocktail, Lamb Shank with vegetables and Lemon Cheesecake went down well. David Pleat was also dining in the same lounge. The only downside was that our match tickets were in the heart of the Tranmere fans on the side in line with the penalty spot, but close to the visiting fans behind the goal. Fortunately there were no incidents although one or two of the locals took a dislike to Teddy and of course the referee.

For Tottenham, Ziege was unfit having taken a knock whilst playing for Germany. Ben Thatcher made his long awaited return to left back. Tim Sherwood was also back but took his place on the bench.

Spurs started well, the referee did not.  After about 17 minutes a late challenge on Poyet midway into Tranmere’s half saw him fly through the air. The decision was a free kick to the home side and a yellow card for Poyet for diving. That followed treatment for the injury he received! Spurs players were incensed and the referee clearly realised he had got it wrong. Ignoring the old saying "Two wrongs don’t make a right" poor Mr. Dowd continued with a string of poor decisions. He infuriated the home crowd when he awarded Spurs a penalty for a challenge on Sheringham. The decision seemed harsh, but Teddy stepped up and scored. 

Tranmere were wound up and a number of yellow cards followed with Mellon getting two of them and a red after 32 minutes for another strong challenge on Poyet. With Rovers down to ten men Spurs began to dominate and got into their passing game.  Even Thatcher had a tasty drive on target.  A second goal followed expertly converted by Anderton. He passed the ball into the corner of the net on 39 minutes after Teddy had cushioned Taricco’s pass into his path. 

An early goal two minutes into the second half saw Spurs take a nervous three nil lead (after Man Utd at home!).  Taricco threaded a pass down the line to Freund on the overlap, his first time cross was met by Poyet who slid the ball into the goal.  Tottenham kept possession for long periods and a fourth goal followed.  Sheringham’s diagonal ball was dummied by Sherwood and fell to the unmarked Rebrov, on as a substitute.  Sergei steadied himself and drilled the ball into the bottom corner.  

The entertainment had not finished however.  Sherwood’s first attempted tackle when he came on had resulted in a yellow card it was so slow and late.  With only 4 minutes left and the game over the ball caught Sherwood’s arm, which was by his side. It looked an accidental handball.  The referee felt otherwise and produced a second yellow followed by a red again.  Sherwood had been on the field 15 minutes!

Overall it was a very professional performance by Tottenham superbly led by Teddy.  Ben Thatcher gets man of the match however for giving a very tidy performance over 90 minutes.  For Tranmere a mention for Seyni N’Diaye who looked more like an anagram than a footballer!


Eric the Viking




Matches like this do provide the proverbial banana skin for big clubs to slip up on and knowing Tranmere's track record in Cup competitions lately, they were more than capable of springing a surprise.  That Spurs put out their first team (minus injured players and those cup-tied) showed that it is a competition that Tottenham take seriously.

The lure of European competition and the temptation of silverware has made our side take the League Cup as a main priority, as a means to an end.  The end that the Spurs fans were in was in no mood to assume this as a lesser trophy as Spurs went marching on.

Having had an early scare with the ball whizzing across the face of Sullivan's goal, Spurs started to put things together and coming hot on the heels of Ziege's remarks about continuing to play the right way, the team did just that.  It helped that the obtuse referee for the match sent Micky Mellon off leaving the Munch Bunch with an uphill task.  Mellon lost his rag after he was the one who was involved in giving away the penalty for the first goal of the game.  While it appeared innocuous at the time, TV pictures show that as Ted got himself between the Tranmere man and the ball, Mellon used a forearm to ease Sheringham off the ball.  The fall was theatrical, but the contact was there.  The Spurs skipper sent Murphy the wrong way from the spot to put Tottenham ahead.  Minutes later, Mellon went in on Ferdinand after Les had knocked the ball back to a colleague.  Yellow Card.  It was still fresh in the official's mind, when Mellon again clashed with a Spurs man.  This time it was Poyet (himself booked surprisingly for diving when fouled !!) and Mellon arrived after the ball had gone and got his studs down the Uruguayan's shin as they both slid in for the ball.  Even ref's span of attention stretches to seven minutes and the result was another Yellow = Red.

The dismissal really knocked Tranmere back and his absence made it hard for the Second Division side to re-adjust.  Spurs used the space to their advantage, marauding down the flanks where Taricco managed to get in a cross, which was blocked, but it fell nicely and it was Teddy's astute lay-off that saw Darren Anderton thread a left footed shot through the gap between defenders and past the keeper to find a spot just inside the post.  Teddy had another effort well saved by the young Rovers keeper and just when it all seemed to be going well, Tranmere staged a bit of a comeback before the break.  Allen headed wide and Flynn also could have done better with a header, which he got all wrong and directed it wide.

An early flowing move set Simon Davies free on the right at the start of the second half and his low cross-shot emulated that of the home side in the first half.  It skimmed across the goalmouth and missed the far post by a foot or so.  Spurs were not to be denied for long, as Freund made a run up the same channel and pulled the ball low across the box for Poyet to stick his leg out and deflect it past the keeper for his first Spurs goal.  Effectively, this killed the game, despite Tranmere showing more willingness to play football in the second half.  There was time for Freund and Thatcher to get into goalscoring positions before being robbed of the ball by Rovers defenders.  As Sergei came on for Les, it was fitting that he was to wrap up the scoring with a nicely taken goal after another low cross from the right, this time from Ted was dummied by Sherwood, left the Ukrainian with time to slot it home.  It was well deserved as his exquisite piece of skill earlier had seen him spin away from two defenders and his shot was destined for the bottom right corner of the net until a Tranmere defender got in the way.  That would have been a perfect way to finish.

Ledley again was outstanding, while Perry was sound and Thatcher did little wrong on his comeback.  Taricco was more of an offensive player and caused problems to the home side, while Davies did the same up the flank.  Poyet revelled in the space and Freund showed he is more than just the clogger that many consider him to be.  Anderton played well, but should have imposed himself on the home side when down to ten, while Les took a couple of whacks, but played his role to the max.  Teddy was outstanding and Sergei showed what he can do given a chance.  Sullivan was left with little to do for most of the evening as there was little on target for him to deal with.  The major disappointment was the sending off of Tim Sherwood for two cautions within the 15 minutes he was on the pitch.  His first was a late tackle that caught the home player on the top of his boot, while the second was for a deliberate handball that gets nothing more than a free-kick every other week.  But there was some evening up to do by the ref, so it was an ideal way to get back onside with the home fans.  It didn't matter to the match score, but a reliance on the strict interpretation has done us badly this season so far.  The penalty might have been a bit of the "these things even themselves out over the coarse of a season", but there is still much more to come our way to erase what we have suffered already since August 18th.

With performances like this, I believe that Tottenham could go all the way, but they will face tougher tasks, although they have showed they can go about it the right way.


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