Oxford United 0 Tranmere Rovers 2
Papa Johns Trophy
Tuesday 16th February 2021
Rovers have added another Wembley appearance to their records, the fourth visit to what is now called ‘Prenton Park South’ by the Tranmere faithful since May 2017, after a 2-0 victory on Tuesday night at the Kassam Stadium. Two days before this Papa Johns Trophy encounter, Oxford United’s floodlights were alight with fire prior to the fire engines being called out. In a game that saw Karl Robinson’s men having the best of the chances, it was the visitors’ crucial forwards that were on fire yet again to the Yellows’ displeasure.
The team selected by Keith Hill saw a high level of experience and quality on the bench: James Vaughan, Jay Spearing, Liam Feeney etc. On the pitch were a few players that had excelled in the competition this campaign, adding to the Rovers gaffer’s pre-match notes ‘they will be rewarded’. Joe Murphy, the veteran shot stopper that would normally start, was ruled out with an illness thus Scott Davies stood between the sticks and academy graduate Ben Jones sat on the bench.
The hosts fielded six regular starters, including top goalscorer Matty Taylor who endured a frustrating evening. This was done to suit their high level of games left to play as they searched for promotion to the Championship, it wasn’t a statement made to show that they thought their level of quality was much higher.
Hill’s men started the game off looking like the better side, they dominated the first half. There were a few promising crosses put into the box, Kaiyne Woolery also got a shot off after taking on his man but his weak attempt was gathered by the keeper, in the opening five minutes.
Oxford did pose a threat to their visitors as the game progressed, Robinson’s side had a brilliant chance of opening the scoreline within the initial ten minutes but Rovers scrambled clear before the ball found the feet of Danny Lloyd who saw his inevitable shot parried.
Something that could be argued and you would most probably be correct is that the officials were a little bit harsh on Tranmere, Calum MacDonald was the first man to be booked after his foot touched the leg of Robert Hall 25 yards away from the goalline. A few minutes later at the other end, to suit this argument, centre half George Ray was brought down with a clear foul inside the penalty box but nothing was given.
Woolery had continued to pose questions of the Oxford United backline, who seemed to struggle with the forwards pace and strength. This was soon rewarded with a fantastic goal by the 26-year-old, an immense strike from outside the box as the Yellows defence failed to get close to him yet again.
Ray was a rock at the back, he also showed his attacking attributes to a good standard. On this occasion, his header from a well delivered corner was palmed away by Simon Eastwood.
Tranmere would go into halftime 1-0 up, they had dominated the first 45 minutes which seemed to come as a shock to Sky Sports pundits and commentators who seemed to believe that Oxford United were on paper a class above.
The Yellows came out on the front foot and posed many questions to a Rovers defensive structure which stood strong. There were a few crosses but the greatest chance of levelling the scoreline came when they were awarded with a penalty as Kieron Morris put in a clumsy tackle inside the box.
Penalty taken, penalty skied! A major let off for Hill’s men, even if goalkeeper Davies had dived the correct way.
On the stroke of the hour mark, the first change was made. Young loanee Nya Kirby was replaced by experienced striker James Vaughan. It came as a shock to the Tranmere faithful when Kirby’s name was placed on to the team sheet for a game of such importance, following his poor cameo appearance in the Stevenage defeat at Prenton Park, he pushed all doubts aside with a fantastic performance in which he managed to control the midfield.
Robinson’s men were continuing to grow into the game, it was worrying at times for the scoreline leaders in truth. Two of the greatest scares came within the space of a minute, Taylor striking the post following an awful misjudgement of a high dropping ball by Manny Monthe before he would head the ball onto the crossbar.
To the relief of Tranmere, utter joy for the Merseyside outfit would soon follow. A free kick taken by Danny Lloyd would drop to Kieron Morris who smashed the ball home with his right foot … scenes.
The goal sparked three further changes to the Rovers team, as they looked to hold a 2-0 scoreline out for 20 minutes. A high volume of experience was introduced as Liam Feeney, Liam Ridehalgh and Jay Spearing were brought on to replace Danny Lloyd, Otis Khan and Kaiyne Woolery who all performed exceptionally well.
The remaining moments of the game were relatively mixed as Oxford believed if they got a goal back there was potentially a room for an equaliser with the time left. However, as time got shorter the level of frustration grew and ultimately when Peter Clarke is brought on in the 90th minute the chance of you scoring a goal is reduced by a considerable amount.
Full time. Oxford United 0 Tranmere Rovers 2
(The Whites will face either Sunderland or Lincoln City at Wembley, in Keith Hill’s first ever final as manager, on March 14th).
Oxford United – Simon Eastwood, Jamie Hanson, Elliott Moore, Josh Ruffels, James Henry, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Sykes, Robert Hall, Matty Taylor, Olamide Shodipo.
Subs on – Cameron Brannagan, Sam Winnall, Anthony Forde, Robert Atkinson, Brandon Barker.
Tranmere Rovers – Scott Davies, Otis Khan, George Ray, Manny Monthe, Calum MacDonald, Lee O’Connor, Nya Kirby, Kieron Morris, Paul Lewis, Danny Lloyd, James Vaughan.
Subs on – James Vaughan, Liam Ridehalgh, Jay Spearing, Liam Feeney, Peter Clarke.
Referee – Craig Hicks.
Assistants – Christopher Wade and Danny Gratton.
Fourth official – Sam Purkiss.
Shots – 17/10
Shots on target – 5/5
Possession – 54%/46%
Fouls – 18/18
Yellow cards – 2/3
Offsides – 0/4
Corners – 5/5
Thank you very much for reading,
A very happy Ethan Hoijord.