Sunderland 1 Tranmere 0
Papa Johns Trophy Final
Sunday 14th March 2021
This weekend, Tranmere failed to beat Sunderland in the final stage of the EFL Trophy competition. When you think of failure though, this can’t be classed as that. In truth, Rovers put out a good statement to fellow football league clubs of the quality that they possess and made fans proud by doing so. Many supporters would even say that the better side lost, some neutrals would agree as well most probably, due to the attacking intent shown and chances created. Thus, when you take into consideration where Tranmere were not so long ago this is definitely a day and a performance to remember.
Going into the game, to the disappointment of those with a Rovers persuasion James Vaughan was ruled out with a knee injury. This was great news for the opposition as the experienced forward is the Merseyside outfit’s top scorer, if he was available and playing he probably would’ve added another one or two to his tally. There were plenty of great crosses put into the box, crosses that were put into great areas but struggled to find the head of players.
Keith Hill’s men pressed early, putting the red and whites under pressure and were gifted with a few throw ins due to this. It was a relatively scrappy start to the game, the encounter was always end to end though. This scrappiness was typified when Danny Lloyd had a shot inside the box which nearly went as high as the arch before dropping to a level in which the goalkeeper jumped to collect. He fell over, the ball going a few centimeters away from the goalline.
If it wasn’t for a head injury putting a stop to proceedings, the first real chance to open the scoreline could’ve been created. Lloyd had the ball at his feet, again, with many white shirts around him. It was frustrating when play stopped as the midfielder looked to pass the ball on, the injured man soon got up to his feet but was accompanied with a bandage to stop the blood from flowing.
Sunderland did have their chances to score as well, the ball dropped to former Rovers academy product Max Power in the box but he was unable to send his effort goalbound.
Personally, I felt George Ray and Peter Clarke excelled today as they always do. As the first half was drawing to a close they were in prime position to head a few balls away from Davies’ net and they did that without fail. The duo provided a real calming sense and motivation to the others in white.
Otis Khan started the second half off in beautiful fashion, the forward turned right back ran into the box from afar before ‘megsing’ his opposing defender and sending a powerful shot goal bound which Lee Burge saved. Burge impressed me.
McGeady scared Tranmere’s defensive line, with his pace and trickery, but it seemed that the whites had enough to combat his ability. The Irishman showcased his skills when he twisted and turned in the box, his shot was soon blocked. However, he would soon use his knowledge of the game to spread a long ranged ball into the feet of Lynden Gooch when Rovers had a slight lapse of concentration and let the forward run free. He made no mistake, capitalising and sending his effort into the centre of the net.
That goal came on the stroke of the hour mark, thus their job was to suss out any attacks from Hill’s men and to keep the ball themselves to see if they could get another. Corey Blackett-Taylor and David Nugent were soon put onto the pitch to combat this plan, Paul Lewis and Danny Lloyd being hooked off.
The remaining time was dominated by Rovers in my eyes, Corey played a blinder in opening and stretching Lee Johnson’s defensive line. However, the only result from this was set piece after set piece and although the majority were put in perfectly they were mostly met by heads of Sunderland players and fired away from danger.
It was a nice touch to see Jake Burton being put onto the pitch with a few minutes left to play, he was unable to have any real effect but seeing academy graduates having their time on the Wembley turf is exceptional and a moment to remember for all involved. A great decision by Hill, who had to take the impressive Kieron Morris off in order to do so.
Unfortunately, it was the Black Cats day at the home of English Football for the first time since 1973 but the complimentary words from their fans and others involved in their club made sure that Tranmere’s efforts were respected and they truly did themselves proud. A defeat but one which is the start of a bright future ahead, Hill reflected that in his post match interview .. ‘we’re representing you, the real people of Tranmere Rovers and we will deliver what you want’.
It was Sunderland’s day today in terms of result but Tranmere did more than play their part.