Football / Coca-Cola Cup: Nolan opens Tranmere's path to final

Tranmere Rovers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

Aston Villa. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

DALIAN ATKINSON added insult to injury time by poaching a potentially priceless goal for Aston Villa in the dying seconds of a Coca-Cola Cup semi-final first leg dominated by Tranmere at Prenton Park last night.

The First Division's fifth- placed side would have settled beforehand for a two-goal lead to take to Villa Park, and had probably exceeded their wildest expectations when John Aldridge apparently put the tie beyond Villa's reach by adding to goals by Ian Nolan and Mark Hughes in the closing stages. So Tranmere's disappointment was acute when Atkinson volleyed the away goal which will count double in the event of the aggregate score being level after extra time a week on Sunday.

Once they have got over the timing of Villa's riposte, however, Tranmere can be excused if their thoughts stray once more to the towers and the glory. The Wirral to Wembley route is well worn, John King's men having travelled it four times in as many years. Villa, who face another awkward game at Bolton in the FA Cup on Sunday, will have to produce a vast improvement in order to reach their first Wembley final since 1977.

Ron Atkinson insisted his players had not underestimated Tranmere, especially after the so-called Black Wednesday endured by Premiership clubs in the FA Cup last week. 'Only time will tell whether Dalian's goal does prove to be crucial,' the Villa manager said. 'What is certain is that five seconds earlier we were looking buried.

'It will take a superhuman effort on our behalf to turn that around. The important thing is that the boys believe they can do it, though if we play like that we haven't got a chance.'

All the composure that had earned Villa a 100 per cent record in six away cup fixtures was undermined in the space of 19 first-half minutes, during which Tranmere's pounds 1m hotchpotch twice breached their pounds 12m opponents' rearguard. Pat Nevin, the Scottish international winger, was their chief tormentor although the goals came from a less likely source.

The first arrived in only the fifth minute, when a Nevin pass deflected off a defender into the path of the overlapping Nolan. The right-back's angled drive from level with the penalty spot entered the net off the underside of the bar - his first goal this season and only the second of his career.

Villa, had not unduly troubled a Tranmere defence depleted by two suspensions before the hosts doubled their advantage. Nevin again provided an 'assist', his corner being only half-cleared to the edge of the penalty area where Hughes was lurking. The sweeper's lob into the top right corner of Mark Bosnich's goal was worthy of his Manchester United namesake, and was also his first goal in 17 months.

Villa's desire to press forward cost them dearly 12 minutes from time. Kenny Irons sent Aldridge clear and as Villa looked vainly for an offside flag, the veteran striker played a one-two with the near post before stroking his 15th goal of the season.

Tranmere's night appeared complete. When their defence failed to clear a free-kick dubiously awarded against Irons and headed on by Tony Daley, Dalian Atkinson demonstrated ruthlessly that it was not.

Tranmere Rovers (1-4-3-2): Nixon; Hughes; Nolan, McGreal, Garnett, Brannan; Nevin, O'Brien, Irons; Aldridge, Malkin. Substitutes not used: Morrissey, Mungall, Coyne (gk).

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Bosnich; Cox, Barratt, McGrath, Staunton (Froggatt, 75); Houghton, Richardson, Townsend, Daley; Atkinson, Saunders. Substitutes not used: Ehiogu, Spink (gk).

Referee: R Milford (Bristol).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power