Football: Aldridge double feeds his desire: Tranmere triumphant

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Tranmere Rovers. . .3

Millwall . . . . . .2

JOHN ALDRIDGE looked like a victim of an accident. His frame was not moving as smoothly as it should and for much of the day he limped gingerly like an elderly man whose knee was giving him gyp. Most of the youngsters were too quick, and even his contemporary with the long, dark hair seemed intent on kicking him. In a park game you would have expected a shout: 'Give the OAP a break, take him off.'

And there was someone thinking precisely that on Saturday. Except the mental call was coming from Mick McCarthy and the object he was trying to spare from futher punishment was his Millwall team.

Aldridge was the difference between two sides who have First Division play-off aspirations. The result could have been any number for either side up to 7-7, and the reason why Tranmere ended up with more was due to their 35-year-old striker. Two chances, two goals: it has been the way for the past 15 years.

His appetite was partially sated by this double, but not wholly. 'I can't remember a season in England when I've not got a hat-trick,' he moaned. 'I've got two goals several times but not three.' You fear for Tranmere's remaining opponents.

Aldridge's second - which takes his Tranmere tally to 92 goals in 135 games - was a simple tap-in after Ged Brannan has dispossessed Pat Van Den Hauwe, but the first had a hallmark that few could replicate. Tony Thomas crossed from the right and Aldridge headed with such venom that Kasey Keller had no prospect of stopping it.

With Tranmere 3-0 up, it appeared a formality the three points would remain in the Wirrall. But Millwall could, and very nearly did, secure a win. Jamie Moralee pulled a goal back with a header after 72 minutes and would have had a hat-trick but for an outstanding save from Eric Nixon and an inaccurate shot at an open goal.

All of which underpinned Aldridge's value. 'He's like a good car,' his manager, John King, said. 'You don't look under the bonnet if the engine is purring away. You don't worry about a few knocking noises.'

Goals: Aldridge (31) 1-0; Irons (39) 2-0; Aldridge (46) 3-0; Moralee (72) 3-1; Kerr (89) 3-2.

Tranmere Rovers (4-5-1): Nixon; Thomas, McGreal, Garnett, Nolan; Morrisey, O'Brien, Irons, Brannan, Nevin; Aldridge. Substitutes not used: Muir, Mungall, Coyne (gk).

Millwall (4-4-2): Keller; Cunningham, Stevens, Van Den Hauwe (Berry, 60), Thatcher; Rae, Hurlock, Allen, Barber; Mitchell (Kerr, 71), Moralee. Substitute not used: Carter (gk).

Referee: P Vanes (Warley).