Football: Aldridge lands worthy winner

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The Independent Online
Tranmere Rovers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Malkin 23, Aldridge 41

Sheffield United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Hodges pen 64

Attendance: 7,253

THE way John King, the Tranmere Rovers manager, tells it, it was only the sight of Jack Charlton regaling his television audience on the subject of fishing this week that reminded him to check on the position of his biggest catch.

Prompted by the sight of Charlton feeding fish to a bear, King phoned to ask whether he would release John Aldridge from the Republic of Ireland squad to enable him to play against Sheffield United. Charlton took the bait and indirectly ensured that Tranmere would get three points from a match in which they rarely looked comfortable.

Aldridge's eighth goal in all matches this season was worthy of deciding it, he pulled away from the defence before putting a glorious left-footer into Simon Tracey's far corner. It put Rovers two goals ahead against the run of play, a defensive blunder having allowed Chris Malkin to snatch the lead midway through the first half.

Aldridge, who agreed a new two-year deal this week, almost scored an even better goal in the second half, his savage volley from the debutant Jon Kenworthy's through ball searing the top side of the bar.

In terms of sheer quantity, however, United's uncomplicated and uncompromising approach brought them the better share of the chances. Forced to reorganise their side when Dane Whitehouse fainted at the team's hotel, Sheffield had excellent opportunities in the first half through Paul Rogers and Adrian Littlejohn. Their summer recruit from Australia, Carl Veart, missed a sitter after the break. When they finally gained some reward for their pressure it was from the penalty spot after Danny Coyne hauled down Bobby Davison.

Scott Marshall's free header and Littlejohn's sliding effort into the side-netting threatened an equaliser, but not even the late introduction of Jostein Flo, omitted for mysterious 'tactical' reasons that could have more to do with his form since the World Cup, could bring United the share of the game they deserved.

'We've upset someone somewhere along the line,' Dave Bassett, the United manager, said. Nothing new in that, but you knew what he meant.