Football: Irons' deficiency proves costly

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The Independent Online
Notts County. . . . 0

Tranmere Rovers. . .0

TRANMERE, beaten in the First Division play-offs last season, remain in contention for another attempt after surviving the dismissal of the winger John Morrissey in first-half injury-time to take a point from an ill-tempered stalemate.

They might have snatched an unlikely victory had not Steve Cherry stopped a penalty from Kenny Irons with 11 minutes remaining. As it was, Tranmere became the only side to leave Meadow Lane with a clean sheet this season.

Tranmere were already depleted by injuries, with their top scorer, John Aldridge, and the midfield anchor, Liam O'Brien, among those missing. When Morrissey was sent off for attempting to elbow Andy Legg, County's eighth consecutive home win seemed theirs for the taking, despite losing their leading marksman Gary Lund to a 19th-minute injury.

Before the interval, Eric Nixon in the visitors' goal pulled off a brilliant double save to keep out Shaun Murphy's shot and Gary McSwegan's header from the rebound, as well as thwarting Michael Johnson after a chipped pass by Phil Turner left the defender clear on goal.

Tranmere, who had three players booked in addition to losing Morrissey, rarely threatened. Victory would have been unjust although they had seen a more obvious penalty claim - before Shaun Murphy's trip on Ian Muir brought their belated opportunity - waved away after Johnson had appeared to bring down Irons as the striker prepared to shoot.

Notts County (4-4-2): Cherry; Wilson, Palmer, Murphy, Johnson; Devlin, Turner, Draper, Legg; McSwegan, Lund (Matthews, 19). Substitutes not used: Dijkstra, Catlin (gk).

Tranmere Rovers (4-2-4): Nixon; Thomas, Garnett, McGreal, Nolan; Brannan, Procter; Morrissey, Muir, Irons, Nevin. Substitutes not used: Branch, Mungall, Oakes (gk).

Referee: E Wolstenholme (Blackburn).