Football: Tranmere geed up by Brannan's brace

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The Independent Online
Tranmere Rovers. .3

Oldham Athletic. .0

TRANMERE ROVERS had never reached the last eight of either of the major knock-out competitions when this season began. They will be in the quarter-finals of the Coca-Cola Cup this time, however, largely thanks to their converted full- back, Ged Brannan, who scored two goals and laid on the other in an emphatic victory over Premiership opposition last night.

Tranmere were assisted along their way by the sending-off 10 minutes before half- time of the Oldham Athletic captain, Richard Jobson. Even before that event, Oldham's third sending-off in the last four matches, and, given John Aldridge's clear run on goal when he was hauled down, surely the most clear-cut, Tranmere were the more threatening side.

After it, they were totally dominant and Brannan's first goal, seven minutes into the second half, was overdue by the time it arrived. Brannan, enjoying an unforgettable evening, began the move, winning the ball in midfield, releasing Pat Nevin on the left wing and getting into the penalty-area in time to side-foot a precise, low centre into the net from comfortable range.

His second, on the hour, originated from Chris Malkin's successful battle for another scrap of disputed possession. Aldridge's exquisitely weighted through ball sent him away and Brannan's lob over Jon Hallworth was delightful.

Brannan, with just eight goals to show for 127 appearances before last night, could even have had a hat-trick in the last minute, but he unselfishly squared the ball to allow the more familiar name of Aldridge to appear on the scoresheet.

Tranmere had shown the ebullience which could give another Premiership side just as much trouble if they were to be drawn at Prenton Park in the quarter-finals. Oldham, showing little of the bite and enterprise that brought them a precious and presumably morale-boosting first home victory in the top division last Saturday, will vouch for that.

Tranmere Rovers (4-4-2): Nixon; Thomas, Higgins, Vickers, Nolan; Nevin, Brannan, Proctor, Morrissey; Aldridge, Malkin. Substitutes not used: Irons, Kenworthy, Coyne (gk)

Oldham Athletic (4-4-2): Hallworth; Fleming, Jobson, Redmond, Makin; Adams, Halle, Bernard, Holden; Ritchie (Palmer, 41), Sharp. Substitutes not used: Pointon, Gerrard (gk).

Referee: G Singh (Wolverhampton).