Dichio calls the tune to lead Millwall to semi-final

Tranmere Rovers 1 Millwall 2
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The Independent Online

Be afraid, be very afraid. Millwall, a club regarded with the kind of trembling disdain the Romans reserved for the Visigoths, are one victory away from European football.

Be afraid, be very afraid. Millwall, a club regarded with the kind of trembling disdain the Romans reserved for the Visigoths, are one victory away from European football.

You could be sniffy and suggest they have reached an FA Cup semi-final by overcoming no club higher than Walsall but in their journey towards Cardiff, Millwall have not been troubled and nor were they last night. Tranmere, perhaps the greatest giant-killers of recent years, were efficiently dealt with.

There was no more appropriate figure to march towards the massed ranks of south Londoners, drinking in the chants of: "No one likes us, we don't care," than their player-manager Dennis Wise. His appointment may have been derided but he is on course to take Millwall into the Premiership via the play-offs and an FA Cup final within six months of succeeding Mark McGhee. It may be time to take him seriously.

Wise claimed last night's victory gave him as much pleasure as anything he had achieved in his career, which includes three FA Cup finals. "All I have done is to be honest with the players. When you come to a club like Millwall which has achieved nothing for a long, long time, you want to make it happen," he said. "This is the most satisfying thing I have done." He did, however, pay generous tribute to his assistant, Ray Wilkins: "I would be lost without Ray. He turned to me before kick-off and said: 'I want to win this match more than any others I've been involved with'."

For Millwall "a long, long time" is 67 years, the last occasion they played in an FA Cup semi-final and their opponents at Old Trafford next month will be the ones they faced in 1937; Sunderland. Of all Wise's players none would have looked forward to this fixture more than Danny Dichio, who never came close to fulfilling his almost impossible billing of "the new Niall Quinn" on Wearside. He may not have left his mark on the Premiership but against less than top-quality opposition, this likeable, part-time disc-jockey from west London is a fearsome opponent and one Tranmere's back four never properly came to terms with. He laid on both Millwall goals and might have had two of his own.

Eventually, there were two Tranmere defenders assigned to deal with him at set-pieces but by then Millwall were already two up. The first arrived from nowhere as Dichio headed on one of very many long balls driven towards the Tranmere area into the path of Tim Cahill, who drove past John Achterberg.

Since his penalty save at the New Den that earned last night's replay, Achterberg has been regularly beaten and when Neil Harris, fed again by Dichio, sent a swooping 20-yard shot over the goalkeeper's head it was the eighth goal he had conceded in three matches.

Having recovered from a three-goal deficit to overturn Southampton, being two behind should not have unduly overawed the boys from Birkenhead. The Second Division club struck back as Iain Hume drove over a beautifully-directed cross for Gary Jones to head home.

Since Brian Little had chosen Jones to marshall his attack in place of Eugene Dadi, his leading scorer, the manager's relief would have been two-fold. He was eventually forced to bring on the Frenchman who came desperately close to equalising. Dadi scored the first goal of Tranmere's latest FA Cup run, against Chesterfield four months ago. Since then, they have played seven ties, more than enough to take most clubs through to a final but not in Tranmere's case. "There is not a lot you can say in a dressing room after that except: "See you on Thursday'," Little said with the thin smile of the beaten. "Somehow, that didn't go down too well."

Tranmere Rovers: (3-4-2-1) Achterberg; Connelly, Allen, Goodison; Taylor, Harrison, Mellon, Roberts; Hume, Beresford (Dadi, 73); Jones. Substitutes not used: Howarth (gk), Sharps, Loran, Nicholson.

Millwall: (4-4-2) Marshall; Muscat, Lawrence, Ward, Ryan; Ifill (Elliott, 77), Roberts, Livermore, Cahill; Harris, Dichio (Sutton, 82). Substitutes not used: Gueret (gk), Sweeney, Dunne.

Referee: U Rennie (Sheffield).

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