A Stunning extra-time goal from Iain Hume took Second Division Tranmere Rovers into the fourth round of the FA Cup after they had been cruelly denied at the end of the first 90 minutes last night.
Rovers, two full divisions and a little more below Bolton Wanderers in the national pecking order, seemed to be on their way through when, after having distinctly the better of the second half at the Reebok Stadium, they took the lead with eight minutes to play.
Their Ivory Coast international, Eugene Dadi, had wasted most of the decent supply of ball Tranmere's wide players had directed towards him, but when Gareth Roberts put one across from the left wing, he controlled it at the second attempt and finally stabbed it past Kevin Poole.
A deliberately below-strength Bolton side, which had shown little hunger for a trip to Kenilworth Road a week on Saturday, belatedly raised themselves to try to salvage the tie. Rovers seemed to have kept them out when Ian Sharps cleared Per Frandsen's shot off the line, but the ball came out to the right for the recently arrived Shakes. He had only been on the field for a couple of minutes, but his snap shot was deflected to beat John Achterberg for a debut goal that extended the tie for a further half hour.
The first extra period had barely begun when Hume burst through the middle and lashed his shot past Poole from 25 yards for the sort of goal that had been no more than a distant dream for most of this match.
Bolton had named only one player - Frandsen - from the starting line-up that had won in the Premiership at Blackburn on Saturday. They were the worse of two poor sides in the first half, though Henrik Pedersen did have a good chance in the first minute and also hit a post with a free-kick in first-half injury time.
The Wanderers brought on their Merseyside midfielder, Kevin Nolan, to try to inject some urgency into the second half. But Tranmere raised the tempo, Danny Harrison hooking their best chance over the bar.
Having deserved to win in normal time, Brian Little's men, 16th in the Second Division and far from safe from relegation worries, could have been deflated by being asked to do it all again. Not only did Hume rock Bolton back on their heels with his goal, however, he went close to claiming a second with a rasping shot from an angle in stoppage time at the end of the first of extra time.
Achterberg had to save from Ricardo Vaz Te, at the start of the second period, and Nolan's free-kick was caught by the diving goalkeeper. Most agonisingly of all, Pedersen put a close-range diving header wide with five minutes to play and Shakes had an effort blocked right at the end. But it was only just that the tie should go to the side which, over its three and a half hours, had wanted it the more.
Bolton have a Carling Cup semi-final and respectability in the Premiership to think about; Tranmere played as though the FA Cup still mattered.
Bolton Wanderers (4-3-3): Poole; Barness, Livesey, Comyn-Platt, Smith; Giannakopoulos Shakes, 85), Frandsen, Pedersen; Facey (C Taylor, 79), Jardel (Nolan, h-t), Vaz Te. Substitutes not used: Ricketts (gk), Talbot.
Tranmere Rovers (5-3-2): Achterberg; R Taylor, Sharps, Allen, Jones, Roberts; Mellon, Harrison, Beresford (Hay, 97); Dadi, Hume (Navarro, 107). Substitutes not used: Howarth (gk), Connelly, Linwood.
Referee: H Webb (S Yorkshire).
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