The FA Cup fifth round don't need no Don? The English and the assertion were courtesy of the BBC's marketing department, but if any tie appeared to need the hype-master, Don King, it was this one. To put it kindly, Tranmere Rovers versus Swansea City did not set the pulses racing when it came out of the hat.
Which just goes to show how preconceptions can be flawed. The glamour may have resided elsewhere, but in terms of incident this match was anything but second-rate. And Tranmere have the promise of things to come after reaching their third quarter-final in five years.
In 2000 they lost to Newcastle at Prenton Park and, same place a year later, Leicester stopped them. But whoever gets them in tomorrow's draw will be wary of meeting such seasoned Cup campaigners.
Not that the Second Division side had it easy yesterday. Swansea took the lead through Tranmere old boy Andy Robinson and were stretching their more elevated opponents right to the end, even though they had had Alan Tate sent off. Ultimately Tranmere held on, scoring through Ryan Taylor's penalty and, spectacularly, from Iain Hume.
"Iain's a little gem," Brian Little, the Tranmere manager, said, "and his goal was worthy of winning any match. Games like this need something special to win them." Before the game the source of that something special had been Lee Trundle, who arrived at Prenton Park having scored in every round and wearing a mask to enhance Third Division Swansea's air of menace.
The image had been of a highwayman, but Trundle's mask was more Phantom Of The Opera than Dick Turpin. However, if Trundle's appearance disappointed, Swansea's start did not, and they took the lead within 15 minutes.
FA Cup lore states that upsets have a twist, and the opening goal was laced with prospects because Robinson, who slid in to half-volley Leon Britton's cross, was born in Birkenhead, supported Tranmere as a boy and even made an appearance for the club last season.
That was one former Tranmere player to the fore, and a second strode towards centre stage eight minutes later, although Michael Howard is unlikely to remember this tie with any affection because he was penalised for pushing Eugene Dadi. Swansea protested to no avail, and Taylor put the ball to Roger Freestone's left as the goalkeeper dived to the right.
With that, the momentum swung in Tranmere's direction and their winner, in the 59th minute, followed Gary Jones's header being cleared off the line by Jonathan Coates. Hume evaded an opponent with a neat swerve of the hips and then unleashed a left-foot shoot that rocketed past Freestone into the far corner.
Swansea, as befitting underdogs with sharp teeth, were not going to surrender lightly and pressed forward, with Trundle, Izzy Iriekpen and Britton all going close. As their momentum was building, however, Tate launched a late challenge on Sean Connelly. As he was sent off, the Welsh side's hopes of an upset disappeared with him. "I don't think Alan went anywhere near anybody and you could tell that from the reaction of the Tranmere players," Brian Flynn, the Swansea manager said of Tate's dismissal.
The last time Flynn had been at Prenton Park, he was sacked as Wrexham's manager immediately afterwards. This time he left with an altogether different emotion. "It was a classic goal, but it needed to be to beat us," he said. "We did most things right today."Reuse content