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Match Report


Posted Fri 19 Mar 10 at 09:49 AM

Tranmere 2 Hartlepool 0 (AET) (5-6 on pe

It wouldn't have been a surprise if a kitchen sink was found on the pitch at the final whistle.

Rovers threw everything at Hartlepool from start to finish and managed to find the two goals needed to take the tie into extra time through Ryan Taylor and David Beresford in the second half.

With extra time goalless the tie went to a penalty shoot out and having kept his side in the contest throughout the game with countless outstanding saves, Dimi Konstantopoulos again proved the hero for Hartlepool with two saves to send his side to Cardiff for the final.

Brian Little made one change from the starting eleven in the first leg with striker Eugene Dadi coming in for Theo Whitmore as Rovers switched to a 4-4-2 formation. Gareth Roberts and Ian Goodison reformed their partnership on the left with Paul Hall and Taylor on the right. Chris Dagnall was handed a place on the bench at the expense of Russell Howarth as Rovers went without a replacement goalkeeper.

With a 2-0 lead from the first leg, Hartlepool caretaker manager Martin Scott kept faith with the same sixteen players.

The visitors were first to threaten with Chris Westwood heading over from a fourth minute corner. At the other end Jason McAteer brought a save out of Konstantopoulos from the edge of the area after running onto Dadi's knock down on six minutes.

Rovers dominated the early stages, boosted by the noisy home support. Iain Hume and Roberts combined well on the left with the latter unlucky to see his looping cross turned away from Dadi and behind for a corner in the eighth minute.

Little's side came within centimetres of taking a deserved lead on 12 minutes when Ian Sharps flicked McAteer's right wing cross into the path of Hume, who turned before firing a shot against the crossbar.

Two minutes later Dadi leapt well to meet a Roberts' inswinging cross but the Ivory Coast international sent his header over the top.

On twenty minutes Rovers were forced into the first substitution of the game when a clearly distraught and injured McAteer had to be replaced by Danny Harrison. The Rovers midfielder took some persuading before finally accepting his fate.

A cross from Roberts was nearly deflected into his own net by Michael Barron on 22 minutes as Rovers continued to press for the crucial first goal in the game.

Two minutes later Rovers broke quickly into the visitors' half and were again denied when Dadi pivoted onto a Hall cross but had his low shot palmed away by Konstantopoulos.

Rovers continued to be frustrated as the half wore on with a succession of free kicks being awarded against them deep in the Hartlepool half. The match began to resemble a training game of attack versus defence with the only question mark over how long Hartlepool could hold out.

A cross from Hall deep in injury time somehow evaded four Rovers players on the six yard box, with Hume's follow up cross headed outof the path of Dadi by Michael Nelson at the far post. From the resulting corner, Rovers fans were again left with their heads in their hands as Goodison's powerful header was brilliantly turned over by Konstantopoulos.

Rovers' pressure continued at the same pace after the break. Harrison fired over from 20 yards on 49 minutes after Rankine's cross was only half cleared by the Pools defence.

A shot from Dadi was deflected away for a corner on 51 minutes and penalty appeals for a foul on Ian Sharps were turned away soon after.

Beresford replaced Goodison on 65 minutes as extra speed was added to the left wing for Rovers.

It was the substitute who set up the Superwhites' next chance on the hour when his right foot cross was met by Hall but his header was well kept out by Konstantopoulos. Seconds later the keeper again proved to be the visitors' saviour, clawing away Rankine's far post header from Taylor's corner.

Another teasing Beresford cross was turned behind for a corner on 63 minutes as Rovers' all out approach continued in a highly one sided affair. Time after time Nelson was all that stood between Rovers and space inside the Hartlepool area and whenever the breakthrough was found, Konstantopoulos was proving to be a top quality keeper.

But the keeper was finally beaten on 70 minutes. A free kick for a foul on Hume 25 yards out gave Taylor the perfect chance to net his tenth goal of the season and he didn't need a second invitation. Curling the ball around the visitors' wall, his shot flew in the bottom left corner beyond the reach of Konstantopoulos.

With all three home stands erupting with delight, it wasn't long before Rovers registered their next shot, with Taylor firing over from outside the area.

Dadi was next in line with a header from Roberts' left wing cross landing agonisingly wide of the left hand post on 77 minutes.

A foul on Dadi brought a free kick 20 yards out a minute later, but Taylor's effort was headed away by the wall.

As the stopwatch reached 80 minutes, Rovers still needed another goal to take the tie to extra time. Another free kick in front of goal provided Taylor with a shooting opportunity on 84 minutes but his attempt was again cleared by the wall.

The waiting didn't last much longer. With just three minutes of normal time remaining the ball was played to Beresford on the edge of the area by Hall and the winger exquisitely curled it into the bottom right corner to level the aggregate score.

The Rovers players celebrate the equaliser against Hartlepool

There was still time for Rovers to press forward again. A Hall volley from ten yards had to be desperately scrambled away in the second minute of injury time as the game went into extra time.

Hume's trickery earned Rovers a free kick to the left of goal on 98 minutes and Taylor again tried his luck. His shot easily beat the wall and looked on target for the far corner but Konstantopoulos popped up once more to push the ball away.

The visitors still seemed content to defend despite no longer being in the lead. They had to rely on Konstantopoulos again on 100 minutes, with the keeper getting down well to keep out Harrison's left foot curler from 18 yards.

105 minutes and still level as the game entered the second period of extra time. It could hardly be more tense.

Beresford skipped past two challenges with ease on the left on 110 minutes but his high cross was knocked behind for a corner.

After Jackson did well to clear under pressure from Eifion Williams on 111 minutes, Rovers were straight back on the attack. Konstantopoulos was again in fine form to keep out Hume's low volley from ten yards before racing over to block Dadi's follow up shot from a tight angle.

Rovers survived a late scare when Ritchie Humphreys fired wide after a goalmouth scramble on 117 minutes, while Sharps did well to head clear soon after.

With penalties on the cards, Dagnall was brought on for Dadi for Rovers' third and final substitution.

And then the shoot out. Rovers were first to step up in front of the Kop...

0-0 Taylor. Konstantopoulos saves with his legs.

0-1 Strachan. Sends Achterberg the wrong way.

1-1 Hall. Puts the ball to the keepers' right.

1-1 Tinkler. Achterberg saves low to his right.

2-1 Roberts. Smashes the ball high into the net.

2-2 Porter. Places the ball in the left corner.

3-2 Hume. Top left corner.

3-3 Robson. Powers theball into the bottom right corner.

4-3 Dagnall. Shot palmed by Konstantopoulos into the net.

4-4 Westwood. Achterberg guesses correctly but can't keep the ball out.

5-4 Beresford. Top right corner.

5-5 Sweeney. Sends Achterberg the wrong way.

5-5 Sharps. Shot saved in the bottom left corner.

5-6 Humphreys. Achterberg beaten high to his left.

But the season ends in the cruellest way as Hartlepool win a penalty shoot out

Tranmere: Achterberg, Taylor, Jackson, Goodison (Beresford 55), Sharps, Roberts, McAteer (Harrison 20), Rankine, Hall, Dadi (Dagnall 120), Hume. Substitutes not used: Linwood, Whitmore.

Hartlepool: Konstantopoulos, Barron (Tinkler 66), Nelson, Westwood, Humphreys, Williams, Boyd (Butler 85), Strachan, Sweeney, Daly (Porter 72), Robson. Substitutes not used: Provett, Clark.

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Yellow cards: Hume (45), Westwood (94), Achterberg (120)

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