Wembley will have to wait
Cup football is over-rated, right? After the week that Tranmere have just had, we’re more than happy to forget all about the cup and concentrate on the league. After all, that’s much more important.
Having said that, we’re all inwardly sobbing our hearts out, as the chance of a trip to Wembley has faded for another season following a week of two cup exits.
The Johnstone’s Paints Trophy (JPT) is a competition which is generally disregarded by anyone other than the clubs participating in it. To a degree, I can understand that. If they think the Carling Cup is ‘Mickey Mouse’ then heaven forbid what they make of the JPT.
But Tranmere is one of the clubs who participate, and we take it seriously. After all, we have made the final of the competition twice in the early 1990s and it gave us great days out at Wembley on both occasions, once as winners and once as runners up.
It would have been fantastic to get back there, and the JPT gives clubs like ours a realistic chance of getting to the home of English football. And having shown some good form so far this season, we fancied our chances.
But Chesterfield had other ideas. Despite their goalkeeper’s best efforts of handing us a goal, quite literally, the Rovers defending on the night was abysmal and after leading the game twice, we went out to the Spireites. It was hugely disappointing.
But not to worry, the FA Cup was just around the corner a few days later. That was the perfect opportunity to get the JPT disappointment out of our systems. Ok, it’s unlikely that we could have got to Wembley via the FA Cup, but a good cup run and maybe drawing a big team in the later rounds would have been a big boost to the football club.
Cheltenham Town at home was the first round draw. It wasn’t a game we would have chosen if the draw was hand-picked, but a home tie is usually a good thing, and against a team from a lower division too, Tranmere were fairly happy with that.
But three days after being knocked out of one cup competition, we once again hit the canvas. The goal which delivered the knock-out blow came from a penalty. We’ve conceded a lot of penalties so far this season, and I don’t think we’re a dirty team, nor do I believe at least half of them should have been awarded.
Perhaps the Rovers backline is a bit naïve and gave the referee a decision to be made in the penalty area, but whatever it is, we could do with terminating it. The Cheltenham spot-kick was the ninth penalty we have conceded so far this season, which needs to stop, especially because goalkeeper Owain fon Williams hasn’t saved any of them.
And so we can concentrate on the league. We have no choice. I only hope that this week’s setbacks only go to help us in our quest for a play-off position, which would be a massive achievement for Les Parry and the team. Maybe that trip to Wembley is still possible after all.