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Bolton boss Sam Allardyce on Dave Challinor
"His throw is long enough without him drying the ball"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 25 January, 2000, 17:09 GMT
Rovers ready for Wembley

Tranmere's Achterberg saves from Gudjohnsen in the first leg


Tranmere v Bolton - Wednesday January 26, 20:00 GMT
1-0 after first leg.

Tranmere Rovers have their sights set on a first appearance in a major final at Wembley, as they prepare for the second leg of their Worthington Cup semi-final at Prenton Park on Wednesday.

But Bolton Wanderers - trailing by a single goal from the first leg - are themselves determined to fly the flag for Nationwide League in the final next month.

The two First Division teams are enjoying vintage seasons in England's premier knock-out tournaments.

As well as reaching the last four of the Worthington Cup, they are also through to the fifth round of the FA Cup - with Bolton travelling to Cambridge this weekend, while Tranmere are at Fulham.

Nothing for granted

Tranmere manager John Aldridge knows that while his team are on the verge of an historic trip to Wembley, they are not there yet.


Tranmere's Yates slides in to tackle Gardner
Rovers have suffered their share of disappointment in recent years, having lost three Division One play-off semi-finals.

But the result that hurts the most is the penalty shoot-out defeat by Aston Villa in the 1994 League Cup semi-final.

And this time Aldridge is desperate to see his side put the record straight.

"This is arguably the biggest game in the club's history," Aldridge said.

"We must approach it right, play well on the night and use the advantage we hold.

"We have a slight advantage from the first leg but with all the injuries and suspensions we are suffering with - things have evened themselves out. It will be a tough game."

Rovers' woes

Tranmere will be without a number of key players for Prenton Park.

First leg hero Clint Hill, whose goal separates the teams, is suspended, along with fellow defenders Gareth Roberts and Alan Morgan.


Bolton striker Hansen holds off Mahon
And on the injury front, Rovers will be without Steve Yates, who has a thigh problem, and goalkeeper Joe Murphy, who is sidelined with a broken collarbone.

Dave Challinor, whose prodigious long throws provide such a vital offensive tactic, will almost certainly miss the match with ankle ligament damage.

With so many absentees, Republic of Ireland centre-back Phil Babb has been signed on loan from Liverpool and he should partner Reuben Hazell in defence.

Key players John Achterberg, Nick Henry, Gary Jones, Andy Parkinson and David Kelly should all return after being rested for last weekend's trip to Huddersfield.

Bolton fighting fit

While Aldridge struggles to patch his team together, Bolton boss Sam Allardyce has an injury-free squad as he aims to pull of a famous comeback and take his team to the Twin Towers.

"We have a completely clean bill of health," he said. "Everyone who was doubtful last week is available for selection and raring to go.

"The players are so pumped-up for this game, it is hard to see how we will not get a result. I said after the home leg that the tie was far from over and I still feel that way.

"We have got to get up and at them and try to make the nerves jangle in the Tranmere team.

"Some of the older players in our squad might never get another chance to get to Wembley, so they are particularly desperate to get a result."

Bolton will, however, be without Mark Fish, who is on international duty, and the ineligible Darren Holloway and Gareth Farrelly.

Paul Ritchie, Paul Warhurst and Keith Branagan are all available for selection.

Much will be expected of former Wimbledon striker Dean Holdsworth, who is likely to win a place ahead of Danish frontman Bo Hansen.

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