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The BBC's Ian Brown
"So lightning does strike for a fourth time"
 real 28k

Sunderland manager Peter Reid
"Tranmere won the match fair and square"
 real 28k

Saturday, 8 January, 2000, 20:27 GMT
Row mars Tranmere giantkilling

Wayne Allison Wayne Allison hooks home the only goal of the game

Tranmere 1-0 Sunderland

Tranmere's latest act of cup heroics was overshadowed by controversy, as the First Division side replaced a sent-off player with a substitute at the end of a fourth round thriller at Prenton Park.

It was like Billy Smart's circus out there. I don't like talking about officials instead of football - but someone has made a major error.
Sunderland manager Peter Reid
The Football Association is to look into the incident and will make a decision on Monday morning. A spokesman told the BBC a replay was an option, although Sunderland had not made an official complaint.

Rovers justified their reputation as expert giantkillers by taking their fourth Premiership scalp of the season.

This time it was high-flying Sunderland who were the victims of a speciality Rovers smash-and-grab.

We realise the importance and necessity to deal with this as quickly as is possible. However, it is vitally important that we ensure we have all of the facts available to us.
FA spokesman
But the victory, earned by skipper Wayne Allison's first-half goal, was marred by an explosive finish.

Tranmere defender Clint Hill was sent off in injury time - but that did not stop the Merseyside club bringing on a substiute for the dismissed player.

Initially play continued - but once the officials had noticed that Tranmere still had 11 men on the pitch, the game degenerated into chaos, with both benches embroiled in a fierce row.

There was a lot of confusion, but it wasn't our fault. Andy Parkinson should have come off, but the fourth official showed Clint Hill's number instead.
Tranmere boss John Aldridge
Rovers boss John Alridge will not be unduly concerned by the debate, though, as he saw his side add Sunderland to an illustrious list of teams turned over by the Nationwide underdogs this season.

West Ham, Middlesbrough and Coventry have already been beaten as Tranmere continue to progress in the FA and Worthington Cups.

Wayne's world

Tranmere started brightly and Jason Koumar tested Sunderland keeper Thomas Sorensen with a curling free-kick in the opening exchanges.

Rovers went ahead in the 25th minute when a deep free-kick from Dave Challinor - more renowned for his enormous throws - caused flutters in the Sunderland area.

Referee Rob Harris prepares to send off Clint Hill
Allison was the first to react, sending a well-placed diagonal volley past Sorensen.

Within two minutes Sunderland could have levelled as Nicky Summerbee, back in action after his high-profile clash with Wimbledon's Ben Thatcher last week, made a break on the right.

Phillips connected with Summerbee's telling cross - but Tranmere defender Hill somehow diverted his point-blank header onto the bar and the danger was cleared.

The goal ignited the tie, with both sides creating a host of openings.

Match facts
25: Allison scores what proves the winner
92: Hill is sent off, but Tranmere retain 11 players
93: Sunderland object and substitute Frail is pulled off
For Tranmere, Allison fluffed a chance for his second and Koumar saw another long-range effort saved by Sorensen.

And at the other end Rovers had John Achterberg to thank for keeping them ahead.

The Dutch keeper produced stunning saves to keep out Alex Rae's header and divert a Summerbee strike that looked destined for the back of the net.

Philipps was a constant threat and twice headed wide as Sunderland dominated the closing stages of the first half, while Summerbee sliced a glorious chance over the bar.

Rovers hold firm

Sunderland laid siege to the Tranmere area after the break as they desperately sought an equaliser.

But the Rovers defence was equal to the task and Achterberg continued his superb individual display, athletically turning away Chris Makin's rising 30-yard strike.

Reid Peter Reid shows his anger at the Tranmere substitution
Sunderland were becoming frustrated at their inability to force their way back into the match - and captain Paul Butler was perhaps fortunate to escape with only a booking when he pushed Gareth Roberts in the face after accusing the Rovers defender of time-wasting.

Tranmere still had their moments on the break and former Sunderland striker David Kelly was denied by Sorensen from a trademark Challinor long throw.

Sunderland continued to pile forward at every opportunity and in a tense scramble Makin's shot was blocked by a despairing Tranmere leg.

Andy Parkinson, goal hero in the Worthington Cup victory over Middlesbrough, twice had chances to wrap up another giant-killing - but Sorensen saved on both occasions.

Stefan Schwarz Sunderland's Stefan Schwarz tries to battle his way past Nick Henry
The closing stages proved too tense for some of Tranmere's players and Hill was sent off in injury time - for the third time this season - when he was given a second yellow card for dissent.

At first no-one appeared to notice that Tranmere had brought on substitute Stephen Frail for the dismissed Hill.

But it did not take long for Sunderland to realise - and the match was suddenly halted by a stand-up row on the touchline between coaching staff and officials.


Tranmere: Achterberg, Yates, Challinor, Hill, Roberts, Parkinson, Henry, Jones, Koumas, Allison, Kelly. Subs: Nixon, Taylor, Mahon, Frail, Hazell.

Sunderland: Sorensen, Makin, Bould, Butler, Gray, Summerbee, McCann, Rae, Roy, Schwarz, Phillips. Subs: Marriott, Craddock, Williams, Oster, Reddy.

Referee: R Harris (Oxford)

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See also:
08 Jan 00 |  FA Cup
Newcastle blunt Blades
08 Jan 00 |  FA Carling Premiership
Mills quick on the draw
08 Jan 00 |  FA Cup
Wolves given second chance
08 Jan 00 |  FA Cup
Dons despatched by Fulham
08 Jan 00 |  FA Cup
Birmingham pay the penalty
08 Jan 00 |  FA Cup
Coventry slay giantkillers
08 Jan 00 |  FA Cup
Southgate strikes again
14 Dec 99 |  Football
Rovers claim another prize scalp
11 Dec 99 |  FA Cup
Hammers humiliated by hard work
22 Sep 99 |  Football
Everton slain by Oxford
Links to other FA Cup stories are at the foot of the page.