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Nostalgia

On This Day: Silkmen Celebrate Reaching Wembley Final

18 March 2020

Three years ago today, John Askey's Silkmen side booked their place at Wembley Stadium for the first time since 1996 as a result of a memorable FA Trophy semi-final second leg victory against Tranmere Rovers at Prenton Park.
 
After seeing off Altrincham, AFC Sudbury, Forest Green Rovers and Dulwich Hamlet in the previous rounds, we travelled to Birkenhead with the semi-final tie evenly poised following a first leg stalemate at the Moss Rose seven days earlier.
 
Mickey Mellon's side had taken an early lead that day, as Jay Harris was controversially adjudged to have been impeded in the box with barely a minute on the clock.
 
Jeff Hughes stepped up to take the resultant penalty and although Scott Flinders' gallant effort saw him get a palm on the ball, it wasn't enough to stop it finding the back of the net and handing the visitors an almost instant lead.
 
Yet this catalysed Askey's side into a period of sustained pressure which Tranmere struggled to cope with.
 
Chris Holroyd and Kingsley James both came close to restoring parity, before Ollie Norburn did just that in the 54th minute when he fired home Mitch Hancox's assist.
 
Despite the fact that honours would remain even at the end of the first instalment, a trip to Prenton Park for such a vital encounter still represented an incredibly tough proposition - yet it was one which the whole town seemed to revel in.
 
Making the relatively short journey to such an illustrious name in English football, being massively outnumbered in an imposing stadium and with a trip to Wembley Stadium at stake all added to the pre-match romance which encapsulated us all.
 
As the Silkmen faithful filtered into the stadium, there was an undercurrent of nerves within the terraces - yet this was channeled into vehemently willing the lads on once play got underway.
 
An electric atmosphere was created by both sets of fans and despite a cagey start by both teams, this continued to play a tangible role on the pitch.
 
Harris again proved to be a potent threat for the hosts and despite Tranmere dominating the early possession, Scott Flinders was not to be unduly tested.
 
Indeed, the Silkmen rearguard proved to be in exemplary form as they nullified one of the most dangerous strike-forces that the non-league game had to offer in Andy Cook, James Norwood and Connor Jennings.
 
Askey's men survived a brief scare just before the interval when Norwood's venomous drive was acrobatically tipped over the bar by Flinders - yet the second period saw the visitors visibly up the tempo as they closed in on what would prove to be an historic victory.
 
As the game opened up, Macc were unlucky to not open the scoring when Ollie Norburn smashed the Tranmere crossbar from within the area, yet shortly after he would write his name into Silkmen folklore.
 
In the 68th minute Norburn supremely controlled the ball twenty yards out, before firing it across the face of goal and into the far corner of the net.
 
Cue bedlam in the away end.
 
Despite this, Askey's warriors had just over twenty minutes to see out before the celebrations could begin.
 
And they did just that with consummate professionalism and belief.
 
The passion and defiance of Askey's men meant that Scott Flinders' goal was only speculatively threatened, as our first trip to the national stadium in twenty-one years was secured.
 
Here are the match highlights from that unforgettable game -
 

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