October 2004: TRANMERE 4 (Taylor pen 45; Hume 66, 87; Beresford 82) CITY 5 (Schumacher 33, Summerbee 53, Windass 70, Muirhead 81, Wetherall 90)

THE bigger game in Bradford sporting eyes was at the other end of the East Lancs Road.

A crowd of 67,000 packed into Old Trafford to see the Bulls edged out by Leeds in the Grand Final.

But in Birkenhead, a fraction of that audience witnessed a wild end-to-end shoot-out that will not be forgotten in a hurry.

As rugby league prepares for its showpiece occasion again this weekend, we turn the clock back 15 years to a remarkable afternoon for the Bantams.

“Nothing is won in October” was the right message from boss Colin Todd as the dust eventually settled on a nine-goal avalanche. Unfortunately, he would be proved right as City’s unlikely post-administration promotion challenge faded as the tank eventually ran dry.

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But there was a memorable purple patch of five straight wins in October – and one that went down in folklore.

City were punching above their weight in a season where the goal had been set at finishing fifth bottom. How far was illustrated when they faced a Tranmere side seen as a genuine shout to go up.

Todd was keen for his team to put on a show against home counterpart Brian Little, an old pal for more than 20 years since they had both been on the staff at Middlesbrough.

But few would have predicted the thrills and spills that would follow.

There was little indication of anything untoward happening when the sides reached half-time all square.

The first of the afternoon’s nine goals did not arrive until the 33rd minute when Steve Schumacher picked up Dele Adebola’s cross and fired home with the aid of a slight deflection.

But Tranmere equalised right on the break with a Ryan Taylor penalty after Mark Bower nudged over Eugene Dadi.

Then the real fun began.

Nicky Summerbee restored City’s advantage in spectacular fashion, his 30-yard free-kick rocketing into the roof of the net.

But back came the hosts for a second time as City failed to close down Iain Hume, who curled past Paul Henderson at the near post.

It was advantage the Bantams once more within four minutes.

John Achterberg beat out a Schumacher effort but Dean Windass was onside to tap home Tom Kearney’s follow-up cross.

And it soon got even better for Todd’s team as Ben Muirhead streaked away from the halfway line before beating Achterberg with a confident finish.

City were 4-2 up with nine minutes left – the game was surely up for Tranmere.

But substitute David Beresford pegged one back within two minutes of coming on as his floating header beat Bower on the line.

And five minutes later, the sides were locked at 4-4 when Hume headed home his second goal from Taylor’s cross.

The momentum had swung and it was the white shirts now chasing an unlikely winner as the contest breathlessly headed into time added on.

But City found one more chance from a free-kick after Muirhead was clipped by Jason McAteer.

The Tranmere skipper complained loudly and got embroiled in a few heated words with Todd on the touchline before it could be taken. McAteer was moaning even more with what followed.

Summerbee’s delivery was right on the money and David Wetherall rose from the pack with a decisive downward header.

The skipper celebrated by standing statue still, arms outstretched, on the low wall at the front of the away end as mayhem surrounded him. A mad end to a mad game.

“We scored five tremendous goals and let in four bad ones,” smiled Todd afterwards. “But I would settle for performances like that every week.”

Even the Tranmere fans applauded generously as the players headed for a much-needed rest. Away days don’t get any better.

TRANMERE: Achterberg, Goodison, Jackson, Taylor, Sharps (Beresford 80), Roberts, McAteer, Rankin, Hall, Hume, Dadi (Zola 80).

CITY: Henderson, Holloway, Wetherall, Bower, Emanuel, Summerbee, Kearney, Schumacher, Muirhead, Windass, Adebola.