TRANMERE warhorse Ian Goodison ignited Rovers’ season after serving up a Cup tonic at Walsall.
The veteran defender’s 40th minute winner capped a man-of-the-match display as Rovers erased the memories of Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Oldham and edged into the second round of the Carling Cup last night.
The visitors stunned their hosts who dominated possession in the first half but failed to seriously trouble Joe Collister.
But the rookie goalkeeper excelled when called on and he preserved Tranmere’s lead with a superb low save to deny Alex Nicholls just after the break.
Nick Wood should have made it a more comfortable night for Rovers but planted a free header over but the visitors were well worth their second round place.
Manager Les Parry kept faith with want-away skipper Ian Thomas-Moore despite the striker’s transfer request.
Collister replaced Gunnar Nielsen with the 18-year-old keeper making his first Rovers appearance since last October’s 1-0 defeat at home to Stockport.
Striker Adam McGurk made his bow on the bench after signing non-contract terms following a trial.
But Rovers were on the back foot early with Liam Darville almost turning Darren Byfield’s cross into his own net after five minutes before Collister gathered Steve Jones’ 20-yard drive.
Early scares aside, Tranmere then settled with Goodison and Wood marshalling Walsall dangermen Byfield and Nicholls well.
The Saddlers slowly began to boss possession but struggled to make any impact on an imposing Rovers rearguard although Aaron Cresswell’s block denied Darryl Westlake just before the half hour.
With an increasingly anxious home crowd, the longer Rovers frustrated their hosts the better but the Saddlers were getting closer – Julian Gray forcing Collister into a smart save 10 minutes before the break.
Manny Smith headed wide as Walsall probed with a disjointed Rovers failing to trouble the hosts’ backline – until they took a shock lead six minutes before the break.
Paul McLaren launched in a deep free-kick, Joss Labadie headed back across goal and Goodison scrambled past a flapping Jonny Brain from almost on the line.
The Saddlers tried to hit back and McLaren’s last ditch challenge foiled Gray’s close range effort a minute before the break.
Buoyed by their lead, Rovers almost doubled their advantage 60 seconds after the break when Cresswell volleyed over.
But an embarrassing mix-up between Darville and McLaren on 48 minutes almost cost Rovers when Byfield stole in on their quick free kick and raced clear.
The striker burst into the area before finding Nicholls free and only a stunning low save from Collister saved his team-mates’ blushes.
Suddenly chances flowed and Thomas-Moore’s header was saved by Brain before, from the resulting corner, Wood escaped the Saddlers’ defence only to somehow head over from 10 yards.
Rovers were a different team following their hesitant first half display as they hustled and harried Walsall into mistakes.
Thomas-Moore had started to cause the hosts’ problems but their lead was slender and Byfield almost punished Tranmere on the hour but blazed over from 15 yards.
Wood was booked after tempers flared with Byfield as Rovers dropped deeper to defend their lead.
Walsall provided little to suggest they could force an equaliser but the outstanding Goodison was always on hand to snuff out any danger.
The epitome of composure, the veteran was the rock Rovers built their foundations on as they desperately held on to their lead in the face of mounting Walsall pressure.
Darville bravely blocked at Byfield’s feet two minutes from time but Rovers held out to claim victory.