Tranmere 2-0 Coventry
TRANMERE confounded one of football's favourite superstitions on their way back to the top of the League One table.
Every recipient of the manager of the month award knows its reputation for being a harbinger of a fall in the next match.
Tranmere's Ronnie Moore, the League One winner for August, had good cause to worry that his team was in danger of losing their unbeaten tag within a couple of hours of being presented with the gong on the pitch, such was the strength of the challenge posed by Coventry City.
However, good fortune, rather than the curse of ill luck, ran in favour of the team on a roll. Rovers weathered the Sky Blue storm then conjured a couple of high-quality goals in the final 11 minutes to win a game that might easily have tipped the other way on the balance of chances over the previous 79.
The final scoreline was cruel on Coventry, fallen giants who have made life difficult for themselves at the start of their first season in third tier football for almost half a century.
They made a nonsense of their lowly position in the table for much of the contest and would have had their noses in front but for the intervention of the woodwork and the resourcefulness of goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams.
The quality of the squad put together by Andy Thorn, prior to his curiously timed dismissal as manager three drawn games into the season, was evident here, as was the players' willingness to give their all for caretaker manager Richard Shaw.
But they were not clinical where it mattered, in front of goal.
When the home side found a couple of moments of inspiration late in the contest, Coventry were knocked flat on their backs.
Shaw's hopes of keeping the job on a permanent basis probably disappeared with a third straight defeat under his leadership.
Delaying a new appointment makes little sense when the team is crying out for an injection of the confidence and self belief that can turn tight games into victories.
Tranmere had lapsed into a similar condition when Moore took charge of team affairs at Prenton Park back in March.
Those days seem like an age away after four wins in six undefeated games of the new campaign.
If the first three were fairly comfortable victories, this one had to be dug out from a performance that was more about sweat and application than the attacking verve that swept away Prenton Park's previous visitors, Colchester United.
The passing wasn't as crisp and accurate this time while the attacking players found space and opportunities harder to come by - in part because the visitors yielded them so grudgingly.
Shaw anchored an extra midfielder in front of the back four.
The job was done to good effect by Steve Jennings, who performed similar service for Tranmere on many occasions during the early years of his career.
The visitors shaded an uneventful first half in which neither side created a clear scoring opportunity.
Tranmere attempted to force the tempo at the start of the second period but ran out of momentum in the face of Coventry's best spell of the game.
Central striker David McGoldrick, who gave Ash Taylor and centre back partner Ben Gibson a testing afternoon, set up a good half chance for Adam Barton on the edge of the Rovers box in the 59th minute, only for the tall midfielder to drag his shot wide of the target.
Two minutes later McGoldrick and Stephen Elliott combined on the right, a curling cross to the far post presented Carl Baker with an opportunity from a couple of yards range, which the midfielder headed against the upright.
Fon Williams barely had time to regain his composure before he was forced to make a big leap to his right to claw out a 30 yard effort from Baker that was heading towards the top corner. When a poor backpass by Gibson set McGoldrick clear on the right hand edge of the box in the 70th minute, Fon Williams twice dived at his feet to prevent the striker working the ball back into the goalmouth.
Pace and invention opened up Tranmere's first clear-cut chance of the game on 79 minutes and a clinical finish from Jake Cassidy made it pay.
Left-back Zoumana Bakayogo made the opening by turning cleverly out of trouble to gallop forward and play the ball inside. It was deftly stepped over by Liam Palmer, to run into the path of Cassidy.
The teenager found the composure to guide his shot through the only channel between advancing goalkeeper Joe Murphy and the right-hand post, to nestle gently into the corner of the net.
Three minutes later Tranmere rubbed salt into Coventry's wounds with a second goal.
Andy Robinson started the move with a pass to Joe Thomson on the right.
The substitute's low return ball, fast and low into the heart of the box, found Robinson stretching out a leg to poke a shot into the bottom corner.