RONNIE MOORE avoided being upstaged by his former apprentice as Jake Cassidy’s double ensured victory against promotion rivals Crawley in a high-scoring and frenetic clash at Broadfield Stadium.
Danny Holmes gave Tranmere the lead with a cross-shot, before Josh Simpson netted from the edge of the area and Kyle McFadzean volleyed in to give the hosts the lead after just 16 minutes.
But Cassidy equalised before half-time after some good work from Zoumana Bakayogo, and Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro put Rovers ahead immediately after the restart, capitalising on some poor defending.
Cassidy netted a second soon after, also taking advantage of some bad defending to put the visitors 4-2 ahead, before Andy Robinson put the icing on the cake.
The win would have been especially sweet for Moore, who used to manage Richie Barker, Crawley’s current boss, when he used to be in charge of Rotherham.
Moore made only one change to the side that overcame Bury 3-0 at Prenton Park, Joe Thompson coming in for Abdulai Bell-Baggie.
The hosts were kept to a draw against winless Colchester in midweek following a late equaliser, and also made just the one change, Simpson coming in for Shaun Cooper.
Going into the game, Crawley had only conceded three times at the Broadfield, all three coming in a defeat against Portsmouth, while Tranmere had only conceded two league goals all season.
The clash in West Sussex was the first time these two sides had ever met, and it was Rovers who stunned the hosts with an early goal in just the second minute.
Holmes was the unlikely source, the 23-year-old netting his first senior goal for Rovers after whipping in a cross that evaded everyone, including Crawley goalkeeper Paul Jones, and crept inside the far post.
And although Rovers threatened to double their advantage in a frantic opening, the hosts drew level in the 12th minute through former Peterborough midfielder Simpson.
The 25-year-old advanced towards Tranmere’s goal, and with the Rovers defence backing off, he fired into the bottom corner of the net from the edge of the area, beating goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams.
And the Red Devils made it two goals in the space of just three minutes, Nicky Adams’ corner being headed back by Nicky Ajose to defender McFadzean, who lashed in on his 100th appearance for the club.
Tranmere went straight up the other end trying to reduce the deficit, Crawley goalkeeper Paul Jones having to tip over the crossbar to keep out Joe Thompson’s vicious effort.
In an end-to-end encounter, home skipper Gary Alexander had a great opportunity to put Crawley further ahead, but he could only ahead straight at fon Williams after Hope Akpan flicked on Adams’ free-kick.
And it was the visitors who levelled the scores before the break, somewhat against the run of play, Cassidy netting his sixth goal of the season after some superb work from defender Bakayogo.
The Ivorian picked the ball up midway in his own half and ran fully 50 yards before whipping in a deep cross to the far post, where Wolves’ on-loan striker made it two apiece at half-time.
And the second half began in similar vein to the first, Tranmere taking the lead less than a minute into the half, this time through Frenchman Akpa Akpro.
Some poor defending from former Brentford man David Hunt saw him play the ball straight to the striker, and Akpa Akpro made no mistake, bursting past his man and firing past Jones to put Rovers ahead.
Barker’s men went on the attack looking to draw the scores level yet again, but Simpson’s effort was blocked by Ash Taylor and Fon Williams was forced into a good save from Akpan.
But Rovers took advantage of more lax defending to go two ahead for the first time, Cassidy, in his second loan spell with the club, notching his second of the afternoon.
Mark Connolly’s backpass to Jones fell short, and the ever-alert Cassidy pounced on the mistake to drill past the goalkeeper with 53 minutes on the clock.
Akpa Akpro surged forward as Rovers looked to extend the lead with Crawley pushing men forward, but after running past McFadzean and Connolly he shot over when he should have done better.
Tranmere almost netted again, but Taylor was denied by the crossbar after Crawley failed to clear a corner, and on-loan Middlesbrough man Ben Gibson couldn’t quite get on the end of it.
Still the hosts surged forward looking to get back into the game, with substitute Billy Clarke thrown on to try and conjure up a goal, but Fon Williams saved from Ajose and McFadzean headed over.
Tranmere did indeed get a fifth through Robinson in the last minute of normal time, the former Swansea man netting his seventh of the season after the ball came free following great work by Akpa Akpro.
The result secured Rovers’ second away win of the campaign and kept them top of League One, where they now enjoy a three-point lead after Stevenage were held at Doncaster, with Notts County now up to second