AFTER 12 games unbeaten it was unlucky 13 for Tranmere as Bournemouth rose to the occasion of Eddie Howe’s return to become the first side to defeat Rovers in League One this season.
There was always going to come a day sooner or later when Ronnie Moore’s side’s stunning start to the season would suffer a reality check and Howe’s return from Burnley provided the occasion for just that.
New signing Jake Jervis opened the scoring for Tranmere shortly before the break to give the visitors the lead at half-time.
However, an own goal from Ben Gibson, as well as second-half strikes from Harry Arter and Simon Francis consigned Moore’s men to a convincing defeat.
Bournemouth came into the game full of confidence, manager Howe in his second spell with the club having re-joined from Championship side Burnley.
And after the Cherries beat Leyton Orient 2-0 last week, Moore’s men were up against a side who had recently rediscovered their impetus.
New loan signing Jervis went straight into Moore’s starting 11 in place of Joe Thompson, while influential midfielder Andy Robinson missed out with a calf problem.
The hosts threatened as early as the fifth minute, Cherries striker Lee Barnard intercepting a header from Ash Taylor, but Welsh stopper Owain Fon Williams reacted quickly to smother the ball.
Just two minutes later Bournemouth looked dangerous once again, Charlie Daniels drilling a ball across the face of goal, but neither Marc Pugh nor Arter could get on the end of it.
Tranmere’s first real effort came after 17 minutes following a late challenge on Adam McGurk, which saw Cherries defender Francis receive a caution for his troubles.
From McGurk’s set piece Jervis volleyed powerfully towards goal, but former England international stopper David James saved well at the far post.
At the halfway point of the first period it was the hosts who were enjoying more of the play, but neither side was able to fashion a clear-cut chance.
Lee Barnard was dangerous, the 28-year-old Southampton loanee heading towards goal from Marc Pugh’s cross, but Fon Williams was equal to it and palmed over.
Indeed, the visitors could and maybe should have netted following a succession of corners, but it was Rovers who looked more threatening on the break, Abdulai Bell-Baggie firing narrowly over for Moore’s side.
And although Bournemouth had enjoyed the vast majority of play in the first half, it was Rovers who took the lead with 39 minutes on the clock courtesy of two loanees.
Tranmere broke quickly, the impressive Jake Cassidy surging down the right and crossing into the box for Jervis, who volleyed in first time, leaving James with no chance.
And Rovers almost doubled their lead, Sheffield Wednesday loanee Liam Palmer bursting into the area to find Jervis once again, but the 21-year-old frontman could only fire wide.
With the hosts looking to draw level just before the break, Charlie Daniels struck a 25-yard free-kick after Zoumana Bakayogo was cautioned, but Fon Williams saved comfortably to guide his side to a1-0 lead at the interval.
And with his side down at the break, boss Howe must have come up with some stirring words because his side dominated Rovers throughout the second half.
Just eight minutes into the second period Bournemouth drew level from a set piece after Taylor was adjudged to have fouled Pugh out wide.
Pugh dusted himself down to deliver an inswinging free-kick that caused all sorts of problems, Gibson inadvertently deflecting past Fon Williams to draw the Cherries level.
And on 56 minutes the hosts threatened to take the lead for the first time, Barnard keeping the ball in play and feeding Pugh, whose curling effort was well-saved by Fon Williams.
Two minutes later however, the comeback was complete. Josh McQuoid ran onto Tommy Elphick’s header, before crossing to Arter who controlled and stroked the ball past Fon Williams.
By this time Howe’s men were all over Rovers, McQuoid almost extending the hosts’ advantage after good work from Pugh, only to fire narrowly wide of the Rovers goal.
Tranmere did try to get back into the encounter, a Cassidy cross causing confusion in the Cherries box which Miles Addison was eventually able to clear.
Former Crawley striker Matt Tubbs was introduced to replace Lewis Grabban, and shortly after coming on tested Fon Williams from long range although the Welshman was equal to it.
Moore’s men found themselves really up against it after 72 minutes however, with Francis netting a third to put the hosts in the driving seat.
The goal came from a well-worked free-kick routine, Tubbs rolling the ball to right-back Francis who powered an effort into the bottom corner.
Cassidy almost clawed one back for Tranmere in added time, but James made a good save at his near post to lead Howe to his second victory in two games.
Annoyingly for Moore and co, all four sides directly beneath Rovers picked up wins, although they do still sit four points clear at the top of the League One table.