Tranmere Rovers spread festive cheer with win over Crewe Alexandra
TRANMERE put an end to their December blues with a strong second-half performance that swept away Crewe Alexandra’s Boxing Day challenge at Prenton Park.
Goals inside five minutes by Adam McGurk and Max Power turned the game around and secured Rovers’ first League One victory since mid-November and the first at Prenton Park in six outings.
Such a positive outcome did not look to be on the cards at the interval when Ronnie Moore’s team, attempting to shake off the hangover from a 5-0 hammering at Swindon Town last Friday, trailed to a 12th minute goal by Crewe midfielder Bradden Inman.
Tranmere worked hard but with little success to find a way around or through Crewe’s five-man midfield during the first 45 minutes.
But they were much more effective in imposing their own rhythm after the break, playing at a high tempo that forced the visitors onto the back foot. They were able to get the creative talents of Andy Robinson on the ball and he responded by setting up the equaliser on 58 minutes for Adam McGurk.
Power’s spectacular winner was his first League One goal for the club and his first at Prenton Park. The 19-year-old, a lifelong Tranmere fan, enjoyed long and elaborate celebrations in front of the Bebington Kop.
Manager Ronnie Moore made changes from the side hammered at the County Ground, replacing veteran centre back Ian Goodison with teenage loan recruit Donervorn Daniels, who made a positive impression on his first full outing. Rovers also reverted to a familiar 4-4-2 formation.
Tactics are one thing, making the ball do as it is told on a heavy surface soaked by hours of pre-match rain, quite another.
Both teams were hostage to passes skidding away or stopping dead during the first half hour, when the pitch was at its wettest and most unpredictable.
Tranmere were the first to make a mistake and paid the price by conceding a 12th minute goal.
Daniels, who looked as if he might have been impeded, and Taylor got into a tangle tried to clear a cross into the box leaving Inman to seize on the loose ball and lash it into the roof of the net.
Crewe, with their tails up, complained soon afterwards about referee Paul Tierney’s decision to rule for a foul by Luke Murphy on Zoumana Bakayogo as the midfielder turned the ball inside for Inman to push into the net on 19 minutes.
Tranmere did not allow themselves to be deflected from a policy of attacking the visitors down the flanks. A cross from the left by Robinson created Rovers first chance. Goalkeeper Steve Phillips could not hold it, Bakayogo seized on the rebound but could not get any direction on his shot, which ran well wide of the right hand post.
Jake Cassidy was close to reaching another low cross from the left by Bakayogo. Even so, Tranmere went in at half-time looking like a team in need of a peptalk and some fresh ideas. They got them.
Rovers were more assertive from the start of the second half. A piercing 40 yard pass by Power sent Bakayogo charging through the inside left channel to drive in a rising shot that had Phillips stretching to palm the ball out.
The bank holiday crowd sensed the new urgency in Tranmere’s football and cranked up the noise level.
The home supporters were rewarded with a goal on 58 minutes when Robinson, cleverly making space on the left, swept a cross to the far post where McGurk helped himself with a precise header.
Two minutes later Tranmere were close to a second goal as a half-hit shot from Liam Palmer bobbled against the inside of the left-hand post and rebounded into the grateful arms of Phillips.
The pacey Lauri Della Valle provided a fleeting reminder of Crewe’s potential on the counter-attack, firing a shot into the side netting.
But Tranmere seized the lead on 61 minutes with a fine individual goal from Power. The midfielder was left in space on the far side of the penalty area after the visitors could only have clear a corner. The 19-year-old took deliberate aim and curled an inch perfect shot into the top right-hand corner before launching into an emotional celebration.
Palmer had a close range shot deflected over the bar as Tranmere pressed for a third goal, then Ash Taylor headed a well delivered cross from McGurk narrowly on over the bar. At the other end goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams had to make a sprawling save from a low shot by Luke Murphy midway through four minutes of injury time but Tranmere remained comfortable through to the end.
TRANMERE (4-4-2): Fon Williams, Holmes, Taylor, Daniels, Bakayogo, McGurk, Power, Palmer, Robinson (Thompson 87), Cassidy, O’Halloran. NOT USED: Mooney, Black, Harrison, Stockton, Kay. BOOKING: Bakayogo.
GOALS: McGurk 58, Power 63
CREWE ALEX (3-5-2): Phillips, Davis, Ellis, Dugdale, Tootle, Osman (Aneke 83), Murphy, Inman, Della Valle (Clayton 69), Pogba (69). NOT USED: Garratt, Guthrie, Mellor, Clclough. BOOKING: Davis.
GOALS: Inman 12
REFEREE: Paul Tierney.