The pressure continues to mount on Rob Edwards as Tranmere’s defensive frailties and attacking impotency once again came to light in a 2-0 defeat to Bury.
Losing is becoming a habit it Tranmere, and a bad one at that.
Indeed, over their last sixteen games, they have picked up just two wins – an unenviable run of form that spans a relegation into League Two, and now sees them dangling tantalisingly close to the foot of the Football League.
Failing to pick anything up from Gigg Lane is no embarrassment in itself – David Flitcroft’s side top the table and have now won five successive games on home soil.
But it was the manner of the defeat that will have not only concerned Edwards, but the travelling supporters as well.
Rovers rarely threatened opposition’s goal, with a late chance from substitute Jason Koumas the closest they came to scoring as he brought the best out of Shwan Jalal, diving full stretch to his left to tip around the post.
This is a worrying trend for a club who have now scored just once in their last five games, and even that was a deflected drive from defender Danny Holmes against Exeter a fortnight ago.
At the same time, at the other end they looked fairly comfortable.
Young defender Michael Ihiekwe was composed throughout, and showed maturity to keep Ryan Lowe, Tranmere’s top scorer last season, quiet all afternoon.
But they were undone by two set pieces, as has been the case not only under Edwards, but John McMahon, Ronnie Moore and Les Parry before him.
The Rovers boss made a couple of changes from the line up that lost at Carlisle last week, with Kayode Odejayi earning his first league start for the club in place of Jake Kirby, whilst Mark Laird replaced Eliot Richards.
Cole Stockton meanwhile, who tops Tranmere’s goal charts for this season with three strikes, was not in the squad due to injury.
The visitors started brightly enough, with Laird forcing Jalal into an early save as he slid onto a ball from Holmes, before Abdulai Baggie headed wide from Max Power’s cross.
And midway through the half, they had strong claims for a penalty waved away after Baggie had danced into the Bury box before appearing to be brought down by Jim McNulty.
That was not the only time a blind eye was turned to apparent fouls on the Sierra Leone international.
Indeed, several times he was felled, on the other occasions outside the area, but he cast a frustrated figure and was regularly left slamming the ground as the referee allowed play to continue.
Bury themselves were not without chances in the first half.
Tom Soares fired one vicious effort over the bar from 25-yards, creating himself space by wonderfully gliding past Holmes after controlling the ball with his chest.
Owain fon Williams then pulled off a magnificent save, diving full strength down to his left to get a strong palm on Nicky Adams’ well controlled shot before Andrew Tutte curled straight at the Welsh ‘keeper as the half drew to a close.
It was a 45 minutes that could have gone either way – very even, in both chances and possession.
But after the break, Bury were the more fired up of the two sides and after Danny Rose had sent a warning to the Tranmere defence with a brace of efforts, one of them saved and the other deflected away from danger, the hosts took the lead.
Predictably, it came from a corner, with Rovers failing to clear their lines and the ball falling to Kelvin Etuhu who guided the ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
In fairness to Tranmere, they did not let their heads drop once they had gone behind.
They continued to throw men forward, but for all their huffing and puffing, they were worryingly unable to create any clear-cut chances, even from numerous corners and crosses into the box.
Towering striker Kayode Odejayi was more effective with his feet than his head, but even when he did manage to get hold of the ball, it invariably ended up with a Bury defender.
And so, after Koumas had forced Jalal into that late save, the hosts pushed forward and sealed the points through Daniel Nardiello.
The substitute had already caused the Tranmere backline a couple of problems, firing one shot wide and seeing another saved by fon Williams.
But he made it third time lucky with just two minutes left, leaping unmarked from a corner to send a guided header into the net.
That consigned Rovers to a sixth game without a win and as Rob Edwards cast a frustrated figure in the dugout, a number of the travelling supporters unleashed their anger on the Tranmere boss.