Luton 1-0 Tranmere: Same old problems for Rovers

There is a reason why Tranmere are balancing tantalisingly close to the bottom of the Football League.

There is a reason why they have not won in twelve league games, a run that extends back nearly three months to the end of August.

The finger could be pointed at defensive lapses, indeed there have been some, but it is a lack of goals that has ultimately cost Rovers so dearly this season, and probably led to Rob Edwards losing his job.

That lack of potency was once again highlighted on Saturday as Micky Adams’ unbeaten run unravelled at the hands of high-flying Luton.

Just a solitary goal, an avoidable one too, was enough to settle the scores in a hard fought game at Kenilworth Road.

But it could have been so different for the Super Whites, who had a hatful of chances, but too often misfired or found Town ‘keeper Mark Tyler in their way.

Not too many would draw comparisons between the way these two sides have played this season, but analyse things a little closer, and there is one stark similarity.

Tranmere are languishing in 23rd place and are struggling to shrug off the dreadful form that has haunted them for the last 20 months and encompasses a relegation.

Town are affected by a hangover from last season too – except for them, things could not be better.

Last May they were lifted the Conference title, and there has been no let up since, with these three points sending them top of League Two.

This was therefore always going to be a tough test for Micky Adams’ and his players.

But they more than matched John Still’s side, and they deserved at least a point.

The visitors started brightly enough and indeed had the best of the opening half-hour.

Mark Laird, returning to the starting line-up alongside Armand Gnanduillet and Janoi Donacien, saw an early goal disallowed for offside, whilst Danny Johnson and Max Power forced saves from Tyler.

Eventually the Hatters got into their stride though, this after Michael Harriman’s early warning to Tranmere’s defence, volleying wide from close range with the goal gaping.

And but for Peter Brezovan in the Rovers goals, they would have been home and dry by half-time.

Twice the giant Slovak came to Tranmere’s rescue before the break, arching his back and extending a long arm to tip Mark Cullen’s volley over the bar before diving to his left to cling on to an effort from Guttridge.

Neither side scored before the break, then, and after half-time the game became unsurprisingly untidy as both teams realised the importance of the first goal.

Chances were few and far between. Steven Jennings cleaned up in front of the back four for Tranmere, whilst if he was beaten, Michael Ihiekwe and Marcus Holness were always there.

But the problems lie further up the field and only Power came close before the hour mark for the visitors, slamming towards the top corner from inside the box, only for Tyler to beat the effort away.

Brezovan at the other end was far busier, scrambling off his line on numerous occasions to get a strong fist to some dangerous looking crosses.

But the Slovak, playing because Owain fon Williams is away with Wales, was powerless to stop Luton from opening the scoring with twenty minutes left.

For scorer Ricky Miller it was a memorable strike, and not just because it was his first in the Football League.

He received possession with his back to goal and easily turned Mark Laird before curling a well placed effort towards the far corner, too well placed for Brezovan, who got a hand to it, but that was not enough to stop the ball nestling in the back of the net.

Micky Adams immediately turned to his bench.

He threw an extra man up top as Kayode Odejayi replaced Laird, whilst he was also forced to hand youth team captain Evan Gumbs a first team debut after Josh Thompson limped off.

And Tranmere rallied, like they have done after falling behind in three of their other five games under Adams.

But they lacked that cutting edge once again.

Crosses were lumped into the box, good ones too, but Gnanduillet, Johnson and Holness all failed to hit the target.

With time running out, Odejayi finally got one on target.

The striker, goalless since his summer arrival, got a strong head to the ball, directing low towards the near corner, but again Tyler was on hand, diving low and tipping round the post and earn his side the win.

It is a results business. That is what teams are judged on. But although Tranmere lost this one, and thus surrendering their unbeaten run under Adams, there were plenty of positives to take.

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