Cheltenham 2-0 Tranmere: Report

Tranmere might need Batman to save their season after they were beaten 2-0 by the Robins.

Facing one of their relegation rivals, Rovers put in an insipid performance that at times lacked fight, and nearly always lacked quality.

And whilst there has been nothing reliant about Cheltenham this season, the wheels seem to be coming off Tranmere’s quest for safety after they suffered a fourth defeat in six.

Micky Adams made three changes, two of them enforced, as Rovers looked to bounce back from their capitulation at Portsmouth on Tuesday.

Josh Thompson and Rob Taylor, injured in that game, were both out as Michael Ihiewke and Lee Molyneux returned.

There was also a start for new signing Jordan Hugill, who replaced Marc Laird as Tranmere switched to a 4-4-2 formation.

Hugill arrived at Prenton Park on Thursday on loan from Preston and in making his debut he became the 44th person to play for the club this season, whilst there have been a further three unused substitutes.

In the context of the relegation battle, this was probably Rovers’ biggest game of the season so far.

They started it just three points above their hosts, who occupied the final spot in the bottom two.

And in a game they could barely afford to lose, Tranmere made the worst possible start.

They actually had a couple of early chances, with an ambitious Max Power volley going out for a throw-in, whilst Kayode Odejayi smashed a spilled shot straight at ‘keeper Trevor Carson.

But with just seven minutes on the clock, Cheltenham struck through an own goal.

The Robins were pressing down the Rovers left, where they found plenty of joy all afternoon.

Shaun Harrad had worked his way into the box and slapped a vicious ball across goal.

Former Rovers striker Eliot Richards was running onto it, but it was his marker Danny Holmes who made contact, as he could do nothing about the ball hitting his shoulder and diverting into the net.

That seemed to kill Tranmere’s confidence for a few minutes. Heads dropped and Cheltenham were allowed to dominate in midfield.

Regularly, they made space down the wings, and although crosses did not always find their intended target, the threat was there.

With thirteen minutes gone, they nearly made it 2-0 as Harrad made some space for himself in the box after one delivery had not been cleared, but his powerful effort was saved by Fon Williams.

Their next shooting opportunity was not so accurate though, as Wes Burns nicked the ball off Rory Donnelly on the left, before running diagonally towards the Rovers goal and firing off target.

Chances were actually few and far between, giving Tranmere some hope that they would be able to get back into it as they grew into the half.

And the best chance of the period fell to Jennison Myrie-Williams, shooting just over from 20-yards after receiving Odejayi’s lay off.

After the break, Rovers had an even better opportunity and really should have equalised.

A shocking back-pass by Matt Sparrow was far too short for the ‘keeper, allowing Hugill to run on to it.

He rounded the on-rushing Carson, who had come a long way out of his box, but dwelt on his shot too long, allowing a defender to get back and clear his effort off the line.

From the resulting corner, the ball fell to Molyneux 25-yards out, and although he got a good connection, his left-footed drive took a deflected and turned into a comfortable save.

That, though, was, as good as it got for Rovers, as disaster struck on the hour mark.

A free-kick was given away by Rory Donnelly midway inside the Tranmere half.

Matt Richards swung it in, deep towards the back post, and an unmarked Troy Brown, leaping high to tower above the visiting defence, nodded the ball back across goal and into the far corner.

Micky Adams tried to change things around immediately, as Laird replaced Donnelly, who had been very quiet, whilst Iain Hume came on for Odejayi.

That meant a switch back to the 4-3-3 system that had been employed in the last two matches and was crying out to be used at Whaddon Road, with Rovers overrun in midfield.

It made little difference though.

Power had one chance, a deep, in-swinging free-kick clipping the bar, whilst Adams made his final throw of the dice, bringing Jake Kirby on for Lee Molyneux.

By now, Cheltenham were on easy street, and bar a save from Carson, down to his right from Hugill’s shot, they practically cruised through the final half hour.

For them, it was just a second win in eighteen, and the only real scare they had was a Myrie-Williams header that was cleared off the line by Richards.

It lifts them above above Tranmere, who are now just a point clear of danger.

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