Cheltenham 2-0 Tranmere: Rovers Season Spluttering To Alarming Halt

There’s been nothing Reliant about the Robins this season, but Cheltenham’s performance against beleaguered Tranmere has left Rovers fans reaching for the panic button.

Micky Adams’ side barely put up a fight as they slipped to a 2-0 defeat against a team who had won just one of their last seventeen games.

It leaves them in deep trouble, just one point above the danger zone.

Indeed, when a few weeks ago they where threatening to pull away from the bottom two, Tranmere’s season now seems to be spluttering and coughing to an alarming halt, just like the famous van driven by Del and Rodney Trotter.

Supporters are well accustomed to relegation battles at Prenton Park by now – this is their fifth in six seasons.

But what is most worrying is the manner of the defeats, and who they are losing to.

This result means Rovers have played all the sides below them in the table twice, yet picked up just three points.

And having been beaten in three of their last five games, this was well and truly labeled “must not lose.”

They started badly though, conceding after just seven minutes thanks to an own goal, and things got worse from there on in.

The visitors were looking to pick themselves up after Tuesday’s capitulation at Portsmouth, where three goals conceded in nine minutes led to a stunning defeat.

Adams made three changes, two of them enforced, as Michael Ihiekwe and Lee Molyneux replaced injured pair Josh Thompson and Rob Taylor.

Marc Laird was also dropped in favour of a switch to a more attacking 4-4-2 formation.

Preston loanee Jordan Hugill replaced him, in doing so becoming the 47th player to feature in a match-day squad for the club this season.

And therein lies part of the problem to Tranmere’s failure; the turnover of new faces has been phenomenal and plays no small part in their demise.

An incredible 76 different names have featured since the start of the last campaign, 37 of them under Adams.

New arrivals take time to gel in, and that was once again apparent at Whaddon Road, where regularly those in the Rovers blue seemed to have no idea what run or pass their teammate was about to make.

In fairness, Rpvers started brightly, with Kayode Odejayi slamming a shot at the ‘keeper after a cross had been spilled, whilst Max Power volleyed harmlessly wide.

But at the other end, Cheltenham took the lead through an own goal, and that demolished any early confidence from the visitors.

The chance originated through bad defending, Michael Ihiekwe allowing Shaun Harrad to drift past him on the left and into the penalty area.

From there, the striker drilled a ball across the six-yard box, and Danny Holmes was unable to get out of the way as it bounced off his shoulder and into the net.

Heads dropped after that. Cheltenham were given the freedom of Whaddon Road, constantly able to find pockets of space to pass the ball around or move ominously forward.

Yet, they did not make the possession count, as Owain Fon Williams was relatively quiet.

He made one save from Harrad, beating down a powerfully struck shot and catching at the second attempt, before watching a Wes Burns effort strike the back of the stand.

And that is what made it all the more frustrating for Tranmere, because they could only manage one further chance before half-time, Jennison-Myrie Williams firing over from Odejayi’s lay off.

After the break, the visitors should have grabbed an immediate equaliser.

Hugill was presented with an opening after he ran on to a dreadful back pass and drifted round the on-rushing Trevor Carson, who had ventured a long way out of his goal.

However, the striker dwelt too long on his shot, allowing two defenders to get back, and his eventual effort was cleared off the line.

From then on, Cheltenham were comfortable and on the hour mark, they killed the game off as Troy Brown doubled the lead.

Rory Donnelly gave away a free-kick mid-way inside the Tranmere half, and it was lofted forward by Matt Richards into the penalty area.

The delivery found Brown, criminally allowed to jump unmarked by Odejayi, and he headed across goal and into the bottom corner.

Micky Adams tried to change things round – Laird coming on for Donnelly, whilst Iain Hume also entered the action.

But the horse had bolted in the seventh minute.

And although Tranmere fashioned some chances, Power’s in-swinging free-kick hitting the bar and Jennison Myrie-Williams having a towering header cleared off the line, they at no point gathered any momentum that pointed towards a comeback.

The means Rovers slipped to a fourth defeat in six, and once again lie perilously close to the relegation zone.

Does this season have shades of last season, when they lost that fight and suffered last day heartache?

Let’s hope not.

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