Tranmere 1-2 Eastleigh: Report

Tranmere came crashing back down to earth with an alarming bump as a second half collapse saw them beaten 2-1 in a bad-tempered clash with Eastleigh.

Rovers were left shell-shocked by a crazy ten minutes after the break that saw them concede twice and have midfielder Lois Maynard sent off.

And despite re-grouping and pulling one back through Steven Jennings, the damage had already been done as a nine game unbeaten run came to an end.

The hosts made two changes from Tuesday’s draw with Wrexham, a game after which Gary Brabin admitted some his players looked tired.

Adam Mekki and Jonny Margetts were the men who dropped out, replaced by Marlon Jackson and James Norwood.

Tranmere took to the field wearing black armbands in memory of PC David Phillips, who tragically died whilst on duty last week.

A one-minute applause before kick-off was also impeccably observed.

A scrappy start to proceedings, coupled with plenty of offsides, meant chances were sparse early on.

One fell to Eastleigh’s Jia Reason but he fired well over from distance, whilst Jay Harris shot wide at the other end.

Tranmere’s first real effort fell to James Norwood as he was played in by Adam Dawson and fired straight at the ‘keeper from a narrow angle.

And it was a similar story at the other end as Scott Davies only had to raise his arms to beat away Jack Midson’s drive from inside the area.

The Rovers ‘keeper had to work slightly harder to prevent Jamie Turley from opening the scoring on the half-hour though.

Some dreadful marking by the Tranmere defence allowed a free-kick to fall straight to Joe Partington.

He scuffed his shot, but the ball landed on a plate for Turley who fired towards the near post, only for the diving Davies to gratefully claim.

Norwood should have done better with a one-on-one moments later but he only shot straight at Ross Flitney after beating the offside trap.

And the Eastleigh stopper was again on hand to save from Lois Maynard’s header moments later before throwing himself in front of Andy Mangan’s re-bound.

It was a fairly mundane half of football, with moments of skill and controversy few and far between.

But in injury time, Norwood broke into the box and tumbled under a tackle from Partington.

The referee duly awarded a spot kick and Mangan stepped up as he looked to net his eighth of the season.

However his penalty was weak and too close to Flitney, who dived to his right and pushed the ball away.

If that was a bad end to the first half, the Rovers could not have started the second in worse fashion.

Barely 60 seconds had gone since the re-start when James Constable won a corner on the Eastleigh right.

It was swung in to Partington, who, unmarked, powerfully headed into the net.

Less than two minutes later, Tranmere were reduced to ten men.

Maynard had earlier been booked for a foul on Payne when he clattered into the midfielder having slipped over.

His second yellow, and resulting red card, was equally as clumsy, received for bringing down Dan Harding near the touchline.

Gary Brabin refrained from changing things around straight away, but he knew something needed to happen soon after as Eastleigh made it 2-0 with 55 minutes on the clock.

Liam Hogan should have dealt with a long ball over the top, but he lost his footing and on falling over gifted Constable the chance to double the lead.

He duly obliged, deliciously lobbing Davies as the ball drifted effortlessly into the back of the net.

Steven Jennings came on, replacing Ritchie Sutton at the back as the hosts switched to a 3-4-2 formation.

Mekki entered the fray shortly afterwards too, replacing the ineffective Jackson who had offered little on the right-wing.

But it was too little, too late as their visitors could now sit back with the extra man and protect their lead.

Rovers had a few chances, Harris in particular firing one over.

But after making their final substitute, they lost another man as Andy Mangan limped off with a pulled hamstring.

Eastleigh did their best to make things fair though.

Constable lost possession to Harris, and in his frustration he stamped on the midfielder, resulting in a straight red card.

That gave Tranmere the lift they needed and they dragged themselves back into the game moments later.

Norwood was the provider, brilliantly controlling and holding onto the ball in the box before teeing up Jennings who hit into the bottom corner.

They now had some momentum and created two chances to equalise, but Mekki could only head onto the roof of the net before Liam Ridehalgh curled straight at Flitney.

And with the hosts piling forward, it was Eastleigh who should have finished the game off.

Firstly, Yemi Odubade shot straight at Davies when clean through before Reason hit the post deep in injury time.

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