Tranmere 0-1 Macclesfield: Report

Tranmere’s move towards the play-offs hit another untimely bump as they lost 1-0 at home to Macclesfield.

Rovers were hoping to start 2016 with a bang as they looked to build on a two game winning run that had looked like a turning point in the season.

But that cornerstone now looks a long way away as they slumped to a first defeat in four following a wasteful and slack display.

The hosts made one change from Monday’s win over Altrincham, with Jeff Hughes making his debut just hours after joining on loan from Cambridge.

He replaced Ben Tomlinson, whilst there was no place in the squad for striker Andy Mangan.

Rovers went into the game looking to build on a three match unbeaten run that has thrown them back into the play-off picture.

And they should have been fairly familiar with a side who they beat just seven days earlier in the reverse fixture at Moss Rose.

That result ended a baron run of two wins in fourteen for the Prenton Park outfit, and their resurgence has been aided by a change in system to 4-3-3.

Lois Maynard and James Norwood are the two players who have benefitted most from the switch, able to get forward and create a series of chances.

But that was not the case today, as Tranmere struggled to come out of the blocks as quickly as they have done in recent weeks.

Indeed, it was a somewhat lethargic opening to proceedings, with most attacking moves quickly breaking down due to a misplaced pass.

Macclesfield had the first chance, as Paul Lewis saw his 30-yard drive saved by Davies.

At the other end, Adam Mekki cut in from the left and had a shot blocked at the near post.

There were, in fact, more injuries than anything else as the visitors lost goalkeeper Shwan Jalal and Lewis early on.

That did not seem to disrupt John Askey’s side though as after being allowed to settle into the game, they took the lead on 32-minutes.

Jack Sampson got it, but he had creator Chris Holroyd to thank for the simplest of finishes.

The midfielder was presented with a late Christmas present as he found himself unmarked and less than a yard out when he was picked out by an incisive cross.

From there, he tapped home to put the visitors ahead and leave Gary Brabin scratching his head.

The Tranmere fightback was nearly immediate though.

Lois Maynard smashed one effort over the bar from near the penalty spot, whilst Hughes flicked high and wide with a header.

The former has been a central figure to Rovers’ attacking force in recent weeks, but he was afforded neither the time or space to make things happen by the visiting defence.

That made it difficult for James Norwood too, so lively in recent weeks, but he could not link up with the midfield and so often cast an isolated figure.

Things did not change greatly after the break as Tranmere continued to huff and puff, but struggled to find many openings.

Their best chance yet fell to Hughes, connecting with Adam Mekki’s deep corner, and only a fine fingertip save prevented him from equalising.

The midfielder had another headed chance three minutes later, this time connecting with Matt Hill’s cross, but he was only able to nod against the outside of the post.

Rovers were now beginning to find some momentum and the Kop started to lend their vocal support.

All that work was nearly undone before the hour though, when Sampson, in search of his second, flicked a low pass just wide.

That, though, took the wind out of Tranmere’s sails, and it was another twenty minutes before they mustered another shot on goal.

It was once again a header, with Maynard connecting powerfully with Steven Jennings’ cross, but he could not get enough direction on it and nodded straight at Richie Branagan.

Gary Brabin did try to change things about in an attempt to pull a goal back.

By this stage Tomlinson had already come on for Hughes, whilst Cole Stockton replaced Adam Mekki, meaning Norwood was pushed out wide.

The second substitute nearly paid off immediately as Stockton forced Branagan into a second excellent save.

The goalkeeper stuck up an arm from nowhere to deny the striker at point blank range as he flicked on Lee Vaughan’s near post cross.

One final chance came in injury time, when Jennings managed to find the back of the net as he lashed home from 12-yards.

However, the linesman’s flag was already waving for offside, and the strike was ruled out.

That means Rovers have now lost seven times already on home soil in the National League this season, the worst record in the top half of the table.

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