Bromley 0-1 Tranmere: The Verdict

Many people had given up on Tranmere’s dream of an immediate return to the Football League – including some of the club’s fans.

But they are beginning to underline just why Gary Brabin had so much faith in them to kick on after Christmas, despite an awful autumn run of two wins in fourteen.

That steely determination is beginning to pay off as Lee Vaughan’s solitary goal earned a 1-0 win at Bromley and a fourth victory in five games.

Something has certainly changed over the last month.

Before, there was a disjointed look to the team that contained a leaky defence and misfiring strike force.

Of course, goals are still an issue, but Tranmere laid down a marker with a 1-1 draw at Halifax on December 19th.

On that day, they switched to a 4-3-3 system, allowing them to get the best out of top scorer James Norwood and the threatening Lois Maynard.

Bar a blip against Macclesfield at the start of the month, they have not looked back.

Now, the team are prepared to go long if need be, but they still have the ability to get the ball down and play with it.

Knowing when to employ each tactic is just one of the key elements in a renewed vigour in that play-off fight.

For Rovers, it had been a long two weeks since their last outing – that sensational 4-3 win over Barrow.

Indeed the enforced break, coming due to the club being knocked out of the FA Trophy at the first hurdle, probably could not have come at a worse time.

But, given they had played on such a heavy pitch at Holker Street, and following a busy festive period, it gave the squad a chance to freshen up ahead of an assault on the top five.

Two weeks later, they found themselves making the long journey to unfamiliar territory in Bromley.

Indeed, this was Rovers’ first trip to Hayes Lane, a typical National League ground with its open-air terraces and benched seating.

And they showed no signs of sluggishness in dismantling a side who were flattered by the 1-0 scoreline.

Time and again the hosts were rescued by goalkeeper Alan Julian as he made a string of fine saves in each half.

Jay Harris was the first to test him, stinging the stopper’s fingertips with a rasping 25-yard volley that was pushed around the post.

James Norwood came close too, nodding on Adam Mekki’s free-kick, only for Julian to palm away as it headed for the bottom corner.

Mekki came close himself too, flicking a free-kick around the post, whilst Steve McNulty had also headed off target.

At the other end, Scott Davies was a passenger in the early exchanges, called upon only once as he denied Moses Emmanuel from close range.

With all the missed chances, supporters could have been forgiven this was going to be another typical Tranmere performance.

You can lose count of the number of games they have utterly dominated this season, but failed to find that killer instinct.

It has cost them so many points and was part of the growing frustration amongst a fanbase beginning to lose faith in the manager.

But things have now changed, and the players kept faith in what they were doing.

The second half started with the same intensity as the first, with Julian making further fine saves from Maynard and Mekki.

He was, though, unable to keep out the next shot that came from the most unlikely of sources.

The last time Lee Vaughan scored was for Kidderminster on April 6th 2013.

On the same day, Tranmere were losing 1-0 away to Doncaster in League One as their faltering promotion chase under Ronnie Moore hit another snag.

Fast forward three years and the full-back found himself some space in the box after another dart forward by Mekki.

The winger, a danger all match, offloaded to Vaughan who crashed the ball across Julian and in at the far post.

It was a fully deserved lead for Rovers, who had been levels above Bromley throughout.

Never a team to disappoint though, they of course gave their supporters some hairy moments.

Tranmere sat back in the last 20 minutes, and the hosts could have sneaked an unmerited point.

Substitute Alex Wall twice came close, firstly with a header that flicked over the bar before testing Davies with a swinging, powerful 30-yard free-kick that the ‘keeper did well to cling on to.

Emmanuel, one of the National League’s top scorers with 17 goals, came close too but saw his effort diverted around the post.

And so, where they have not done before, Tranmere ground out the win with some real grit and determination.

It was far from a smash and grab, indeed Brabin described it as “old fashioned”.

But it sealed another hugely significant three points that leaves them just two points off the top five.

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