Tranmere 2-1 Torquay: Report

It certainly was not pretty, but Tranmere once again showed their character in a 2-1 win over Torquay.

The victory, a third in a row for Gary Brabin’s side, did not see the hosts in their free flowing best.

But where they may previously have lost, Rovers ground out an important victory to pick up three more points.

There was a semi-familiar name in the Tranmere squad as they announced the signing of Jack Mackreth an hour before kick off.

The winger started his professional career at Prenton Park but failed to make an appearance before moving on to Barrow, Macclesfield and Grimsby.

The latter released him on Friday, allowing Mackreth to join Rovers until the end of the season.

He subsequently took a place on the bench as Matt Hill and Jeff Hughes missed out injured, replaced in the starting XI by Liam Ridehalgh and Gary Taylor-Fletcher.

For Tranmere, this was an important opportunity to display their true promotion credentials.

They have excelled on the road in recent weeks, winning three successive games, but their troubles at Prenton Park are well documented.

Indeed, they came into the match having won just two of their last eight on home soil, a run stretching back to the start of October.

Here they came up against a Torquay side languishing six points above the foot of the National League and without a win in seven away from Plainmoor.

Tranmere therefore had the chance to lay down a marker and outline just how much they have improved since the start of the festive period.

There was little sign of that in the opening exchanges though, as Rovers played without the umph and gusto of recent weeks.

Neither ‘keeper was troubled early on as both sets of fans had very little to get their teeth into.

It took 22 minutes to see a shot on target, with James Norwood’s diving header fumbled away by Dan Lavercombe.

That momentarily seemed to wake the hosts up as Adam Mekki soon created another opening, dancing between two defenders before teeing up Steven Jennings.

However, the Rovers ‘skipper leaned back on his shot and fired over from close range.

From there, the game threatened to slip back into the tedium of its opening quarter.

Passes were going astray all over the park as both defences maintained the upper hand.

But with the crowd beginning to grow restless, Taylor-Fletcher suddenly handed the hosts the advantage with a quite sublime goal.

The forward has struggled to live up to his billing since moving to Prenton Park in October due to a persistent calf problem.

But he rolled back the years on 37-minutes by curling home a wonderful effort from 25-yards.

The ball seemed to drift into the net in slow motion, such was the way Taylor-Fletcher hit it, but it left Lavercombe with no chance as it found the far top corner.

That was just the tonic Tranmere needed as the game finally opened up for them.

Mekki had two further chances before the break, firstly firing over from 30-yards before seeing a low effort saved.

Torquay meanwhile finally had their first shot in anger in the 45th minute, with Daniel Butler slapping a free-kick well off target.

That brought a close to a half that had finally burst into life.

Determined not to lose the momentum they had gained, Rovers started the second period in a similar vein to how they ended the first.

Lois Maynard had an early chance, breaking forward before rolling a bobbling shot wide from 20-yards.

The midfielder had another go shortly after the hour mark as he expertly brought down Lee Vaughan’s angled ball, but fired straight at the ‘keeper from the edge of the box.

Openings were still few and far between though, and whilst it stayed at 1-0, you sensed Torquay believed they could get something from the game.

They needed to start testing Scott Davies though as he had been a passenger so far.

Mackreth finally got the moment he had been waiting for with 19 minutes left as he replaced the injured Mekki.

Five and a half years have passed since Les Parry offered him a professional deal in June 2010 – now he was finally making his Rovers debut.

He had had little involvement though before James Norwood finally got Tranmere’s second.

The striker took his league tally for the season into double figures with an accurate drive into the bottom corner.

Picked out by Jay Harris’ floated pass, Norwood only needed two touches to convert, bringing the ball down with his first before firing low across the ‘keeper with the second.

That should have put the game to bed, but Torquay were back in it moments later.

Shaun Harrad pulled one back with a clipped header from close range as he connected with Andre Wright’s cross.

That naturally led to a few nervy moments as Rovers dropped deep late on, but they hung on for another valuable three points.

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