Aldershot 0-0 Tranmere: Report

Tranmere’s promotion charge was hit by an untimely bump as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Aldershot.

Rovers were looking for their fifth successive win in the National League, a run that has catapulted them into the play-off places.

But they showed little of the quality and cutting edge they have adapted recently in a tame display at the EBB Stadium.

Indeed, the visitors barely tested ‘keeper Phil Smith as they struggled to create many real chances against a side who had kept successive clean sheets.

Tranmere made two changes from last weekend’s win over Southport, with Gary Taylor-Fletcher dropped to the bench and captain Steven Jennings missing through suspension.

That meant new signing Michael Higdon went straight into the starting line up, playing his first game since a loan spell at Oldham ended in mid-December.

Top scorer James Norwood was subsequently pushed onto the left-wing, whilst there was also a full debut for Jack Mackreth.

The latter was particularly lively in a largely quiet opening.

Rovers looked to exploit his pace at every opportunity, with one dart down the right wing ending in a pull back for Lee Vaughan who saw his shot deflected over.

Moments later, Mackreth popped up on the left, but this time his dangerous floated cross was nodded clear.

Neither team was able to create too many early chances as players regularly slipped over on the wet surface.

Indeed, it took until the half hour mark for a shot on target to be registered, with Charlie Walker firing straight at Scott Davies from the edge of the box.

Higdon then headed harmlessly wide under pressure from Liam Ridehalgh’s cross as Tranmere looked to push forward.

But it was Aldershot who were enjoying the best of the possession, particularly down their right hand side.

Dan Walker was given far too much space to cross on two occasions, but Omar Beckles and Charlie Walker were not able to find the target from inside the box.

Meanwhile the last kick of the opening 45 minutes saw Jay Harris curl harmlessly wide at the other end.

Gary Brabin tweaked his tactics after the break, with Norwood pushed into a more familiar striker’s role in a 4-4-2 formation.

That gave some extra support to Higdon, who had struggled to get involved so far.

It almost paid off immediately, as Norwood’s pass allowed Lois Maynard to break into the box, but his low drive was saved at the near post.

Aldershot actually had the ball in the back of the net shortly before the hour mark, with Alfie Pavey flicking home from the near the penalty spot.

His celebrations were cut short by the linesman though, who raised his flag for offside against the striker.

In truth, it was another one of those National League games which highlighted the quality, or lack of it, that the division possesses.

Completed passes were a fairly rare commodity, with both teams opting to hoof aimlessly long, and often out of play, all too frequently.

Tranmere meanwhile missed Jennings in the middle of the park.

A much maligned figure at times this season, particularly from certain sections of the Rovers fanbase, he has been a pivotal player in recent weeks.

His absence gave Brabin the dilemma of not quite knowing how to fill the hole in midfield where Jennings is employed to mop up, giving more freedom in turn to Maynard.

That perhaps led to the change of formation at half-time as the visitors tried to work out how to break Aldershot down.

The tinkering continued with twenty minutes left when Taylor-Fletcher was introduced, replacing Mackreth on the right.

Pavey had another chance shortly afterwards, but again failed to test Davies with a tame header the lobbed over the bar.

Next it was Rhys Brown’s turn to fire off-target, slicing high and wide into the terrace behind the goal from 22-yards.

With seven minutes left, Tranmere finally created another chance and it was arguably their best yet.

Higdon picked up the ball on the edge of the box and played in Hughes, but the midfielder curled over the bar after cutting inside on his weaker right foot.

Most of the action was at the other end, and Browne had another chance in the closing stages, finding space on the right hand side of the box, only to fire into the side netting.

The final opportunity fell to Taylor-Fletcher, as he connected with Lee Vaughan’s whipped cross from the right.

However, he could only powerfully head wide at the near post as both teams had to settle for a point each.

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