Tranmere 0-1 Cheltenham: Home worries continue for Rovers

Tranmere’s home woes returned to haunt them as they suffered a slender defeat to Cheltenham.

The league leaders only needed one goal as they inflicted Rovers’ eighth loss of the campaign at Prenton Park.

It means a five game unbeaten run came to an end for Gary Brabin’s side, and they could have few complains about the 1-0 scoreline.

Cheltenham were not the kind of team who would rock up at Prenton Park and defend to their heart’s content.

They took the game to Tranmere and in the end it was a fourth minute goal from Danny Wright that separated the two teams.

Rovers made one change from last week’s 0-0 draw with Aldershot, as Jack Mackreth dropped out of the side.

This was perhaps influenced by the state of the Prenton Park pitch as it struggled to soak up the heavy rain that fell in the run up to kick off.

The winger’s game relies heavily on his explosive pace, but the muddy surface could have hindered that.

Indeed, only some aggressive forking by the ground staff, particularly in the corner underneath the Kop and Johnny King stands, made it playable.

As such, Gary Taylor-Fletcher started on the wing, adding his guile and experience to Rovers’ attacking options.

Cheltenham came to Prenton Park looking to set a club record of 21 league games without defeat.

Facing the Conference leaders did not daunt Tranmere, having been the last team to beat Gary Johnson’s side back in September.

But full of confidence after that bold run to the division’s summit, it took the visitors just four minutes to get into their stride.

Lee Vaughan had already cleared one shot off the line when James Dayton’s early cross caught the Rovers defence flatfooted.

Danny Wright did not take so long to react though, as after the ball bounced off a defender, he calmly collected and lifted over Scott Davies to give the visitors an early lead.

Tranmere looked to hit back quickly, and were finding plenty of space down their left hand side.

James Norwood swung in one cross that was flicked deftly wide by Taylor-Fletcher, before Michael Higdon’s downwards header from a ball in by Liam Ridehalgh was saved.

Scott Davies was called into action at the other end as he palmed Dan Holman’s shot around the post.

But it was Tranmere who were having the better chances as they grew into the game after that slow and sloppy start.

Norwood had two opportunities before the break, coming closest when he deflected Lois Maynard’s shot just round the post before volleying harmlessly wide moments later.

Higdon was proving an asset for Rovers, a focal point for the attack as he won nearly every ball that went his way.

The striker linked up plenty of times with Taylor-Fletcher, but they could not break down a defence who had kept successive clean sheets.

Meanwhile at the other end Cheltenham’s attack was equally as ominous.

Tranmere knew one slip could mean game over and so it nearly proved straight after the restart.

A mix-up in the back-line led to goal scorer Wright receiving possession on the edge of the box.

Davies charged out to meet him, as did two defenders, but this time he could only loft onto the roof of the net.

That was the sign of things to come though as Cheltenham took the game to Rovers and wasted a string of chances.

Dayton was the next to come close, forcing a save from Davies at the near post after being gifted possession in the area by Taylor-Fletcher.

Holman then had a go, finding space to run forwards and attempt an audacious chip that was clawed wide by Davies.

From the resulting corner, Asa Hall slapped wide from the edge of the box.

Gray Brabin looked to shuffle his pack, with Adam Mekki already on for Taylor-Fletcher by the time Jake Kirby replaced Jeff Hughes with 20-minutes left.

Both players were regularly brought into the game, but Tranmere’s final ball let them down as the struggle to create chances continued.

Mekki had one, created wonderfully by Norwood as he beat two men and pulled the ball back in the box, but the winger curled his shot so wide that it nearly drifted out of play by the far corner flag.

Maynard then came close with a towering header from Mekki’s floated corner, but he could only nod straight at Phillips.

That was Tranmere’s final real chance as they kissed goodbye to their unbeaten run.

On many occasions this year Rovers have lost at Prenton Park when they have arguably been the better team.

This was not one of those games though. They were second best on the afternoon, as Cheltenham displayed just why they are top of the table.

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