Tranmere 1-1 Forest Green: Report

Tranmere were forced to settle for a point as they drew 1-1 in a bad tempered affair with Forest Green.

Rovers came from behind to grab the draw, but dominated throughout against a team more interested in wrestling than football.

In normal circumstances, this is a result that the hosts would have settled for against high-flying opposition.

But the game was there for the taking, with the visitors rarely outlining their promotion credentials, whilst there is now a two-point gap to the play-offs.

Gary Brabin was forced into a trio of changes due to injuries blighting his squad in the last week.

Michael Higdon and Liam Ridehalgh were on the casualty list, as was captain Steven Jennings, a huge miss given his recent form.

As such, Gary Taylor-Fletcher earned just his fourth start of 2016, whilst Jay Harris and Matt Hill also came into the side.

Meanwhile there were a few big names in the opposition line up, including ex-West Brom man Darren Carter and striker Jon Parkin, who was set for an intriguing tussle with Steve McNulty.

Unsurprisingly, the former was involved as Forest Green took just five minutes to open the scoring.

It was a classic route one goal, as ‘keeper Steve Arnold lumped a high, long ball forwards that caused mayhem in the Rovers defence.

Carter picked up possession as McNulty and Michael Ihiekwe stalled, and he duly slammed into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.

The saving grace for Tranmere was they had plenty of time to equalise and the fight-back started immediately.

James Norwood had a chance, shooting towards the near post only for Arnold to fumble wide, whilst McNulty headed over from the resulting corner.

The defender came close again shortly afterwards, but this time nodded wide from a similar routine.

Adam Mekki had put both corners into the box and he continued to cause havoc with a cross from the left that found Taylor-Fletcher.

The forward could not convert though, leaning back and hooking well over the bar from near the penalty spot.

Mekki created the next chance too, whipping a vicious free-kick in from the right, but Norwood could not quite get over it and flicked wide.

Keanu Marsh-Brown was lucky to escape with just a yellow card for a full on elbow on Hill as half-time approached.

That was just one of a catalogue of heavy tackles though from a team who thoroughly underwhelmed given their league standing.

Indeed, some of their defensive play might have caught the eye of England’s rugby union coach Eddie Jones, such was its dirty, aggressive nature.

One thing the Forest Green backline could not handle was the delicate touches and passing from Tranmere’s midfield.

Several times Jeff Hughes was able to deftly slip away from his man thanks to a clever flick or prod.

Taylor-Fletcher was the same, and a moment of genius from the ex-Leicester man created the equaliser just minutes into the second half.

He picked up the ball out on the left, and a wonderful clipped pass split the two centre-backs, unleashing Harris down the middle.

The midfielder duly raced onto the through ball and crashed home from the edge of the box to lift the roof on Prenton Park.

Forest Green’s tactics continued, despite now being level, with free-kick after free-kick conceded.

That only helped create one of the finest atmosphere’s the ground has seen in some time though as the supporters responded to what was happening on the pitch.

It did not look like it would be long before there was a red card, and that moment finally came just after the hour mark.

The visitors were actually in a promising position, surging forward on the counter-attack, but Carter, booked earlier for dissent, committed an off the ball foul on Harris and was given his marching orders.

Forest Green should have been down to nine men shortly afterwards, with Dale Bennett, himself on a yellow, getting a final warning for an elbow on Jake Kirby.

The incident left the winger needing lengthy treatment, and he was only able continue once his head had been heavily bandaged.

Tranmere looked to steal the game now that they had the one-man advantage.

But as is so often the case, the opposition managed to shut up shop, with chances few and far between.

Indeed, Forest Green actually came close to retaking the lead, with Davis forced to back pedal and acrobatically tip over as Marsh-Brown caught him off his line with a deep free-kick.

McNulty had a go at the other end, but his long-range strike from a partially cleared corner dribbled haplessly wide.

The visitors then nearly grabbed the points, with Charlie Clough narrowly heading over from a corner.

And then Harris had the final chance, dragging wide from 25-yards as he looked to repeat his earlier heroics.

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