Tranmere 1-2 Welling: Report

Tranmere chose the worst time possible to throw in one of their poorest performances of the season as they were beaten 2-1 by Welling.

The day was supposed to see Rovers celebrate the life of the great Johnny King by picking up another three points in their play-off push.

But a wretched display saw them surrender a lead earned through Lee Vaughan’s first half strike as they failed to capitalise on teams around them slipping up.

It was a poignant afternoon, as King’s family watched on from the Director’s Box.

Indeed, there was barely a dry eye in the house when the club legend’s life was celebrated with a minute of applause before kick off.

But the current era is unrecognisable from the empire that their most successful manager built.

Back then, the all-conquering side was battling for the top flight, but is now struggling to get back into the Football League.

Rovers, were keen not to be too distracted from what was happening on the pitch.

Shaun Garnett, one of King’s disciples, had made a point of how the former manager would simply want a win for his side as they tried to strengthen their hold on a play-off spot.

With that in mind, Gary Brabin named an unchanged XI from the 2-0 victory over Kidderminster on Easter Monday.

The hosts started brightly, with Jeff Hughes stinging Marek Rodak’s finger-tips with an early 30-yard drive.

His skidding effort was actually fumbled by the ‘keeper, who did well to quickly react and block James Norwood’s rebound.

Welling, themselves desperate for points in what looks like a forlorn battle against relegation, were keen to play some football themselves.

Lone striker Scott Kashket had their best early chance, dipping past a couple of defenders before seeing his shot saved by Scott Davies.

At the other end, Jake Kirby was unlucky to see a delicate effort from a tight angle cleared off the line as Rovers looked to turn the screw.

Indeed, it looked like a goal was coming, and so it proved when Lee Vaughan got his second for the club.

Gary Taylor-Fletcher was to thank for most of the hard work, imaginatively clipping a cross into the near post.

From there, Vaughan hooked a volley home to hand Tranmere the advantage.

Rovers led for less than two minutes though as Welling went down the other end and immediately equalised.

Nortei Nortey got the goal, but it was down to some dreadful defending as the hosts failed to clear a free-kick.

The ball eventually fell to the former Chelsea youngster, and his wretched shot took a naughty deflection that wrong footed Davies and dribbled into the net.

That flattened the atmosphere a touch, but Tranmere persevered and had a hat-trick of chances to regain their advantage before the break.

Jay Harris came closest, his 30-yard effort forcing Rodak to spring high to his left to tip round the post, before Michael Ihiekwe had a header from a corner saved.

And just as nerves were beginning to creep in, Hughes found Norwood on the left hand side of the box, only for him to fire straight at the ‘keeper.

Rovers looked to start strongly after the break, and only a last gasp clearance denied Hughes from added a second.

He took advantage of a goalkeeping error, with Rodak failing to claim a cross into the box, only for Reece Harris to back pedal and clear the midfielder’s header off the line.

Tranmere were struggling to rediscover their tempo though, and attack after attack broke down due to poor passing and decision-making.

Gary Brabin tried to change things around, with Taylor-Fletcher and a limping Hughes replaced by Fenwick and Mackreth.

But it took until the 70th minute to muster another chance, with Jake Kirby fizzing a 30-yard effort straight at Rodak.

Calamity then struck for Rovers as Welling took the lead after yet more catastrophic defending.

Nortey found himself with the ball on the edge of the box, and with three defenders and Davies rushing to meet him, he tapped a pass to his left to Kadell Daniel.

From there, the impressive forward had the simple job of rolling the ball into an empty net to make it 2-1.

A backlash was expected, but Tranmere managed only a wimper.

Indeed, the most vicious response came from the crowd, desperate to see King’s day remembered in the right way.

James Norwood did rattle the post from a corner, whilst Michael Higdon put the rebound wide.

But they were the only two chances they truly mustered in a final 15 minutes that saw plenty of huff and puff but little end product.

The only saving grace of the day was Braintree slipping up elsewhere, meaning Rovers remain in the top five.

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