Gateshead 0-1 Tranmere: Mellon praises Rovers defence

The making of any good team is the strength of their defence.

So it is a pretty good sign that, at the half way point of the season, Tranmere kept their eleventh clean sheet of the campaign as they beat Gateshead 1-0 on Tuesday.

Indeed, Rovers’ back line has been breached just 16 times so far. Only six of those goals have come in Micky Mellon’s nine games in charge.

And the Scot knows how important that defence will be if they are to maintain their challenge at the top of the National League.

“A defence is what success will be built on,” he said.

“You’ve got to get clean sheets and go to places like Gateshead and gets these kind of results.

“If you’re hard to score against, you’re always pleased about that.

“If you do that, you give yourself the chance of winning, just by getting the odd goal.”

Rovers were impregnable at the International Stadium.

With Richie Sutton and Steve McNulty at the heart of their backline, they comfortably held a side who had failed to score in just one of their last eleven games.

Even the absence of Liam Ridehalgh (hamstring) and Lee Vaughan (illness) did not upset the team, something Mellon was proud of.

“It’s been a big blow for us, to lose both full-backs at the same time,” he continued.

“We didn’t find out about Vaughan until 9 o’clock in the morning, so we didn’t prepare for the game without him.

“And Ridehalgh was touch and go, but we erred on the side of caution on a cold night like this.

“The lads that have come in have fought manfully for us and shown what good teammates they are.

“We are a wee bit light on defenders, I am aware of that.

“But I won’t look to bring anybody in unless they’re going to improve the group.

“We will continue to keep looking to maybe add or strengthen if that type of player comes up.

“But Jeff Hughes has seamlessly gone into left-back and Michael Ihiekwe’s gone in at right-back, so they’ll have a go and fight for the team.”

The win lifts Tranmere up to third in the National League, just two points behind Lincoln who they play later this month.

It is remarkable how quickly they have closed a gap which stood at nine points no more than a fortnight ago.

Yet they have come through a tricky four game period with three wins and a draw and are now right back in the frame for first place.

“We’re really pleased – we’ve been made to work really hard for those points,” said Mellon.

“I know how difficult it is to get points in this league.

“You’re made to work very hard, and it has been hard, three out of the last four away from home.

“We knew when we came into this little spell that it was going to be tough.

“There’s still work to be done. We get the lads recovered and we move onto another tough game.”

Meanwhile James Wallace got a standing ovation from the Tranmere fans as he made his second debut for the club.

The midfielder came on for the final half hour, just 24 hours after returning on loan from Sheffield United.

He made a big difference when dropping into the holding role, and Mellon was thrilled with how he played.

“He’s desperate to do well and win games for us,” he added.

“We’re really pleased to have him here.

“He’s quality, isn’t he? He’s got great composure and he’s very comfortable in the situation in which he came on. He just steadied it a little bit.“

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