Lincoln 2-1 Tranmere: Rovers fail to end 50 year wait to be top at Christmas

The wait for a Tranmere team to be top of the league at Christmas goes on.

Not since Dave Russell was in charge have Rovers been in first place on December 25th.

Back in 1965, even a 3-1 defeat to Doncaster a week before the big day was not enough to help Torquay leapfrog the Prenton Park outfit.

And so, all that Micky Mellon’s current crop needed at Sincil Bank on Saturday was a point to make another bit of history.

But Adam Marriott’s late winner ensures it is Lincoln who have the first place honour ahead of the festive period.

“I would have liked to have been top for Christmas,” Mellon concedes.

“There’s not doubt about that.

“But there’s an awful lot of football still to be played and we continue to try and play the way we play, because we believe that will get us more results.”

Tranmere losing in the run up to Christmas is not something unusual.

Some fans may remember the 6-1 defeat to Hull in 2004, when midfielder Theo Whitmore ended up in goal after injuries to John Achterberg and Russell Howarth.

The high-flying Ronnie Moore side of 2012/13 were battered in their last game before December 25th too, going down 5-0 against Swindon.

They had been top of the table then, just as Mellon’s men were before kick off on Saturday.

Yet you cannot see the current crop heading the same way as they did four years ago.

Only James Wallace and Jake Kirby are still at Prenton Park from back then, and neither played in the County Ground hammering.

But they will remember what happened next, as Rovers slipped down the table and relinquished their best chance of a promotion in the past decade.

They eventually finished eleventh after failing to score in each of their last six games, five of which ended in defeat.

At Lincoln, though, they did not deserve to lose. Tranmere dominated for long stretches, creating numerous chances that could, and maybe should, have finished.

They actually went behind with just three minutes on the clock, with Nathan Arnold nodding home unmarked at the back post.

But Jeff Hughes responded before the break from the penalty spot after a foul on Andy Mangan.

“I thought we started poor,” Mellon continued.

“In the first ten or fifteen minutes, we were a bit disjointed.

“To lose a goal from a flick on from a set play, we’re really disappointed because we spoke about it and we know what their threats are.

“But we settled back in quickly. We get the penalty and we’re bang back in it.

“I lost count of the amount of times we got good opportunities and didn’t go and punish them.

“We popped it around them like we knew we would be able to do and played some good football.

“To be caught out on the counter attack, we’re disappointed with little bits of detail in that.

“But apart from that, I couldn’t really criticise us.

“We just needed a bit more composure and quality.”

The visitors indeed had plenty of chances to grab a second.

James Norwood missed two of them, firing straight at the ‘keeper from the edge of the box after running onto through balls by Mangan and Hughes.

Lois Maynard also put a shot past the post from near the penalty spot, whilst Jay Harris volleyed wide.

And then there was a brace of chances for Mangan either side of half time, with his first effort turned round the post and the second fizzing just past it.

It was the inability to hit the back of the net that frustrated Mellon most, and cost the visitors dearly.

Lincoln created comparably little at the other end, and would have had few complains had the game finished all square.

Yet they stole the points after Marriott’s sucker-punch, slotted past Davies from the edge the box after a rapid attack down the centre.

Mellon is keen to move on from this as quickly. With 21 games left, the focus is now on regaining top spot when Macclesfield come to Prenton Park on Boxing Day.

“Football’s about how you bounce back and how you improve,” he added.

“We have to take this on the chin, get back to work next week and keep moving forwards.

“That’s what we’ll continue to do.

“There’s things that are very, very good, but we also know what we have to get better at. We’ll keep working hard.

“You’ve got to move onto the next game and the next training session.

“I’ve got to be honest and think there isn’t a massive amount that I have got to speak to them about.

“We dealt with their threats very, very well – to the letter of the way we decided we were going to do it.

“Where we know that we have to be better is that final pass or taking one of those chances, because away from home, if you’d got told you’d have that many opportunities to score, you’d have been delighted.”

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