Tranmere survived a bit of a scare as they ground out another three points with a 1-0 win against Braintree.
Rovers’ performance was far from pretty, although it could be argued they were brought down to the level of their opponents who had little interest in playing football.
But at this stage of the season, the manner of the win matters not a jot. All that is important is chalking up another and closing the gap on the top of the table.
Andy Cook’s second half strike, following on from a catalogue of missed chances before the break, was enough to do just that for the hosts.
Despite making two new signings this week, Micky Mellon resisted the temptation to tinker with his starting line up following Tuesday’s 4-1 win over North Ferriby.
Erico Sousa missed out on the squad altogether, whilst Aaron Collins, on loan from Wolves for the final ten games, replaced Jack Dunn on the substitutes bench.
With Forest Green having lost to Lincoln in the lunch time kick off, Rovers knew a win would leave them just two points off top spot in the National League.
They should have been ahead with just seconds on the clock when James Norwood brilliantly sprung the offside trap to run onto an Andy Cook flick.
The striker was through one-on-one with Ben McNamara, but he could only find the side netting from just inside the area.
At the other end Scott Davies was called into action when Steve McNulty and Ritchie Sutton both went to head the same ball, allowing Lee Barnard to have a 25-yard drive which was saved.
Braintree, with their five man midfield and four giant defenders, set their stall out pretty quickly.
They came to Prenton Park with the intention of irritating Tranmere. Time wasting was apparent early on, whilst persistent niggling fouls, on and off the ball, disrupted any rhythm.
Indeed, only 23 minutes had passed before chief offender Chez Isaac was given a yellow card when his fourth infringement proved to be the final straw.
Shortly afterwards Connor Jennings should have scored when he ran on to Jeff Hughes’ pass but shot just past the near post.
An even better chance fell to Cook when a Hughes free-kick cannoned back off the ‘keeper, but he somehow slammed against the post from no more than three yards out.
It was all Tranmere, and it looked like a matter of time before they managed to break the deadlock.
Their style of football was much more silky and composed, with Jennings and Hughes in particular linking up well.
Yet they were struggling to test the ‘keeper, with Norwood again firing off-target, this time volleying over the bar when on the turn.
Braintree showed a bit intent at the start of the second half, and even created a couple of chances, Michael Cheek battering one of them well over from just inside the box.
Rovers meanwhile were beginning to get a bit frustrated. Passes in the final third kept going wrong as many attacks fizzled out into nothing.
In the end, they broke the deadlock in the most simple of ways – route one.
Michael Ihiekwe pumped the ball forward and after it was missed by Norwood, Cook ran through unchallenged before blasting through the ‘keeper from a tight angle.
It was just the tonic the hosts needed, and the hope was that they could now put the game to bed.
But if anything, the goal woke the visitors up even more. They needed something to happen if they were going to take a point back to Essex.
Sam Corne forced a smart save from Davies at his near post with a low shot that was heading for the bottom corner.
The game should have been settled with twenty minutes left when Tranmere won their second penalty in as many games.
It came after Norwood was brought down by McNamara, rushing out of his goal to make a clumsy and needless tackle with the striker heading towards the corner flag.
Hughes stepped up to take it, and like he did in midweek, the midfielder missed, with a low and slow effort comfortably saved.
Unlike at North Ferriby though there was to be no goal from the rebound as Adam Mekki’s follow up was blocked.
The winger then had another go after a mazy run which ended in a shot going over from 25-yards, before Hughes hit a free-kick straight at the ‘keeper.
For the final ten minutes, Braintree started to pile on the pressure and Tranmere sat deeper and deeper.
Joe Maybanks came close with a vicious effort that Ihiekwe some how blocked, getting his head to the ball as it looked destined for the top corner.
Davies then had to be quickly off his line to block as the Braintree players queued up to score, with Cheek putting the rebound into the side netting.
He had another go in injury time, this time heading off target from close range.