Tranmere finally ended their long run without a league win as they won a give-goal thriller at Shrewsbury in the dying moments on Tuesday night.
Rovers flew in to an early 2-0 lead against the hosts before being pegged back in the second half. However, in the fifth minute of time added on, a lightning breakaway saw Corey Blackett-Taylor secure all three points.
It was one of Tranmere’s vital games in hand on AFC Wimbledon and other teams above them. We went into it knowing that something had to change, and after finally scoring a league goal at Wycombe on Saturday, there was at least a small amount of reason to be optimistic.
Micky Mellon has been searching for a winning combination in the face of a raft of injuries and suspensions in recent months. He tried another approach on Tuesday evening which saw Manny Monthe dropped to the bench after a number of poor performances.
His omission meant that experienced defender Mark Ellis could return to the starting eleven, his first competitive game for Rovers in nearly 10 months after injury. He was partnered at the heart of the back by Peter Clarke, with Kane Wilson at right back and Liam Ridehalgh at left-back.
Morris, Woodyard, McCullough and Blackett-Taylor continued across the midfield with Cook and Vaughan up top.
Rovers made a bright start to the game and certainly came out of the blocks quicker than Shrewsbury. While Shrews tried to control possession, Tranmere pressed and won it back frequently with ease.
We looked strong on the break, and it was a counter-attack that forced a set-piece on nine minutes. The corner wasn’t fully cleared and fell to Blackett-Taylor who skipped past a defender with great footwork and fizzed the ball across the six-yard box. It narrowly missed Cook but Ellis was arriving at the back post to smash it home from close range.
Rovers had the dream start and finally led in a game. Could they build on it?
While the home side looked to muster a response, Rovers were in the ascendency and breaking at will. Just five minutes after the opener and Mellon’s team doubled their lead.
A wonderful, slick passing move had the Shrews defence all over the place. Morris fizzed a shot in from the edge of the box, and while the keeper saved it, Woodyard was the only player to react and skipped in to convert the rebound.
Tranmere were flying and may well have had a third. The ball was worked through into the area for Cook to run on to with only the keeper to beat, but before the striker could reach the ball the referee inexplicably brought play back 20 yards for a Tranmere free-kick. If the advantage was played, Rovers looked to be a toe-poke away from a 3-0 lead.
The remainder of the half saw the home team have a bit of a go, but they didn’t look too threatening and at the back they were poor. Cook especially was bullying the Shrewsbury back line and winding the home fans up in the process.
It was 0-2 at half-time.
After the break, it was a case of hoping Rovers could add a third or steady the ship. Morris saw a free-kick cleared after Vaughan had been fouled in a dangerous position following some tireless running.
However, on 56 minutes, Tranmere were undone on a set piece and Pierre headed the home team back into the game. Rovers needed to weather the storm, but they struggled to calm things down and all of a sudden looked nervous. Things got worse just seven minutes later.
Wilson was felled with a head injury, but the referee allowed play to continue. Is it worth even saying at this point that the referee was garbage throughout? They almost always are.
By allowing play to continue he gifted Shrewsbury an advantage on the break. The ball was played into the wide left area behind the stricken Wilson and Callum Lang picked the ball up, cut inside and curled a lovely effort beyond Davies. Suddenly, it was 2-2.
Conceding the equaliser was a blow, but weirdly it settled Tranmere down again and we began to assert ourselves. A few free-kicks and corners came and went, delivery largely abysmal once again.
As we headed into stoppage time, the home team looked the most likely to pinch the points. Deep in the fourth minute of added time, they won a free-kick and threw a few men forward to try and win it. However, now their delivery was poor and Davies commandingly took the cross.
The Rovers skipper has had criticism recently for not releasing the ball quickly enough, among other things. However, his next action may prove to be a key moment in the season.
Tranmere had left one man forward; Blackett-Taylor. Without a moment’s hesitation, Davies kicked the ball long in-behind the Shrews defence and into the path of CBT. The young forward was always going to win the sprint to get there, and after taking a touch, he ran on to the ball and produced a superb finish hard and low across the goal.
It seemed to take an age to bobble its way inside the far post, but it made it. Cue absolute scenes behind the goal as the SWA erupted in a moment of pure joy and relief. Metal fences went flying, fans spilled on to the pitch and half of the team ran to CBT, the other half to Scott Davies.
It was a massive goal and thankfully Rovers didn’t have much time left to see the game out. An enormous win.
Full-time was met with jubilation all round. The players looked thrilled, smiles were back on the faces of fans and players while Micky enjoyed his post-win fist-pump for which he got Blackett-Taylor to join in with.
We won’t know how important this win has been until the end-of-the-season, but right now it feels as though this could just be the catalyst to spark a reaction. A fight that we have been expecting for some time.
A top effort by the team with excellent cameos from Perkins and Jennings to boot.
Roll on Saturday.