Tranmere couldn’t end the season in style as they were beaten 2-0 by a lively Doncaster side at Prenton Park. It was the most unfitting of send offs for full-back Gareth Roberts who has likely played his final game for the club.
Caretaker manager Jason McAteer switched Carl Tremarco to left back and Gareth Roberts to left midfield for this one, whilst he also dropped himself in favour of giving youngster Mike Jones his first team debut.
Donny started the brighter side as Neil Roberts cut in from the left to shoot low but wide of Wilson’s right hand post early on. They knocked the ball about well with youngster Craig Nelthorpe looking lively up the left side from left-back.
Predictably Sean Thornton was given a frosty reception as he returned to Prenton Park for the first time since his disgraceful departure in 2002. He was pretty quiet early on as he was closed down quickly whenever in possession.
At the other end a neat move saw Greenacre feed Facey from around 12 yards out, but his left foot show flashed across goal and out for a goal kick. Within minutes though the visitors led. A lapse of concentration allowed Lewis Guy to get in the box although Michael Jackson forced him wide. From an impossible looking angle, the former Newcastle trainee somehow smashed the ball over Wilson and into the far corner.
His celebrations were a little odd as he tried to wind the home fans in the Kop up for some reason, and was dully booked. Strange.
Tranmere tried to hit back and it was the quick feet of rookie Jones that won them a free-kick around 30 yards out on the right wing. Gareth Roberts viciously swung the ball in and Jackson met it first to head home. However, the goal was ruled out for a foul on the keeper.
Nine minutes before the break the Tranmere backline was caught flat-footed again as a ball over the top saw Neil Roberts allowed to stroll in and try his luck on the half volley from all of 25 yards. Steve Wilson back-peddled and produced a stunning save, diving away to his left to tip the ball to safety. The keeper sprung to his feet to keep the ball in just to the left of the box and tried to play the ball to Gareth Roberts.
Typical of Wilson’s luck this season, his pass was intercepted by Guy who crossed for Neil Roberts to head into an open net unchallenged.
Again Tranmere tried to get themselves back in it but looked somewhat dejected. Gareth Roberts found himself playing as a third striker a couple of times as he tried to force the issue going forward. Youngster Jones saw his left-footed shot drift over whilst a well-struck low effort from Danny Harrison was blocked as it looked to be heading for the bottom corner.
The attention for the final few minutes of the half returned to Thornton as a couple of Tranmere players welcomed him back to Birkenhead in a slightly more physical style. First Linwood was booked for kicking the Irishman right in front of the Doncaster fans and received rich applause from the home supporters for doing so. Minutes later Carl Tremarco flew through him on the touchline and left him in a bit of a heap. Again, it was appreciated by the home fans and again the Tranmere man was booked.
The half-time interval came and Rovers fans were “treated” to Scouse comedian Stan Boardman who sung (apparently) his new World Cup song. It didn’t go down too well and his attempts to get the crowd involved failed miserably. So much so, he was booed off the field and rumour has it he declined the chance to take his seat in the directors box again for the second half.
Back to the football anyway, which had been just as cringe-worthy. McAteer brought himself on in place of Carl Tremarco as Jones seemed to push out to a left midfield role at times. The youngster was outstanding after the break though and really showed signs of promise. His quick feet, quick thinking and willingness to run at players certainly got the fans on his side from the off. That is an achievement in itself these days.
Tranmere created a real goalscoring opportunity early in the second half but unfortunately they gave it to the visitors again. Steven Jennings’ pass infield was left by Linwood and gifted Lewis Guy with somewhat of a sitter. With only Wilson to beat, he dragged his shot inches wide of the right hand post.
The home side didn’t create a great amount themselves. Jones tried his luck but saw his effort rise just over the top. It was so refreshing to hear the fans really get behind the lad for trying, and the rest of the team for the remainder of the game. Sub Steve Davies went close to levelling with a hammer of a free-kick.
The quality lacked but there was a bit of spirit back in there. Gareth Roberts was lively up the left whilst sub Olly James introduced himself to first team football with a crunching challenge on Nelthorpe late on.
All in all Donny were deserved winners, at least that man Thornton didn’t score.
Many Tranmere fans will no doubt be relieved the season has ended. After being tipped as promotion favourites along with Forest and Bristol City we finished the season in a disappointing 18th position. Let’s hope the club get it right and appoint someone the fans will be happy with and the players can respect and work with.
The final word of this seasons match reports has to go to Gareth Roberts. After seven years of tremendous service, the Welsh international emotionally brought the curtain down on his Tranmere career as he goes in search of Championship football he so richly deserves and that nobody would begrudge him. He applauded all three home stands himself at the full-time whistle before returning onto the pitch with the rest of the squad afterwards and throwing his shirt into the Johnny King Stand.
In a radio interview afterwards he confirmed he would have talks with the Chairman this week. If the expected does happen and he leaves, all the best Gareth.
Have a good summer.