James Norwood took his goal tally to 10 for the season with a brace as Tranmere Rovers thrashed Crawley Town 5-1 at Prenton Park.
Norwood, and Rovers, could have scored more but a combination of poor finishing and good defending and goalkeeping denied them further strikes.
Tranmere lined up in a 4-2-3-1 system with Larnell Cole brought into the side for a rare start in the ‘number 10 role’ just behind Norwood, while Paul Mullin came in and lined up on the right of the three.
Tranmere began the game well but Norwood’s early effort lacked power and was saved by the Crawley Town ‘keeper.
The visitors were enjoying a lot of the ball but didn’t trouble Scott Davies in the Tranmere goal before the hosts broke the deadlock after 25 minutes.
A short corner was played on the left, with Ollie Banks lofting a cross to the back post. Manny Monthe nodded the ball back across the six yard box where Connor Jennings was on hand to slam the ball home, his first goal in 28 matches (credit for that to statto Matt Jones).
Scott Davies was on hand to make a smart save from a free kick to keep the Rovers’ lead while Jennings and Norwood both went close at the other end.
Just before half time, Tranmere made it two-nil after a lovely passing move around the Crawley penalty area.
A corner was only half cleared, Banks played a lovely through ball to Jake Caprice down the right whose cross found Jennings who chested down for Norwood who slammed the ball home from 12 yards.
Davies again made a good save just before the break when a low powerful shot was palmed away by the Rovers number one before the defence cleared their lines.
It wouldn’t be a Tranmere game without a James Norwood one-on-one, and at the beginning of the second half, Larnell Cole played the number 10 in on goal. He tried to round the goalkeeper, who got a hand on it, but the ball was still there for the striker who picked himself off the turf after a slip but his goalbound effort was cleared away for a corner.
Banks took that corner, and Norwood did get his second of the afternoon, a delightful delivery being met by the striker’s head at the back post.
A few minutes later, Norwood was in the thick of things once again. Another brilliant ball was played for the striker to run on to, he took a touch around the goalkeeper who brought him down. Penalty awarded.
Norwood wanted the spot kick for his hat trick, but regular taker Adam Buxton took the ball and slammed a typically emphatic effort into the top corner.
On the hour mark, Rovers made it five with a stunning strike. A diagonal ball towards Paul Mullin eventually found him after a little ricochet, the forward quickly getting on to it and rifling an upstoppable shot into the back of the net.
Tranmere were flowing with confidence, with some lovely one-touch football being played and further goals looking likely.
However, it was the visitors who next found themselves on the scoresheet. A low cross from the right found its way to Ollie Palmer who struck his ninth goal of the season.
Buxton nearly struck his second of the game with a 30 yard free kick narrowly wide of the target, before Norwood missed a golden chance for a matchball.
A low cross found its way to the number 10 who took a touch and hit a shot which was blocked on the line to deny what would have been his first hat trick for Rovers.
So we had to settle for five, an excellent performance by the whole team who all contributed towards gaining the three points.
With Lincoln City losing, the gap between Rovers and top spot has closed, although Micky Mellon’s men remain in 7th in the League Two standings.