Tranmere Rovers picked up a valuable three points at a wet and windy Prenton Park, beating Cambridge United 1-0 thanks to a second half strike by leading goalscorer James Norwood.
It wasn’t pretty with conditions not helping matters, a swirling wind and torrential rain made it difficult to play attractive football, but Rovers showed great grit and determination to a win which lifts them back into the play-off zone.
Micky Mellon went with a 4-4-2 formation, with Cole Stockton coming in to start alongside Norwood in attack. Jonny Smith started at right wing, Luke McCullough was recalled in midfield after being ineligible for last week’s cup tie, and Adam Buxton replaced Jake Caprice at right back.
It was a first half of few chances but Tranmere began brightly and carved a couple of early openings.
David Forde in the Cambridge goal kept out an effort by Norwood before tipping a Stockton header over the crossbar.
The remaining opportunities of the first 45 minutes were down the other end.
Scott Davies made a fine save to deny George Maris before Jay Harris cleared the danger, while the Rovers number one was right behind an effort from distance by the same player.
The closest they came was an shot from distance by Paul Lewis which cannoned off the base of the post and out to safety.
The start of the second half saw more scrappy play with neither team being able to keep hold of the ball long enough to create opportunities on goal as the weather took a turn for the worst, rain pouring down and the wind gathering pace like Mo Farah winding up for a last lap sprint.
A free kick from the left swung in by Liam Ridehalgh found Manny Monthe who took a touch but blasted high over the bar from close range, while a Norwood shot later squirmed underneath Forde only for Jake Carroll to clear off the goal line as Rovers began to ramp up the pressure on the U’s goal.
Mellon made a change up front, on 75 minutes, bringing on Paul Mullin to replace Cole Stockton.
Within a couple of minutes of the substitution, Rovers had the lead.
Jonny Smith, who had terrorised the Cambridge left-back for most of the afternoon, skipped past him once more and fired in a low effort which Forde parried. The ball stayed in the danger area and Mullin nodded back across goal to leave Norwood the simple task of firing home from six inches for his 17th goal of the season. Probably the easiest one too.
Smith was replaced by Jake Caprice for the final five minutes as Rovers ground out a victory to get back to winning ways after a tough few weeks with results and injuries.
The win lifts Micky Mellon’s side back into the top seven. A trip to Meadow Lane to take on Notts County is next, a week today.