A highly anticipated North West fixture ended in a draw as Tranmere came from behind to pick up a 1-1 draw against Oldham Athletic at Prenton Park.
Connor Jennings’ strike midway through the second half ensured it would be a point apiece after a hard-fought encounter with two good sides.
Micky Mellon made a number of changes from the side which beat Oxford City in midweek. Into the starting XI came captain Steve McNulty, while there were also starting berths for Ollie Banks, Luke McCullough and Dylan Mottley-Henry as Rovers reverted to a 4-4-2 system.
Before kick-off, there was a minutes’ applause in memory of Rovers legend George Yardley who sadly passed away this week.
It was a competitive start to the game, although chances were few and far between.
Rovers had a good bit of possession but a cross by Banks which was just over Paul Mullin’s head was the closest they came to an early goal, while at the other end, Scott Davies bamboozled the Latics centre forward with a Cruyff turn inside his penalty area.
With nothing much happening in open play, in terms of chances created at least, it would be little surprise that the opening goal would come from a set play, and it was Oldham who struck.
A cleverly worked corner from the right found its way to Johan Branger, 12 yards out, who had time to take a touch and then drill a low shot into the bottom corner of the net to the glee of the visiting supporters.
So it was the Latics who took a lead in at the break, but Rovers came out looking to get back on level terms after the restart.
James Norwood was looking to add to his 15 goals already this season, and took free kick duties away from Banks who had wasted a couple in the first half. His 25 yard effort curled just wide of the far post in the early stages of the second period.
Banks was still on corners, though, and his whipped ball into the box found the head of Connor Jennings but it diverted in the goalkeeper’s grateful arms off a defender as Rovers ramped up the pressure.
Jennings was in the thick of things again after great work down the right by Jake Caprice. The pacy full back skipped past his man in the wide area and delivered a delightful ball into the box, onto which Jennings sent a goalbound effort only for a deflection to send it off target.
Scott Davies had to be at his best as he made an excellent save to deny Latics’ substitute Sam Surridge, after the striker tried to round him, the shot-stopper expertly denied him with a save low to his left.
He didn’t have to wait long for another chance on goal, though, and this time he stuck it away. Another ball in from the right found its way to the former Wrexham man coming in from the left and he slid the ball home. Cue ‘scenes’ in the Kop as the place erupted.
Rovers had the momentum and Jennings almost turned provider soon after his goal. His cross from the left was deep to the back post where an onrushing Dylan Mottley-Henry just couldn’t quite get there to make a decisive touch, the ball just inches too far ahead of him.
But the final 10 minutes or so saw the visitors look the most likely to take the points down the M62 with a couple of dangerous balls into the Rovers penalty area which had to be defended well by the Rovers rearguard.
It was good to have a fixture like this back on the calendar, and there was a good atmosphere and a healthy 7,150 in attendance.