As expected, Tranmere almost completely changed their entire 16 for the match with Solihull last night, with the visitors coming away with a 2-1 victory.
Rovers were anticipated to make changes, and Micky Mellon certainly did that. Nobody from the starting eleven at Halfiax featured in the 16, while only a handful of players that have had first team involvement this season were included.
On-loan keeper Rhys Taylor returned in goal, with youngsters Josh Solomon-Davies and Declan Drysdale playing alongside on-loan Manny Monthe and the fit again Eddie Clarke in the back four.
It was a five-man midfield, with Mitch Duggan getting to play his favoured central midfield role as holding player in front of the back four. He was joined in the middle by Jack Dunn and Eliott Rokka, while John Ginnelly and Devarn Green started in the wing positions.
Experienced striker Andy Mangan got a rare start upfront, and also captained the team.
It was a pretty unremarkable game. The opening half hour was fairly even, with Solihull probably having the best of the possession.
Dunn – looking somewhat overweight – showed flashes of quality as he ran through the middle with the ball and tried a couple of shots from distance. Green also looked lively, while Andy Mangan was limited to playing a bit-part as balls were lumped long toward him which he was never going to win against two towering Solihull centre backs.
Unfortunately, it was an error from young centre back Declan Drysdale that gave Solihull the lead. Drysdale was dispossessed by the Solihull forward who pulled it back to a team mate who fired home side-footed at Taylor’s near post.
The visitors dominated the second half, Rovers limited to a handful of counter attacks. Mangan remained isolated, and it was only Green that was looking dangerous.
Solihull deservedly doubled their lead before that man Green pulled a goal back with a well-taken finish, but Rovers never really threatened to level things up.
It could have been 1-3, as a piece of woeful defending from Clarke and Monthe allowed a Solihull player to get goal side before being clipped or pulled-back – difficult to see which. Penalty was the decision, but Rhys Taylor saved well to his right-hand side.
There were two young debutants from the bench during the second half as Danny Walker-Rice and Carl Spellman were given run-outs. Walker-Rice especially showed a couple of flashes of quality and demonstrated some quick-feet out on the right wing. It’s great to see these lads getting the chance to play in a competitive game.
Congratulations to Solihull for securing their National League survival and, in their minds, banishing the memory of last season’s 9-0 humiliation.
As for Rovers, expect a full-strength eleven to take on Hartlepool on Saturday.