Tranmere’s poor away form continued as they somehow contrived to leave Bury with no points despite creating a hat-full of chances in front of goal.
Bury are one of the division’s form teams at home, but it’s tricky to see why; Gigg Lane was its usual dull, quiet and uninspiring self, with one stand shut and two home stands sparsely populated. In contrast, more than 1200 Tranmere fans packed in to the away end to support their team on a dark, cold and drizzly Manchester afternoon.
The only change from the team which won at Southport was the return of Luke McCullough in midfield in place of Harvey Gilmour.
It’s fair to say that Bury bossed the opening exchanges, Byron Moore stretched Rovers a little in wide areas while the experienced Neil Danns was neat and tidy in the heart of midfield.
Bury’s backline, which included ex-Rovers loanee Will Aimson, was not troubled much in the opening exchanges and veteran keeper Joe Murphy – another ex-Tranmere man – was barking out instructions to his defenders at every opportunity.
The home side created a couple of half chances but were either thwarted by Davies or squandered them through poor finishing, but it was Tranmere who would have the best chances of the first period as Micky Mellon’s tactics worked a treat.
Rovers love to play on the break and Bury’s style of play set us up for it perfectly. Jake Caprice arguably had his best game in a Rovers shirt as he constantly beat Shakers full-back McFadzean with ease.
Caprice’s final ball was on-point too, and he created three unbelievable opportunities for Norwood in the first half. The first saw the Tranmere striker unmarked at the back post but he somehow put his volley well over the bar when it looked harder to miss.
Next, he found Norwood again with a cross to the front post, Nors flashing a header marginally wide of Murphy’s left-hand post. The third and final opportunity for Norwood also led to a sitter for Jay Harris.
Caprice pulled the ball back from the touchline after once again strolling past the woeful Bury left-back. Norwood connected first time with his right foot, only for Murphy to block with his legs. The ball broke perfectly in the centre of goal for Jay Harris who just had to pick his spot in a mostly unguarded net – and he nearly cleared the stand, let alone the goal. Rovers could have been out of sight.
The other significant incident of note from the first half was an injury to skipper Steve McNulty. He slid in to dispossess Callum Styles in his usual measured way. He took the ball but also got a kick. Despite trying to run it off, he was replaced by Ritchie Sutton.
The second half didn’t start well for Rovers. Except for the counter-attacks, Bury played the better football all game. They forced a succession of early corners and free-kicks, and it was veteran striker Nicky Maynard who found himself unmarked to head past Davies from one of the free-kicks.
Tranmere reacted well, and Caprice played a neat one-two with Jennings to again leave McFadzean in his wake, his low cross finding Norwood just yards out who unbelievably completely missed the target again. He would go close again shortly after, dragging a low shot wide of the goal.
As Tranmere pushed for an equaliser, the home side added a second in the closing minutes on the break. Typically, Rovers did then find the net at 2-0. Sub Sutton headed home well from a Jonny Smith corner and Tranmere had about two of the five minutes of stoppage time left to force a leveller.
We passed it around the back for a few frustrating seconds which didn’t make much sense, but some weak refereeing and poor quality in the final third meant we wouldn’t create that chance we needed.
Rovers returned to the Wirral pointless once again and with three huge games coming up over the festive period.