Tranmere Rovers got back to winning ways with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Port Vale at Prenton Park on Saturday afternoon.
In truth, it was a scrappy game with niggly fouls, lots of stoppages and no real flow for large parts, somewhat different to some of the games we have previously seen so far this season.
Vale are a well organised and physical side, who came to frustrate. Not in the 10 men behind the ball sense, but to get in people’s faces, make things difficult and try and win free kicks whenever possible.
Micky Mellon’s side arguably played their poorest game of the season to date. Misplaced passes, mix-ups in communication and wayward shooting were all seen more regularly than they have in the past matches, but one thing you can always guarantee with this team is that they’ll never give up, they’ll keep battling right until the end, and they got their reward for that.
In a tight first 45 minutes, Connor Jennings had the best opportunity. He cut inside from the left, onto his stronger right foot, and unleashed a powerful low driven shot which fizzed narrowly wide of the target.
The game opened up a bit more in the second half, with more chances created at either end.
Mellon’s double substitution on the hour mark helped with that. Dylan Mottley-Henry and Paul Mullin entered the fray and gave the side a direct, run at the defence, approach which created problems for The Valiants.
And the reward was cashed in on after 77 minutes, when Ollie Banks, exceptional in midfield once again, did well on the right hand side and fired in a low cross which was met by the outstretched foot of James Norwood. If at first you don’t succeed, try again, and after the goalkeeper parried his initial effort, Norwood got himself up the quickest and poked the ball over the line. Five goals in five league games for the striker, his rich vein of form is continuing on from last season.
Cue Vale throwing the kitchen sink at Rovers for the final 10 minutes or so. Their formation changed to a 2-1-7 at times as they bombarded the penalty area with crosses.
But in all honesty, they rarely threatened Scott Davies’ goal, as the back four defended as if their lives depended on it, kicking and heading everything away.
There was one moment of controversy though. A right wing cross was met by the outstretched arm of Jake Caprice at the back post. Penalty? You’ve seen them given, but not by this referee as the Super White Army blew a sigh of relief.
There’s a quote about Connor Jennings by Micky Mellon in Matt Jones’ excellent book ‘Back Where We Belong’. He said: “He has balls the size of Birkenhead.” Well, I think that phrase can refer to the entire side. They were put under pressure but dealt with it well, and never really looked like conceding a goal. They grit their teeth, kept battling away and finally got the goal that the hard-working performance merited to take all three points.
That puts Tranmere in 10th position, or as we like to say, joint 6th! Eight points from five matches at the start of the season is not a bad return. Yes, it could (and should) have been a few more, but we cannot complain. Carry on in this vein, and we won’t be far off the top 7 come May and we’ll definitely have a team to be immensely proud of.