We were full of hope after the 4-0 drubbing of Dagenham last week, but once again Rovers came up short against a fellow promotion contender and failed to capitalise on slip-ups by Macclesfield and Sutton.
Boreham Wood away was never going to be a simple game, there is no such thing at this level (eurgh, cliché). While this tiny club in north London fail to capture the imagination of the locals, they certainly do capture the attention of clubs chasing promotion out of the National League.
For all the reasons to dislike them which Boreham Wood seem to revel in providing opposition clubs and fans (charging for video highlights, for instance), from a footballing point of view, you have to admire them at least a little.
Despite rarely threatening the 1,000 mark from an attendance perspective and featuring as the merest of pin pricks on a footballing map of the capital, they are punching well above their weight. Bruno Andrade and Angelo Balanta are two players that have played at a higher level, and arguably still should be. The latter signed a new two-year contract with The Wood this week, suggesting he’s going nowhere.
They’re the star men in this Boreham Wood team, the surprise package in the National League that are a genuine promotion contender. And it is they who landed the killer blows as Rovers returned to Wirral pointless.
It was an unchanged starting eleven from the one that so ruthlessly put Dagenham to the sword last weekend. After early doubt as to whether the game would even go ahead due to overnight snow, the lines were cleared – and painted blue to aide visibility – and the match official declared it was game on.
Sadly, Rovers didn’t do too much in the first half. Andy Cook perhaps looked the most likely to score, a fine turn and shot flew over the bar in possibly the best opening. The hosts meanwhile where much the stronger, hitting the bar twice through the Balanta-Andrade double act.
As Tranmere skipped precariously toward the half-time whistle with their goal intact, they went behind. Again.
I say “again” because last time we had a big game, against Macclesfield, we also fell behind shortly before half-time. Frustrating. It was Angelo Balanta who got it this time.
Micky Mellon clearly had a lot to say to his troops at half-time, and like a bruised boxer who’d been bullied throughout the opening round, they came out swinging after the break. The hosts, so assured and strong before the interval, were now second best pretty much all over the park.
While Boreham Wood have their dynamic duo, Tranmere have theirs in the form of Andy Cook and James Norwood. The two combined for Nors to level things on 66 minutes, the 16th goal of another impressive season.
From here, immediately at least, it looked as though the three points were most likely to be gobbled up by Mellon’s men. Confidence high, Norwood nearly scored a worldie with an acrobatic overhead kick that was tipped to safety by the keeper, while sub Ben Tollitt had a shot blocked in the area.
As we entered the last 15 minutes, the game opened up as both teams tried to win it – credit to both for doing that.
Typically, as with pretty much any match against a fellow promotion-chaser, Tranmere were not the ones to prevail. A long-ball was allowed to bounce by the usually reliable McNulty, and that man Andrade turned and swept the ball home under Scott Davies for his 17th of the season.
Tranmere pushed back, Tollitt seeing a good effort saved, while Norwood had a header hit the crossbar.
It wasn’t to be though, and it was yet another defeat when it mattered for this group of players. Over the last couple of seasons, the number of games against the top six/seven teams that we have failed to take points from is alarming.
And it’s for that reason why Rovers fans continually question the character and leadership of the squad on the field, and will possibly be dreading a potential play-off campaign.
League title hopes continue to linger, but even the most optimistic among us must admit that it’s incredibly unlikely now. Macclesfield will stumble 10 points clear (of Tranmere) if they win their game in hand at Maidstone on Wednesday. Rovers will have a scrap just to secure a top seven finish given how close the top of the National League now is.
Best let those finger nails grow while you can.