Tranmere’s relegation fears worsened at the wrong end of League One tonight as they went down to a narrow 1-0 defeat at home to Sunderland.
A header midway through the second half was enough to settle a poor game in which both sides showed a lack of quality. However, referee Antony Coggins would steal the show with an inept performance that peaked with the sending off of Manny Monthe in the 84th minute.
Rovers went into the game without Peter Clarke and Neil Danns. Both players are expected to be fit for Saturday’s match at Bolton but were not able to take part tonight. Corey Blackett-Taylor also missed out due to some stitches in his shin. New signing James Vaughan was absent as he was not registered in time to play.
Back came Alex Woodyard, Calum Woods and Kane Wilson in to the starting eleven.
The first half was the better of the two and it’s probably fair to say that the home side just about edged it. A large travelling support from Sunderland was left largely frustrated as Rovers dominated possession and had more of a say in proceedings. However, despite some half chances, there were not really any clear-cut opportunities at either end.
The second half was a bit of a non-event until the hour mark. Both teams lacked quality and to the casual observer, this could have been an end-of-season, mid table, dead rubber. The reality was, it was a vital game for both teams.
Rovers’ achilles heel this season – set pieces – returned to haunt them with 60 minutes on the clock. A ball swung in from Tranmere’s left was headed down and into the bottom corner by Charlie Wyke. It led to passionate celebrations from the away end including fans spilling on to the pitch. That part is something we can have no complaints over – think Rotherham away.
However, one Sunderland fan threw a mobile phone during the celebrations and it struck and injured defender Liam Ridehalgh. He had to be replaced shortly after. Sunderland can probably expect a fine for their fan’s behaviour. Ref Coggins appeared to be enjoying a joke with the fourth official when he ran over with the phone to report the incident.
Rovers had a bit of possession as they pushed for the equaliser, but the referee once again highlighted his abysmal lack of judgement as he allowed Sunderland defender Lynden Gooch to escape a second yellow for a foul on sub Stefan Payne. Coggins absolutely bottled the decision and instead called captain Max Power over to convey the message that this was Gooch’s last chance.
Several moments later, a failed counter-attack saw Manny Monthe adjudged to have fouled a Sunderland player on the break. Monthe was also on a yellow and had not put a foot wrong since his earlier booking. You’d expect Coggins to take the same action – call over the Tranmere skipper and warn Monthe he’s on his last chance.
Nope. He couldn’t get the yellow and subsequent red card out of his pocked quick enough. Embarrassing. This referee was fumbling about in the National League with us a couple of years ago, giving penalties for fouls outside the box, among other things. How the EFL have let him blag his way on to their list of referees is anyone’s guess.
As for Tranmere themselves, sadly the game simply ebbed away. A late free-kick was poorly delivered in to the box and easily cleared and sadly Rovers didn’t really offer any real fight in the final third.
It’s a huge 48 hours now as the transfer deadline looms. Micky Mellon needs to find some quality reinforcements otherwise all of last season’s hard work will be undone.