There was something fishy going on at Grimsby tonight as Tranmere were on the end of a 5-2 thrashing against an equally poor Grimsby Town.
The night started well enough as James Norwood put Tranmere 1-0 up inside the first 10 minutes. But it was an appalling refereeing display that took the headlines as a Grimsby player blatantly palmed the ball in to net before the break to put the hosts ahead and in the second half a foul on Connor Jennings in the box was waved away by the clueless ref.
Norwood’s opener was no less than Micky Mellon’s team deserved after a dominant opening, Luke McCullough playing a delightful through ball that allowed Nors to break away and poke the ball home from the left edge of the box.
There looked to be no threat from the home side as they showed why they are once again in for a relegation scrap this season, but some dodgy defending in the 32nd minute by Rovers allowed Grimsby to level.
No sooner had Tranmere found their feet at 1-1, the moment that changed the game came. This report will seem like sour grapes – but lets just emphasise something from the off. Tranmere’s defending tonight bordered on the farcical.
An awful clearance from Davies was collected by Jake Caprice who tried to be too casual in a pass to Mottley-Henry and gave possession to Grimsby. Out of position, the home team capitalised on the space up Tranmere’s right, and a low cross seemed to deflect off McNulty and bobble in to the middle of the goal. Striker Wes Thomas flung an arm at the ball to divert it into the open net – despite appeals en masse from the Rovers players, and even Thomas celebrating somewhat sheepishly himself, the goal was allowed to stand.
The referee looked like he had won a raffle to be out there, but how both he and his inept linesman missed the handball was questionable. If they did miss it, then they’re in the wrong profession.
Rovers managed to get to half-time with the game 2-1 to the hosts. Captain Steve McNulty was withdrawn at half-time, presumably injured, and that may as well have been the final nail in Tranmere’s coffin.
Credit to Grimsby, they came out on the front foot and took the game to Tranmere. Barely a minute was on the clock in the second period when they forced a corner. Rovers struggled to clear, and whether you want to blame the wind or not, a shambolic and repeated attempt to clear the ball finished up in the Tranmere net. It was like watching a load of school kids hack away at the ball until it went somewhere.
At 3-1, the defence was now all over the show. Sorry to say, but Caprice was missing tackles and gifting the ball back to the opposition time-after-time. Even Monthe looked slack. Tranmere were also missing the midfield out- Gilmour and McCullough forced to watch as the ball was repeatedly launched aimlessly from the back up to Grimsby two centre halves.
Finally, a glimmer of hope came. Paul Mullin is becoming somewhat adept at cutting in from the left and finding the back of the net, and he did it again in sublime style to get Tranmere back in it. 3-2.
Then, time for the ref to again illustrate his gross incompetence. A ball in to the box wasn’t cleared by Grimsby and Connor Jennings just got his foot to the ball to knock it clear of the defender. He was then kicked to the floor. Stonewall penalty and the ref was yards away. Nothing doing. As for the linesman, well he had already shown he either couldn’t see as far as the penalty area or didn’t have the guts to make a decision, so no point in looking to him.
The game was sealed in the 82nd minute, another woeful display of defending saw Tranmere make a meal of defending a set piece. In the end, someone (Gilmour maybe?) slid in with a reckless challenge. The referee, clearly now in the mood to give penalties, couldn’t get his whistle in his mouth quick enough. The kick was brilliantly converted into the top corner.
Tranmere had some possession in the final ten minutes but looked deflated. As they pushed to get one back, those defensive frailties returned. A ball was poked between Sutton and Monthe on halfway and set Embleton away. Caprice had the position and pace to control the situation but just didn’t sort his feet out and instead didn’t even get a foot in.
The Grimsby player escaped away and finished well under Davies. The scoreline was probably not an accurate reflection of the whole game, but Grimsby were clinical and Tranmere were again abysmal defensively away from Prenton Park. It’s an area Micky Mellon must focus on.
That said, Rovers sit eigth in League Two with the top seven incredibly close and an FA Cup second round tie to come. It’s not all bad.