Even the most pessimistic of Tranmere fans must have had some confidence going in to the home match with Halifax on Saturday, especially following the win away to the Shaymen a few weeks earlier in the FA Cup.
The confidence was well-placed too, as Tranmere showed some flashes of real class which has been missing so far this season.
The opening 20 minutes was outstanding, as Rovers played some superb one-touch football which the visitors struggled to cope with. When I say struggled to cope with, they were a yard or two off the pace most of the time.
The primary outlet was Mottley-Henry up the right, backed-up superbly by Mitch Duggan who continues to progress at right back. Norwood was also on fire, irritating the Halfiax back four from the first whistle, running off their shoulders, nipping away at them as Nors is so good at.
It wasn’t long before the impressive opening brought the opening goal. Jay Harris crossed in from the right and Norwood saw off attempts to obstruct him by the Halifax centre halve and brilliantly finished first time in to the bottom corner.
Rovers were purring, and the visitors really struggled to keep hold of the ball or get out of their own half. Tranmere attacked in waves, and the second goal came after another right wing cross caused havoc.
Mottley-Henry swung it to the back post, Jeff Hughes attempted a half-volley that smashed in to the turf and looped up and over the keeper for Norwood to chest home in to an empty net from just yards out. It looked offside, but the ball looped in the air for that long, it allowed Norwood to move in for the kill while the opposition defenders stopped and watched.
Minutes later, and some typical Tranmere luck. Norwood went up for a header against the Halifax defender and the pair clashed heads with some force. Norwood stayed down, blood pouring from his forehead. There was no way he was going to able to continue, and he was replaced by new signing Larnell Cole.
The change saw Rovers’ domination halted, or certainly lose them attacking prowess they’d enjoyed until this point. Credit to Halifax too – the loss of Norwood helped them to re-group and put a firmer base in place to repel Rovers, and it gave them something to build off.
Despite a couple of attacks and one huge chance, the visitors couldn’t get a goal back before half-time and it remained 2-0 at the break.
The second half saw the visitors get themselves back in to the game early on, an excellent header from central defender Matt Brown from a right wing corner put them in contention, but it was short-lived.
Within Rovers regained a two goal cushion. McDonagh won the ball deep in the Halifax box and got it wide to Mottley-Henry. The on-loan winger showed wonderful skill to dance past two defenders before finding Larnell Cole.
The debutant picked the ball up just inside the Halfiax box, but was still crowded out. He displayed some exceptional footwork to dance his way in to enough space to get a shot away, and via a deflection, the ball sailed in to the bottom corner.
It put Tranmere back in charge again, and another stunning counter-attack put the game to bed. Mottley-Henry dispossessing a Halfiax defender in his own half before steaming away at lightning pace in to the opposition box and calming slotting the ball home.
His celebration was tremendous too, pure, unadulterated joy for the young lad who is flourishing at Prenton Park, and has the home fans on the edge of their seats every time he picks the ball up.
Tranmere should have added more to their tally during the remainder of the game. Gerry McDonagh was absolutely outstanding playing the role of the target man, and undoubtedly deserved a goal of his own.
As it was, Halfiax did manage to grab another goal back to leave us with a final score of 4-2.
It was a confidence boosting result for Micky Mellon’s side. With the performances of Mottley-Henry and McDonagh, the delightful cameo from Larnell Cole, and the performances of Norwood, Harris, Duggan and Hughes, the signs are there that things may be about to turn.