Tranmere Rovers fell to a 3-2 home defeat against Rochdale on the opening day of the League One season.
It was a good start to the game from Micky Mellon’s men, with a fantastic atmosphere created by a crowd of more than 8,000 inside Prenton Park.
Manny Monthe headed over the crossbar following an early set piece before David Perkins worked an opportunity for Stefan Payne but the summer signing’s effort was saved by Robert Sanchez in the ‘Dale goal as Rovers dominated the opening proceedings.
However, it was the visitors who broke the deadlock after 12 minutes, with a goal from the penalty spot.
Sharp passing opened up the Tranmere defence before Callum Camps was felled inside the penalty area by Sid Nelson.
A spot kick was awarded and veteran forward Ian Henderson sent Scott Davies the wrong way from 12 yards.
Payne was causing a few problems for the Rochdale backline. He first had an effort on goal which Sanchez did well to save before almost capitalising on a poor back pass by Eoghan O’Connell, his outstretched boot diverting the ball towards goal only for Sanchez to deny him again.
Henderson came close to a second for the visitors after the half-hour mark as he steered a low shot narrowly wide of the target, while a few tasty tackles flew in and resulted in a booking for each side before the referee drew the half to a close.
Micky Mellon made a double change at the interval, with recent additions Morgan Ferrier and Rushian Hepburn-Murphy brought into the action in place of Jordan Ponticelli and Stefan Payne up front.
But Rovers were soon two goals behind as Rochdale doubled their lead on 47 minutes.
The ball was worked out to the left side of the penalty area and Henderson was on hand to curl a sublime curling chip into the top corner. He appeared offside, but the assistant’s flag stayed down despite protests from the home defence.
Ferrier’s first real action in a Tranmere shirt saw him hit the woodwork. He worked an effort for himself on the right side of the penalty area but, after a sharp turn, his low shot hit the outside of the post.
Midway through the second half, Dale extended their advantage with an excellent team goal.
A free-flowing passing move saw the ball moved out to the left and full-back Rhys Norrington-Davies found himself with time and space as he beat Scott Davies with a low effort.
Brian Barry-Murphy’s side were knocking the ball around for fun, with Rovers struggling to get near them, but there was a late fightback which narrowed the margin of defeat.
Hepburn-Murphy did well to close down Stephen Dooley, the ball hitting the Rochdale man and flying into his own goal to make it 1-3.
That goal lifted the home players and crowd and, in injury time, Connor Jennings fired home from close range after a scramble in the visitors’ penalty box.
Hepburn-Murphy was shown a straight red card after the goal following a melee as Rovers players tried to get the ball back to the half-way mark for the restart, with a further two players yellow carded, one per team.
Despite the late surge, it was too little, too late as Rovers fell to defeat in their first game back in League One since 2014.