Tranmere climbed out of the bottom three on Sunday afternoon as they recorded a fine 1-0 win away to Coventry City in League One.
An away win is always enjoyable, but this was a particularly sweet one. Listening to the radio driving in to Birmingham, and Talksport 2 could only see a home win, with one presenter suggesting it should be a formality. Sky were probably doing likewise.
However, Micky Mellon’s Tranmere are a team with no shortage of spirit. Already this season, so many games have been turned in to positive outcomes late on. We went in to this match with a crazy list of injuries which would cripple just about any side, but there was no white flag being raised at any point.
Instead, Micky worked with what he had, and no doubt made them aware what was expected. Opposition boss Mark Robins was almost complimentary of Tranmere’s time wasting and other tactics used to slow the game down. Rovers were at St Andrews to make life difficult for Coventry and to scrap for something, anything, to return to the Wirral with.
The hosts dominated throughout, and while they definitely had three of four great opportunities, they were incredibly wasteful in the final third. The longer the game went on, the slower their tempo became, something which played in to our hands.
As they pushed their backline higher, you could see what Micky had gambled on. The potential for counter-attacks.
Morris, Hepburn-Murphy and Blackett-Taylor were the furthest forward as Payne – who was outstanding – dropped back to muck-in with the defensive side of things. Those three had the pace to really worry Coventry should they have an opportunity to do so.
As we entered the final stages, Tranmere’s sole attempt on target came. Robins claims his right-back Dabo was fouled earlier in the move, but having already ‘won’ several soft free-kicks in the preceding 10 minutes, perhaps the ref had wised-up to his antics.
Payne won a header on halfway, Morris flicked it on, and Blackett-Taylor latched on to it, steadied himself, and produced a sublime finish.
How many times have we seen teams do this to us down the years? Too many. How sweet it was that it was our turn.
The scale of this victory should not be under-estimated. It lifted Rovers away from the bottom three after they had slipped in on Saturday. They’re now above Bolton, Southend, AFC Wimbledon, Accrington and MK Dons.
It also allows us to look toward Friday night’s home match against Southend and see a real opportunity to put a bit of space between ourselves and the bottom three ahead of Saturday’s matches. Of course, football is never that simple and Rovers will have to grind it out again.
Bizarrely, victory on Friday would mean we’re as close (on points) to the play-offs as we are to the relegation zone when the Saturday 3pm games get underway.
With players on their way back from injury and suspension, a positive result on Friday could really give Tranmere a huge platform on which to build going in to the long winter.