Tranmere tasted away success for the first time in 2017/18, relieving some of the crushing pressure on manager Micky Mellon’s shoulders. The result marks a positive start to what will be a crucial eight days for the club – with two big home games, the long-awaited return of Ben Tollitt, and an injection of new talent to look forward to.
Rovers went into the match in awful form, with the latest disappointment being last weekend’s dramatic defeat at home to Wrexham in the cross border derby. Sitting just above the relegation trapdoor, they faced a long trip down to south east London, where Bromley have firmly established themselves in mid-table.
Mellon confronted a number of problems as he pondered his lineup. Leading goalscorer Andy Cook had picked-up a one match suspension, following his booking versus Wrexham – number five of the young season. A fair few players were nursing knocks, while unusually, centre-back Jay McEveley had ruled himself out of contention because of an aversion to Bromley’s 4G astroturf. The sixteen named by the boss were therefore the only professionals available. These players were shaped into a narrow 4-4-2 diamond, with Connor Jennings sat in the hole behind the Jameses – Alabi and Norwood. Former Roverite Adam Mekki lined up on the wing for the home side.
As so often, Tranmere had much the better of the first half, but couldn’t make it count in front of goal, going in 0-0 at the break for the sixth consecutive occasion. After a dozen minutes, Norwood thought he had a penalty shout when he was brought down in the box, but the referee wasn’t interested. The best chance of the half came just before the interval, when Ollie Norburn played in Jennings, but he was denied by a smart stop from David Gregory.
Bromley scented an opportunity for three points, and came out for the second half looking to grab the game by the scruff of the neck. Five minutes in, forward Louis Dennis did well to skip past a couple of Rovers challenges, and his low shot forced Scott Davies into a save. Then Alabi threatened for Tranmere, firstly using his power to hold off a challenge before hitting the ball wide, then trying an overhead kick, which Gregory was equal to.
On 72 minutes, Tranmere missed a golden opportunity, and it was very much looking like another one of those days. Left-back Tyrone Sterling bungled his attempted clearance, leaving Mitch Duggan with an open goal, but he couldn’t find the target with a header.
Both sides had other half chances, but in the final moments, Norwood scored his second last gasp winner of the month – Rovers registered no other goals throughout September! A deep cross from Liam Ridehalgh was well flicked on by Alabi, who found Norwood near the penalty spot. Running away from goal, and with a defender goal side of him, the forward rapidly skinned his man, before firing across the keeper and into the back of the net with his left foot.
A few times since August, Tranmere have dominated a contest, yet come away with nothing to show for it, falling for a sucker punch counter attack. This time it was quite an even contest, yet they kept battling til the end, and were rewarded with three points. Mellon and his staff will be looking to build on this result in the two eminently winnable home games this week – versus struggling Leyton Orient in front of the BT Sports cameras on Wednesday, and then in what promises to be another blood and thunder derby against Chester on Saturday.
Somewhere in the midst of all that, Ben Tollitt is likely to make an appearance. Following a wonderful and talismanic start to his Tranmere career last term, the gifted young wide man was sidelined back in February, when he sustained a knee injury against Boreham Wood. Though Rovers went on to finish second, with a record points total, it was a devastating blow to their promotion hopes, which ultimately fizzled out at Wembley in a play off final against Forest Green. With the super white army lacking a creative spark this season, many hopes are being pinned on the return.
Meanwhile, Mellon has confirmed that at least one – and possibly as many as four – new signings are likely this week. The news has shocked supporters, because the manager had repeatedly insisted that he has maxed out his budget. However, 20-year-old Barnsley winger Dylan Mottley-Henry is expected to finalise a loan move on Monday, and Mellon announced his plans to continue “shopping in a place called potential” over the coming days.
Tranmere: Davies; Ridehalgh, Sutton, McNulty, Buxton; Norburn, Hughes, Duggan, Jennings; Alabi, Norwood. Subs not used: Pilling, Gumbs, Clarke, Waring, Mangan.
Attendance: 2,506 (324 Tranmere)