As Tranmere started what they hope will be a recovery from their lowest ever position as a professional club, there was an early reminder of just how far down the pyramid they currently lie. Kick-off was delayed for 8 minutes because Scott Davies and the officials were unhappy with a gap in one of the nets. First Jay McEveley tried to fix it from atop the shoulders of Davies, before the groundsman eventually took over, using a stepladder. It was a farcical beginning to what would otherwise turn out to be a very straightforward afternoon’s work for the Birkenheaders.
In his post-match interview, Rovers’ boss Micky Mellon described the West Midlands weather as “red hot chili peppers”. With temperatures in the high twenties, with little or no breeze, it’s easy to see what he meant. The heat further sapped energy from sixteen players across both teams who had started Saturday’s round of games, just forty-eight hours earlier. At Torquay, Solihull had secured their first win of the season, thanks to a fortunate winner from goalkeeper Nathan Vaughan. Meanwhile, Tranmere had belatedly fought their way back to a point against Boreham Wood.
Mellon kept faith with the 3-5-2 system brought in for that fixture, and goalscorers Andy Cook and Andy Mangan were rewarded with starting berths. Rested box-to-box midfielder Jay Harris replaced Connor Jennings.
Tranmere started brightly, with Jeff Hughes dashing into the Solihull box on four minutes, forcing midfielder George Carline (were his parents big fans of his almost namesake US comedian?) to make a goalmouth clearance. Moors had the next effort on goal, with former Birmingham City star Darren Carter firing a free kick near enough straight at Davies.
But Rovers took the lead after twenty minutes, with a stunning counter-attack catching the hosts completely off guard. A huge header from McEveley reached Cook on halfway. He did the hard work of beating defenders, before laying it off superbly for Ollie Norburn, who just had to slot it past Vaughan to get his second of the term.
The whites were comfortable for the rest of the first period. Though they rarely threatened, Tranmere enjoyed a lot of possession in Solihull territory. The Moors’ only weapon seemed to be the long throw of Tom Tonks, but the back line completely neutralised that. Occasionally, the blues took a tip from every other team that Rovers faced in August – and tried to test Scott Davies from long range, but he was rarely called into real action.
Tranmere continued to look on top for the early part of the second half, with Mangan going close twice, only to be denied by the angle of the goal, and then a decent stand up save from Vaughan. As both sides made substitutions, Solihull’s best chance of the afternoon fell to Carter, following a Kalern Thomas cross from the right. Completely free fifteen yards out, he skied it.
Rovers responded by surging forward, creating chance after chance. Harris went wide from distance, before a fresh onto the pitch James Norwood surged past three defenders, and forced Vaughan into a fingertip save down to his right hand side.
The match was put beyond doubt with less than ten minutes to go. Substitute Adam Buxton got up into plenty of space on the right, and crossed it in for Jennings. He appeared to shoot, but a weak effort deflected for Andy Cook, who had an easy chance inside the six yard box.
Jennings went close again in the dying minutes, but 2-0 was a very satisfactory final scoreline, as the team build towards finding their best form. Certainly, Mellon was pleased:
“We came here to get a result – there’s no doubt about that. We came to win…we’ve played much, much better, even this season, and got nothing.
“Of course, what we want to do is play slick, fast, attacking football, but maybe the conditions sometimes you’ve just got to play to them. Get over the line, pick up the points, and get ourselves going again.”
Rovers go again next Saturday, 2nd September, at home to Dover Athletic, when the crowd will have the opportunity to appear on BT Sports’ live coverage!
Tranmere: Davies; Sutton, McNulty, McEveley; Duggan (Buxton 78), Harris, Hughes, Norburn (Jennings 64), Ridehalgh; Cook, Mangan (Norwood 63). Subs not used: Wharton, Waring.
Attendance: 1,312 (573 Tranmere)