Town:Chris Weale,Ryan Woods (Gayle, 46), Tamika Mkandawire (c), Joe Jacobson, Dave Winfield, Adam Reach (Parry, 85), Jon Taylor, Nicky Wroe, Luke Summerfield, Tom Eaves, Gozie Ugwu (Bradshaw, 46)
Subs not used:Joe Anyon, Darren Jones, John Marsden, Dave McAllister
Tranmere Rovers:Owan Fon Williams, Danny Holmes, Evan Horwood, Ash Taylor, James Wallace (c) (Jennings, 72), Ryan Lowe, Andy Robinson (Kirby, 71), Chris Atkinson (Power, 83), Jason Koumas, Liam Ridehalgh, Kristoffer Peterson
Subs not used:James Rowe, Cole Stockton, Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, Jason Mooney
Assistants:Peter Gooch & Andy Hendley
Fourth Official:Michael D’aguilar
Attendance:6,056 (734 from Tranmere)
Martin Wild reports from Greenhous Meadow
Graham Turner decided to name an unchanged starting line-up to the one which banked a useful point in the weekend’s 1-1 draw at Crewe. Paul Parry had recovered from a slight hamstring strain to claim a place amongst the substitutes for the Bank Holiday clash with Tranmere.
There was a really low-key opening to the game but Town would fashion the first clear cut chance after 11 minutes. A long raking ball forward by Adam Reach saw Liam Ridehalgh head away before Tom Eaves could profit. But the ball ran only as far as lurking winger Jon Taylor and when he picked out the intelligent run of Nicky Wroe, the midfielder’s shot was only just too high.
Although the game was devoid of too much goalmouth action, Town were enjoying plenty of possession with their approach far less direct than that of the Wirral side. Dave Winfield rose well to plant a header wide of the Tranmere goal from a Taylor corner midway through the half, but in the main there was little to stir the Boxing Day supporters desperate to witness a breakthrough. Tranmere had barely had a whiff of goal but carried a good degree of potency in the shape of former Shrew Ryan Lowe, who had amassed 13 league goals already this campaign. With more than half an hour played though, the in-form striker had scarcely touched the ball. That said, Chris Weale had to be alert to go bravely at the feet of the Rovers number nine when a wicked delivery in from the right looked to pick out the hitman lurking inside the six-yard box.
Five minutes before the break Lowe fed Chris Atkinson who curled a beauty into the top corner, but the celebrations never got off the ground with the linesman dead in line to hoist a flag as soon as the pass was made. But as the game approached half-time they did have cause to celebrate. Lowe headed deftly down for Andy Robinson and his daisy cutter found the corner of Weale’s net to give the away side a lead at a crucial stage of the game.
Half Time: Town 0 Tranmere Rovers 1
Turner made a double switch during the interval introducing top scorer Tom Bradshaw for the ineffective Gozie Ugwu, and Ryan Woods was brought off with Cameron Gayle slotting in at right back. The substitutions were greeted favourably by the Salop faithful who hadn’t been overly impressed with their side’s first half showing.
But Rovers missed a great chance to double their lead when Atkinson failed to connect properly with his header from a Jason Koumas corner and Town escaped further punishment. With the visitors looking to kill the game off early in the second half, Kristoffer Peterson volleyed weakly at Weale after Winfield had given the ball away cheaply.
Shrewsbury mounted a rare attack and Eaves went across the goalkeeper who got the slightest of touches, but the angle was too sharp for Joe Jacobson to benefit when the ball ran free.
It was a bright start to the half though with Bradshaw and Eaves looking far more of a partnership than the one Turner had banked on plundering some festive goals for his men. Ugwu’s afternoon hadn’t been the best that’s true enough, but he wasn’t the only one who had put in a below par shift and there was plenty of work to do for the ones still left on the field. The endeavour was honest enough but the spark was sadly lacking. It was that lack of a spark that was keeping the home fans quiet by and large although a dipping Taylor volley would have brought the crowd to its feet had it been a yard or two nearer Owan Fon Williams’ left hand post.
Tranmere were looking for a fourth away win and with a goal already in the bank, they packed their defensive third with as many bodies as they could in an effort to frustrate the home team and their fans. It was a ploy that you could sense paying dividends with so few chances being created by a misfiring Town outfit.
Eaves put an inviting ball across the six yard box but again, no-one in a blue shirt had read the situation and Fon Williams continued to play the role of spectator. Tranmere made two changes of their own inside the last 20 minutes, with both Robinson and James Wallace taking forever to walk to the sidelines, and this served only to antagonise the home fans and briefly whip up an atmosphere.
With 11 minutes left Town looked certain to equalise as Bradshaw spun to create a great opening for himself. As the youngster shaped to net the leveller from eight yards out, he was taken down from behind for what looked like, on first viewing, a shoe-in pen. But Town’s wait for a first spot-kick of the campaign would continue as the referee – well positioned it has to be said - waved away the appeals of players and fans alike. There wouldn’t be a better chance.
Parry came on for Adam Reach for the last five plus stoppages (six when the 4thofficial held up his board) with Shrewsbury looking to avert a third successive defeat on home soil. But Tranmere hung on to bag all three points with a splash of dash and a dash of grab. There was little in the way of festive cheer down Oteley Road this afternoon, but plenty of bah-humbug.
Full Time: Town 0 Tranmere Rovers 1