Town: Jayson Leutwiler, Mickey Demetriou (Cameron Gayle, 80), Liam Lawrence (c) (Bobby Grant, 13), Jordan Clark (Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, 65), Connor Goldson, Jermaine Grandison, James Collins, Ryan Woods, Mark Ellis, Scott Vernon, Tyrone Barnett
Subs not used: Mark Halstead, Mikael Mandron, Ashley Vincent, Keith Southern
Tranmere Rovers: Owain Fon Williams, Danny Holmes, Max Power, Kayode Odejayi, Marc Laird, Rob Taylor, Adam Dugdale, Steve Jennings (c), Rory Donnelly, Jennison Myrie-Williams (Harrison McGahey, 87), Josh Thompson
Subs not used: Peter Brezovan, Liam Ridehalgh, Jason Koumas, Jake Kirby, Lee Molyneux, Ian Hume
Referee: M. Brown
Assistants: D. Richardson & Ken Haycock
Fourth Official: B. Roberts
Attendance: 5,987 (1,353 from Shrewsbury)
Martin Wild reports from Prenton Park
Kamikaze defending in three mad minutes at Prenton Park cost Town dearly this afternoon. Goals from Rory Donnelly and Danny Holmes gave relegation threatened Tranmere a two goal lead, before Connor Goldson bundled a corner home late on to give Town some hope. But Rovers held out and Shrewsbury’s misery was compounded by a nasty looking injury to Mickey Demetriou.
The only change for Town came on the bench with Keith Southern getting the nod over Connor Randall, having served out his three match ban for the straight red received in the latter stages of the game at Newport three weeks ago.
Tranmere kicked off attacking the huge Spion Kop end of Prenton Park with the Town fans at the opposite end gathered in big numbers and providing excellent vocal backing. And they almost saw an early breakthrough with Tyrone Barnett and James Collins wreaking havoc in the Rovers box, only for smart defending and alertness from goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams clearing the danger.
But there was an injury blow for Salop when skipper Liam Lawrence failed to recover from an early knock, when he was the sandwich between two Tranmere players in centre mid. The Republic of Ireland international was plainly in trouble as he hobbled round to the dugouts with Bobby Grant sent on as his replacement with less than 15 minutes played. Goldson took over the captain’s armband.
Three minutes after the switch Shrews came within inches of breaking the deadlock. Collins sent over a wicked cross which needed the slightest connection from Barnett to convert at the back post. But the recent acquisition from Peterborough was a studs length away from meeting the ball and Rovers breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Then some typical trickery from fans favourite Jermaine Grandison brought the away contingent to its feet although the shot on goal was a tame one.
Just before the half hour, Town conceded an awful goal. Jayson Leutwiler rolled the ball out to Goldson who passed short to Ryan Woods. Woods played the ball on to Barnett but the pass wasn’t weighted enough and was intercepted. Within two passes there was Donnelly to beat Leuwiler at his near post.
Three minutes later it got worse as Demetriou dallied and was caught in possession by Holmes just outside the box. Exposed, Leutwiler was beaten by the power of Holmes’ shot which appeared to go straight through the keeper. Sure, it carried power, but the big Swiss - who had been in such brilliant form for Town - would have been disappointed. Shrewsbury were two adrift in three minutes of madness having strolled through the opening stages with zero threat posed by the struggling home side.
Town were all over the place and Leutwiler was beaten for a third time after 38 minutes, when Jennison Myrie-Williams deserved a whole lot better than to see his brilliant cross shot strike the inside of the upright and roll out by the opposite post. It was a massive let off for Mellon’s men.
The home fans were loving it and Town’s sizeable support were doing their best to rally their side who looked punch drunk by what had occurred in the previous 10 minutes. It was the team threatened by relegation that were playing like promotion hopefuls all of a sudden.
Before the break Grant was denied by Fon Williams and as the ball ran free it looked certain that Collins would halve the deficit. But the Welsh keeper threw his body in the way of the strike and it squirmed agonisingly wide. A goal then might have altered Mellon’s half-time team talk.
Kayode Odejayi fired at Leutwiler in the closing stages and Tranmere received a standing ovation from their supporters as the teams went down the tunnel. In stark contrast, Town had it all to do.
Half Time: Tranmere Rovers 2 Town 0
Grant fired a half chance into the midriff of Fon Williams at the resumption with Town still looking decidedly shaky as a defensive unit. To say it had been out of character would be the mildest of understatements with Odejayi leading the line exceptionally well for the Prenton Park side.
Collins got behind the defence as Town looked for a quickfire response, but he ran out of room to be able to lift the ball over Fon Williams, who deflected the Irishman’s deft lob onto the roof of the net.
Perhaps the loss of the influential Lawrence was having more of an affect than might have been imagined, but as the rains tumbled across Prenton, Salop still lacked the cohesion needed to get themselves back into the contest. In fairness, as the rain turned to hail, it was still the side in blue carrying the most threat but then it wasn’t Tranmere who needed the goals. They held the upper hand with a decent cushion and looked reasonably comfortable.
They might have been out of sight too had Leutwiler not produced a stunning save to deny Max Power from a 25 yard free-kick. Former Rovers hitman Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro became Mellon’s second change with the ineffective Clark the man to make way with 25 minutes left.
The away support bellowed at the man in the middle when Demetriou was pole-axed in the centre circle without punishment, and quite what the linesman was watching on the far side was anyone’s guess. Demetriou was left requiring treatment with several medical staff attending to the stricken defender and a stretcher finally taking the summer signing off for further attention. Sometimes, you are left scratching your head as to how match officials fail to react to the most basic of decisions. The incident had failed to bring even a whistle and there was poor Demetriou flat out with an oxygen mask applied to aid his breathing, and heading for Arrowe Park Hospital down the M53. The injury list was certainly lengthening for Mellon with Demetriou joining Andy Mangan, James Wesolowski, NKP and possibly Lawrence in the casualty rooms back at GM. The clock said 80 minutes but gave a false reading as the delay had been a lengthy one.
Within minutes of Cam Gayle coming on Town pulled a goal back. Grant’s corner kick went through everyone with Goldson nudging the ball home from a few yards out to bring the away end back to life. Suddenly, it didn’t seem so one sided anymore. Akpa Akpro headed a foot wide and Grant shot weakly at Fon Williams with Shrews pressing hard.
When the fourth official’s board was held up - for the incident the referee and linesman had missed – it indicated 11 minutes. A huge roar went up away to our left with Town back in the game and searching for a leveller.
Barnett smashed a volley well over but ought to have done much better, and then Fon Williams turned another Grant corner against the face of his bar. It was all Town but the hosts were defending well and it took a good stop from Fon Williams to drop on Grant’s deflected daisy cutter.
Grandison’s suicidal cross-field pass might have brought further punishment but Mark Ellis halted the flow of Donnelly to use up some precious time for Rovers. Town barely touched the ball after that. Tranmere kept hold for a spell, finally seeing the game out to the delight of their supporters.
Full Time: Tranmere Rovers 2 Town 1