Goals from Barnett, McAlinden, Collins and Akpa Akpro give Town the winTown: Jayson Leutwiler, Matt Tootle, Matt Sadler, Ryan Woods, Jermaine Grandison, Connor Goldson, Junior Brown (Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, 72), Liam Lawrence (c) (Abu Ogogo, 63), Liam McAlinden (James Collins, 64), Tyrone Barnett, Martin Woods
Subs not used: Shaun Rowley (GK), Mark Ellis, Jordan Clark, Scott Vernon, Shaun Whalley, Sam Patterson, Darren McKnight
Tranmere Rovers: Scott Davies, Liam Hogan, Liam Ridehalgh, Steven Jennings (c), Ritchie Sutton (Marcus Holness, 84), Martin Riley Lois Maynard, 62), Trialist (Jonny Margetts, 80), Jay Harris, Cole Stockton (James Norwood, 46), Andy Mangan, Trialist (Matt Hill, 46)
Subs not used: Luke Pilling, Jake Kirby
Referee: Kevin Wright
Assistants: Mark Duncan and Darren Strain
Fourth Official: Anthony Moore
Tranmere Rovers 1 Shrewsbury Town 4 by Martin Wild
Shrewsbury wrapped up their pre-season campaign with a 4-1 win at National League Tranmere this afternoon. But they were given a stern test by the side that finished bottom of League Two last season. It was a day in which the striker’s all found their scoring boots with Tyrone Barnett, Liam McAlinden, James Collins and Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro all finding the net for Town. Micky Mellon put out a strong starting XI at Prenton Park - which may hold some clues as to what he might go with when the competitive stuff gets under way against Millwall on Saturday.
The game was barely five minutes old when Junior Brown curled one just wide with Ryan Woods doing well to gain possession in Tranmere’s half of the pitch. And that seemed to set the pattern for much of the first half hour or so with the home side only really threatening from set-plays.
Tranmere survived on quarter of an hour when a dangerous ball in from the left by Martin Woods was brilliantly defended by Rovers’ Martin Riley on the six yard line, with keeper Scott Davies unsure as to whether to come for it or not. But five minutes later, Town went in front. McAlinden sent over a delicate cross and Barnett’s downward header carried just enough pace to beat Davies.
Midway through the half McAlinden again demonstrated more trickery down the left and another precision cross was headed over the top by Brown as Town continued to boss proceedings on the Wirral. A minute later though and Rovers might have levelled when ex-Town striker Andy Mangan let fly with a left foot shot from just outside the box, but Jayson Leutwiler’s sizeable frame sprung across goal to beat the ball away for a corner. And when the ball went dead from a wasted header, Shrews went straight up the other end and doubled their lead. McAlinden showed excellent control on the edge of the ‘D’ to create an opening for himself, and his daisy cutter beat Davies, who, for a second time, might have been disappointed at his attempts to save.
Tranmere to their credit continued to plug away, and it took a smart tackle from Connor Goldson to repel the advances of skipper Steven Jennings just as he looked set to pull the trigger with no other Shrews defender in sight. And with free-kicks testing the resolve of Town’s back four, it took a stupendous stop from Leutwiler to keep out Cole Stockton’s bullet header which looked certain to pierce the net late in the first half. The big Swiss keeper flew to his left to get a strong hand on the ball to leave much of the crowd rubbing their eyes in disbelief. Liam Hogan then headed another chance – from another training ground routine – onto the top of the net as Rovers ended the half well. They were to start the second half just where they left off.
Three minutes into it, a shot-cum-cross from Tranmere’s number 7 – on the teamsheet as one of two trialist’s – caught out the otherwise impeccable Leutwiler, and saw his effort drift in at the far post to halve the deficit.
Just past the hour, and with Tranmere still looking to haul themselves level, the goalscorer almost guaranteed himself a deal with a really good effort that saw Leutwiler at full stretch. The keeper was beaten all ends up but the ball drifted just wide.
Mellon threw on Abu Ogogo and Collins in the last half an hour to replace skipper Liam Lawrence, and the scorer of Salop’s second goal, McAlinden. The Scot has an abundance of riches at his disposal with cover in every single department and competition for places is sure to be intense right from the outset. Akpa Akpro was the last of the Town substitutes getting 20 minutes in place of Brown, and the striker was afforded a nice reception on his return to Birkenhead having once donned the all white strip of the home team. He would very quickly make his mark on the game.
With 16 minutes left Town grabbed a third through Collins who found the net after Davies had come out on top in a one-on-one with Davies. The ball fell kindly for the Irishman lurking outside the box and with Davies unable to get back, Collins’ lofted right foot shot beat a retreating defender. Soon after, they made it four and it was that man Akpa Akpro with virtually his first touch. The Frenchman guided his header into the corner beyond Davies’ despairing dive when Barnett picked him out with an inviting cross.
This was an excellent work out for Micky’s boys with the added quality within his squad needed to see off a plucky Tranmere performance. They started and finished the game the stronger of the two sides and will go into next week’s opener full of confidence.