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Match Report


Posted Tue 14 Mar 17 at 21:37 PM


NO goals but still a super game to watch, particularly in the second-half, and United showed more than enough commitment and quality to seriously worry promotion-chasing Tranmere.

Sandwiched between two semi-final encounters in the FA Trophy, full credit to the visitors for their energy and it Rovers who edged the first period, but the Gulls displayed an encouraging level of defensive resilience.

After the break, United were the side in the ascendancy and came mighty close to grabbing what would have been a massive three points in the fight for survival.

United boss Kevin Nicholson kept faith to the same squad that snatched a dramatic last-minute victory at Southport on the weekend, with the late hero on that day, Ruairi Keating, kept as an intriguing option from the bench.

Tranmere manager Micky Mellon made four changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Macclesfield in their semi-final first leg of the FA Trophy on Saturday, with Lee Vaughan, Connor Jennings, Andy Mangan and Cole Stockton all coming into the side.

A quiet start to the evening suddenly rose in volume with successive crunching tackles from the Tranmere midfield, which briefly galvanised the United natives and the players responded with a patient move down the right flank.

Jared Hodgkiss exchanged passes with Luke Young before feeding the ball inside for Shaun Harrad, who swivelled expertly on the edge of the box and lashed a terrific drive toward the far corner that brought the best from visiting custodian Scott Davies.

Tranmere responded with a slick move down the right and Aman Verma had to snuff out the problem with a well-positioned clearance at the near post. The next attack saw Jennings fire a skidding drive goalward from 20 yards but Brendan Moore safely gobbled up the effort.

Gradually, the visitors were turning the screw and United had to rely on a terrific headed clearance from Myles Anderson to repel a dangerous set-piece at the far post. Moments later, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner executed a superb diving tackle to block a low drive from Mangan.

An interesting sub-plot emerging was an almighty tussle between Anderson and Stockton in the Tranmere attack, with the surprising leniency from referee Steve Rushton allowing the battle to bubble along nicely.

Verma took time-out from the wrestling with some lovely chest control 30 yards from goal and an instant volley that prompted a quick shuffle of feet from Davies before easily collecting the shot. A swinging free-kick from Young then picked out the head of Anderson, who nodded narrowly over at the near post.

The game was trundling to half-time when an innocuous free-kick from the right by Rovers prompted a wayward punch from Moore. The looping ball was helped forward by Stockton but Sean McGinty jabbed a goal-line clearance back into the night sky for Moore to gratefully snaffle under his own bar.

It proved the final act of a fairly even first period and, while Rovers probably shaded the possession stats, it remained a game very much in the balance. The opening goal looked increasingly important.

The decisive breakthrough very nearly arrived within seconds of the restart, as Stockton turned cleverly on the edge of the area and fizzed a fierce drive straight at Moore, when a fraction either side would have surely seen the net bulge.

The challenge for United was overcoming a slick triumvirate in the Rovers midfield, with Jeff Hughes particularly expansive in his range of passing but credit to the Gulls for their overall organisation against a strong side.

United commitment to the cause was typified by a fearless block from Damon Lathrope just before the hour, throwing his body in front of ferocious drive from Jennings. At the other end, Nicholson decided the time was right for a change, with Keating and Jamie Reid replacing Harrad and Brett Williams.

A brand new attack for the Yellows suddenly presented Tranmere with a different problem and terrific industry from Keating earned him space for a cross from the right. The ball was half-cleared to Lathrope, who executed a tremendous left-volley that clipped the bar on its way into a Family Stand brimming with hope, and some genuine belief.

Ruairi Keating Vs Tranmere Rovers 14-03-17 H

Momentum was now in United’s favour, forcing Mellon to also turn to his bench, removing Mangan for James Norwood. The move failed to stem the growing tide, as Reid turned sharply before steering a low shot inches past the far post.

Tranmere were struggling to contain the tempo of their hosts, with Reid in particular showing some delightful touches. Andy Cook came on for Stockton to further freshen the away attack but both sides had to take an unwanted break when Anderson sustained a nasty blow to the face.

It was enough to bring the powerful defender’s evening to an end, as he was withdrawn for Giancarlo Gallifuoco in a straight replacement. Referee Rushton then incurred the wrath of Plainmoor with a dismal decision, awarding Tranmere a free-kick and booking Verma for what appeared a fine slide challenge.

Tempers were now beginning to boil and with just 10 minutes remaining, a very tasty ending was in prospect. Rovers tested United’s backline with successive set-pieces from promising positions but home resilience remained intact.

Pressure was now very much being applied by the visitors and the tension inside TQ1 was palpable. Both sides were playing with the urgency befitting their contrasting situations, which all made for a fascinating spectacle.

Five added minutes and a last chance to salvage something special. The boundless enthusiasm of Young forced another foul in a decent position for United but Verma rifled his effort wide of the top corner.

The excitement continued to the final whistle, which was greeted by a rousing rendition of ‘Yellow Army, Yellow Army’ from the Popside. A point gained and a performance to get the juices flowing.

United (4-3-1-2): 1 Brendan Moore; 20 Jared Hodgkiss, 17 Myles Anderson (5 Giancarlo Gallifuoco 80), 15 Sean McGinty, 3 Lathaniel Rowe-Turner; 8 Luke Young, 4 Damon Lathrope, 12 Aman Verma (capt); 11 Dan Sparkes; 9 Shaun Harrad (18 Jamie Reid 61), 14 Brett Williams (19 Ruairi Keating 61) Substitutes (not used): 7 Sam Chaney, 31 Jordan Lee.

Booked: Verma 81, Reid 84

Tranmere (5-3-2): 1 Scott Davies; 2 Lee Vaughan, 12 Ritchie Sutton, 5 Steve McNulty (capt), 6 Michael Ihiekwe, 3 Liam Ridehalgh; 8 Jay Harris, 11 Connor Jennings, 24 Jeff Hughes; 19 Andy Mangan (10 James Norwood 66), 23 Cole Stockton (9 Andy Cook 74). Substitutes (not used): 7 Adam Mekki, 13 Iain Turner (GK), 22 Adam Burton.

Booked: Hughes 64, Sutton 80

Referee: Steve Rushton

Attendance: 1,418 (105 away).

Luke Young Vs Tranmere 14-03-17 T

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