REPORTS FROM TRANMERE SITE
Rovers end home run with a win
By Barbara Jones
Tranmere extended their unbeaten run to fourteen games at Prenton Park this evening. But they were made to work for it as Mansfield showed that they had some spirit left in them even if they had just been relegated.
Ray Mathias chose to stick with his tried and tested side, so there were no surprise debuts for the youngsters even though the match meant very little.
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Rovers started the game with a flourish and could have been three goals to the good in the opening five minutes.
First Anderson had a great chance blocked by the keeper after the lads had played head tennis in the area. Then Simon Haworth tested the keeper from a very tight angle only to see the ball finger tipped over the cross bar. Just after Gary Jones headed the ball inches wide of the far post.
An exciting start to the game, which unfortunately did not live up to the early promise.
Rovers took the lead on fifteen minutes thanks to Gary Jones. The ball was played over the top, and Jones was in the area, ready to chest it down and send it past Lee Harper in the Mansfield goal.
Mansfield came into the game more in the second half and there was always the danger that they would score. Certainly Rovers were not looking like they would find the back of the net even though there was plenty of movement of the ball.
The visitors did get back into the game courtesy of a penalty. It was hard to see what it was for, possibly pushing or climbing in the area. Nevertheless even though John Achterberg dived the right way, the ball still slipped beyond his reach and Tranmere Kev will not get his wish of seeing the big Dutchman save a penalty this season!
Mathias decided to shake things up and took off Shane Nicholson in favour of Jason Price. Almost immediately Rovers went close, earning themselves a corner. Simon Haworth had two attempts but couldn't get the killer final touch, and just after Iain Hume chased at goal to send the ball just wide.
Price committed the ultimate sin of failing to find the back of the net with only the keeper to beat and at that point it seemed that perhaps Rovers would have to settle for a point. But with Mansfield putting Achterberg under some pressure, the game was far from over.
Mickey Mellon was brought into midfield at the expense of Tyrone Loran and there was hope that the midfielder would be able to resuscitate the game.
Sure enough Rovers regained the lead on 81 minutes. The ball was pushed wide to Hume who crossed it in. A mêlée of player in front of goal ensured that those of us further away were not quite sure who put the ball in the back of the net, but there it was the announcement that Simon Haworth had reclaimed the goal stolen from him by the antics of a deranged individual in the abandoned match.
Rovers had a few more chances to go further a head, with both Iain's, Hume and Anderson coming close.
Rovers clinched the points into injury time with a goal from Jason Price. Once again the Welshman found himself presented with only the keeper to beat, yet again he sent the ball straight at Harper. This time though, the keeper did not claim the ball and Price took it on before sending it home.
This was hardly a classic match, but respect to Mansfield who made a game of it in the second half. My man of the match goes to the Mansfield supporters. About a hundred of them made the long trip over to cheer on their newly relegated side, and they even stood to applaud the Rovers fans at the end of the match.
The goals were not quite in as plentiful supply as we would have liked at Prenton Park but it was another win all the same to take the run to 14 games unbeaten and our points tally to 77 with three still to play for.
80 points was the target set by Mathias a few weeks ago but back then it appeared that would be enough to see us involved in the end of season play offs, that's no longer the case but it would be quite an achievement all the same.
Ray Mathias named the same side that took to the field when two sides kicked off on Saturday, as he bid to end the season in the style and give the Rovers fans something to shout about.
Despite promotion aspirations going up in smoke at the weekend there was still pride and the small matter of continuing our excellent unbeaten run to play for.
With just a minute on the clock Iain Anderson a great stop out of Pilkington in the Town goal before the former Manchester United keeper tipped an excellent shot by Haworth over the bar.
From the resulting corner Gary Jones almost opened the scoring after breaking from his man but his toe poked shot was well scrambled clear by the Stags number one.
On seven minutes, a great ball by Nicholson sent Roberts clear on the left but his cross was just cleared in time before Haworth was likely to add his tally.
The opening goal finally came on 14 minutes, in front of a huge crowd at Prenton Park. A good ball in from the right was chested down by Jones before he stabbed the ball home for his ninth of the season.
The goal was a long time coming as Rovers dominated against an inexperienced Mansfield side, who were no doubt still feeling the disappointment of relegation.
Keith Curle was forced into an early change with Neil MacKenzie replacing Junior Mendes.
Chances were coming thick and fast for Rovers with Gary Jones, Shane Nicholson and Simon Haworth all going close and Rovers leading scorer was unlucky not to add to his already impressive tally on 37 minutes.
A good through ball by Loran played Roberts through and his first time cross found Haworth, whose shot was blocked by Jake Buxton in front of goal.
A screamer by Iain Anderson forced Pilkington into another good save a minute later, the Scot let fly from 25 yards forcing the Town keeper to tip the shot over for yet another Rovers corner.
Half Time Rovers 1-0 Mansfield.
The visitors almost got themselves back on level terms five minutes after the restart. IanSharps giving away a needless free kick 20 yards out, which Liam Lawrence curled just wide of Achterberg's right hand post.
Mansfield did undeservedly net three minutes later, the Stags awarded a dubious penalty for what the referee deemed a foul on Jake Buxton by Ian Sharps, much to the surprise of everyone.
Liam Lawrence stepped up and converted although John Achterberg did guess right, the ball nestled into the bottom right hand corner sending the travelling Mansfield fans into a chorus of “We're gonna win 6-1” after all we did go in at Field Mill a goal to the good at the interval but surely that couldn't happen again – could it??
Simon Haworth thought he'd got his 21st of the season on the hour mark, heading over just wide after a good ball in from Shane Nicholson, this proved to be his last action at Prenton Park of the season as he was replaced by Jason Price and left the field to a standing ovation.
A great move by Rovers on 69 minutes should have resulted in another goal with Iain Anderson and Jason Price combining well before the latter played the ball across for Simon Haworth to touch home, just as it all appeared to be going to plan the ball was diverted wide by the toe of a desperate Stags defender.
Jason Price beat the offside trap on 75 minutes and with just the keeper to beat his shot was blocked by the body of Pilkington before Achterberg saved well at the other end from Andy White.
Tranmere were throwing everything including the kitchen sink at the opposition but were unable to make the breakthrough as if on cue came the arrival of Mickey Mellon much to the delight of the crowd, he replaced the hard working Tyron Loran in the heart of midfield.
The goal finally came with 10 minutes remaining Simon Haworth netting his 21st of the season, when he headed home a left wing cross from Gareth Roberts.
In the end it wasn't pretty as the ball and keeper were bundled over the line but a goal's a goal and none of the 10, 418 fans were complaining, well except maybe the 100 or so Mansfield fans who'd made the journey.
Jason Price made it 3-1 at the second attempt in injury time, racing on to a through ball by Roberts, only to see his first shot saved but the rebound was kind and he slotted home for his fourth of the season.
Latest | April 2003