MATCH REPORT: Tranmere 3 Fleetwood 1
Micky Mellon and few other familiar faces brought a far from full-strength Fleetwood side back down to earth at Prenton Park.
Ex-Town boss Mellon saw his National League side stroll to a deserved 3-1 win over Uwe Rosler’s League One side.
Fleetwood boss Rosler made 11 changes to the side that beat Championship side Bolton 2-0 at the weekend with a number of key players like Cian Bolger, Kyle Dempsey, skipper Nathan Pond and new hot-shot Conor McAleny given the night off as the German gave some of his squad players the opportunity to stake their claim against Rovers.
With the usual defensive core given a chance to rest ahead of Friday’s clash with Championship side PNE two trialists partnered Harvey Rodgers as they aimed to impress and join the former Hull City man in sealing a summer switch to the Fylde coast.
While there were two unfamiliar faces in Town’s team the travelling Cod Army were treated to a few blasts from the past in both the opposition dug out and on the pitch with ex-boss Micky Mellon utilising a host of old players in his starting XI like keeper Scott Davies, skipper Stephen McNulty and midfielder Jeff Hughes while ex-Town hot-shot Andy Mangan.
But it was a quiet start for Davies and McNulty with the physical Rovers side making a bright start and taking the lead just eight minutes in.
Tranmere outmuscled Town midfielder Markus Schwabl in the middle of the park and as he appealed for a foul the hosts drove forward and released James Norwood who drilled the ball past Chris Neal and into the bottom left corner.
Mellon’s men should have doubled their lead moments later when they pounced on a lapse at the back.
Rodgers underhit the ball back to Neal and with James Alibi hot on their heels the keeper’s subsequent clearance cannoned back off the forward and just dropped over the bar.
While Tranmere had the early clear cut chances but with Ash Hunter, captain for the night Devante Cole and Wes Burns leading the line for Town they still posed a threat to Davies with Burns impressing on the right of the front three.
It was on that flank that Fleetwood’s best attacks of the half were formed with Burns instrumental but his centre was nodded over by Joe Maguire and then he could not cap a fine solo run with the finish it deserved as he blasted the ball straight at Davies.
Town wobbled just before the break but Tranmere could not get a second though it was a sign of what was to come as they went for the jugular at the start of the second half.
Just seconds after a fine Neal save and quick-fire follow-up from Town’s defence kept Norwood out twice after he had beaten the offside trap to sprint clear the forward struck again.
Town’s trialist managed to divert his second attempt round the post but the subsequent set-piece was not cleared by Burns at the near post and Norwood was on hand to divert the ball in from close range.
That was to be Norwood’s last action as Mellon made several changes to send on former Town man Mangan.
Town pulled a goal back in the 70th minute as Jack Sowerby whirled home a delightful 25-yard set-piece but that joy was short lived as Adam Buxton curled the ball home up the other end just two minutes later.
Andy Cook nearly made it four in the dying stages and Schwabl’s low effort from distance was just tipped round the post by Davies but the game finished 3-1 as Town suffered their first defeat on home soil this pre-season.
There were lessons to take away from players given a chance to get more minutes under their belts but it will certainly be a much changed outfit come August 5 when Town meet Rotherham in League One.
Tranmere: Davies, Buxton, McNulty (Mangan, 60), Sutton (Hughes, 85), Dunn (Jennings, 60), Norwood (Cook, 60), Norburn, Alabi (Gumbs, 20), Ridehalgh (Clarke, 71), Hughes (Solomon-Davies, 78), Duggan (Dawson, 78). Subs not used: Pilling.
Fleetwood: Neal, Trialist, Trialist (Biggins, 75), Rodgers, Nirennold (Godswill, 60), Sowerby, Schwabl, Maguire, Hunter (Donohue, 46), Burns (Nadesan, 75), Cole. Subs not used: Crellin, Sheron, Reid.
Attendance: 1229 (63 away)
Referee: Scott Oldham