Jennings wonder goal gets Tranmere back on track
The Memorial Stadium
Dale Jennings first senior goal for Tranmere earned them a well deserved win against the in-form Bristol Rovers.
The away side started the game with only six subs as the injury list at Prenton Park continues to grow. Their opponents on the other hand had a fully-fit squad to select from after welcoming back a number of players from a spell on the sidelines.
There was a clear emphasis on defending for the home side as early goals have crippled their chances of getting results. But Bristol are known for netting at home, and Tranmere keeper Peter Gulacsi had to be on his toes from the start- tipping a Jo Kuffour volley over the bar just three minutes in.
The game then failed to really open up in the first-half as Tranmere`s long-ball tactics put the home side out of their comfort zone. As a result of this Bristol were left aimlessly leaping for hits up-field as frustration grew amongst the home support. But the Whites seemed satisfied with their start, as continued to stop the Gas from playing their usual pass and move football.
The rest of the first-half was more of the same before Max Blanchard was handed a glorious chance to get his first goal for Tranmere. Aaron Cresswell, whose crosses were causing problems for centre-half`s Gary Sawyer and Danny Coles, deceived defenders by striking a corner low across the ground, only for the Frenchman to shoot wide from six yards.
Tranmere didn`t let their heads go down after the miss, and continued to pressure the home defence by constantly hitting the targets of Lucas Akins and Enoch Showunmi up-front. Their flick-on`s were playing in Jennings down the left who was always looking to get a shot away from range.
The more the attacks broke down, the more it looked like the game needed a moment of brilliance to steal the show, and it came for the away side on the brink of half-time.
It`s no secret that the inclusion of Jennings in the Whites starting XI has been purely down to injuries to other players. The 17-year-old featured heavily in the pre-season squad purely because of lack of numbers, but his performances have created a buzz around the fans at Prenton Park.
Tranmere were restricted to long-range efforts as the home sides defence stood their ground, but they were getting closer with their attempts and one finally gave them their goal. Lucas Akins started the move by running at the Bristol defence, before cueing up Blanchard to cross, who's attempt reached Jennings on the edge of the box. The youngster then took a touch and turned towards goal before belting the ball into the top right-hand corner to send the travelling fans wild.
Half-time saw Jermaine Grandison taken off- adding yet another injury to Parry`s list- for former Sheffield Wednesday defender Nick Wood. Ian Goodison was also looked at in the break, but played out the rest of the game.
Despite Tranmere`s last two away games being all but over after disastrous first half`s the Whites have never had a problem with being the better side after the break. Captain John Welsh was having a great defensive game with midfield partners Joss Labadie and Arnaud Mendy. Both Labadie and Welsh were blamed for giving away free-kicks after last Saturdays match at Colchester, but played a crucial part in breaking down attacks as the home side tried to grind out a win.
Halfway through the second period the hostility from the home crowd at the Memorial Stadium was becoming noticeable as Tranmere prevented any chances of attacking. But there was of course still room to shoot deep into the Bristol half as the midfield pushed forward for an equaliser.
Cresswell had his free-kick punched out by Mikkel Anderson on 52 minutes before Jennings came close after running through the defence on his way to finding the side netting with his drive. Labadie then tried to lob keeper Anderson from the halfway-line, but his effort was well off target.
There was now anger amongst the home supporters that saw their side with their last games. However, the jeers from the fans seemed to spur on the Gas as they began to push forward and pepper Gulasci`s goal. Tim Cathalina came on to make his debut at right-back inplace of Akins as the Whites stuck 11 men behind the ball, and made three clearances in his 10 minutes on the field.
Many held their breath when a corner started a goal scramble involving Anderson at the other end, but Tranmere cleared their lines and won the ball back to waste time by taking the ball into the corner.
Zoumana Bakayogo came on for man of the moment Jennings in stoppage time, and the Whites were relieved to hear the whistle three minutes later to lift them out of the drop zone.
Tranmere: Gulacsi, Blanchard, Grandison (Wood 46), Goodison, Cresswell, Labadie, Welsh, Mendy, Akins (Cathalina 83), Showunmi, Jennings (Bakayogo 90+2). Substitutes not used: Collister, Fraughan, McLaren