Tranmere edge out Bury to book place in semi's
Tranmere booked their place in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy Northern Section semi-finals with a hard-fought victory over League Two side Bury at Gigg Lane.
Manager Les Parry made four changes to the side that was beaten 5-3 at Bournemouth, with Ian Goodison being rested completely whilst Joe Collister, Dale Jennings and Max Blanchard dropped to the bench as they were replaced by Jermaine Grandison, Peter Gulasci, Lucas Akins and Zoumana Bakayogo as Tranmere started with a 4-4-2 formation.
The home side had every right to feel confident heading into the game on the back of a 2-0 win against another League One side, Exeter City, in the FA Cup last Saturday but backed by over 500 travelling fans, the away side started the brighter with the early pressure paying off as Bury's goalkeeper flapped at an Enoch Showunmi cross before the ball fell to veteran striker Ian Thomas-Moore, who controlled the ball before volleying it into the net past two defenders on the goal-line to become Tranmere's top scorer with his seventh goal of the campaign.
In a half of few chances, it was very much defences on top in the first 45 minutes as both sides struggled to test the opposition goalkeeper though Joss Labadie's goalbound effort was brilliantly saved by the young Branagan in the Shakers' goal whilst Peter Gulasci turned Nicky Ajose's shot round the post in the early stages.
As with the first half, Tranmere dominated the opening of the second half, containing their opponents well before creating chances with Thomas-Moore coming closest in hitting the bar though he was adjudged to have been offside after being put through by strike partner Showunmi as the pair continued to combine to good effect for Rovers.
However, the home side grew into the game and started testing Gulasci as he saved well from Lenell John-Lewis' header before Showunmi brought a good save from Branagan following a mazy solo run that began in his own half. The Nigerian was replaced by Sam Morrow with 7 minutes remaining and appeared to be carrying an injury which will worry both the manager and the fans.
Full-backs Tim Cathalina and Zoumana Bakayogo had to cope with livewire's Ajose and Haworth down either wing as the hosts pressed for an equaliser but it was to no avail for the tricky wingers as the Tranmere rearguard, Marlon Broomes in particular, held firm for a clean sheet to put the Whites within 3 games of Wembley with a tie against Huddersfield, Carlisle, Sheffield Wednesday or Hartlepool lying in wait.
Bury: Branagan, Picken, Skarz, Lees, Futcher, Sweeney, Schumacher, Haworth, John-Lewis (Carlton 80), Bennett, Ajose. Substitutes not used: Fon Williams, Jones, Rothwell, Harrop.
Tranmere: Gulacsi, Cathalina, Broomes, Grandison, Bakayogo, Akins, Welsh, Labadie, Cresswell, Thomas-Moore, Showunmi (Morrow 84). Substitutes not used: Collister, Blanchard, Mendy, Jennings.
Referee: Darren Drysdale