Rovers throw away lead to draw with Walsall
Tranmere were made to pay for not closing the game out after leading 3-1 going into the final 10 minutes.
overs boss Les Parry made three changes to the side that started against Carlisle on Monday, with keeper Tony Warner and right-back Michael Kay deputising for Joe Collister and the injured Tim Cathalina to make their debuts. Scott Wootton was also missing after his loan from Manchester United ended, with Ash Taylor coming in at centre-back, whilst new singing Mark McChrystal made the bench.
Both sides took a while to get settled with the emphasis looking to be on not conceding rather than going ahead. Still, early showings of Dale Jennings on the ball got the crowd at Prenton Park anticipating something special as the winger always looked to be getting forward. A shot from outside of the box courtesy of the starlet went wide on seven minutes.
Tony Warner leapt to comfortably claim a cross from the left, but the veteran could have easily given away a goal on 19 minutes with a tame left-footed pass. Fortunately for the Whites, Aaron Cresswell raced towards the stray ball clear the danger temporarily. Alex Nicholls received the ball from the clearance but couldn`t make anything of the chance to run at the left-back, with Darryl Westlake firing well wide with the eventual shooting opportunity.
Cresswell was at the centre of the action further up the field on 23 minutes with a well struck free-kick that deflected wide, and was at it again just three minutes later- playing in Jennings who avoided a tackle on his way to shooting wide from just outside the area.
Following the positive signs up-front Rovers then began to push for an opener. Lateef Elford-Alliyu worked hard on the right-hand side to carve a chance for Joss Labadie to shoot, only for the midfielder to slam the ball into the stands.
But as has been trademark at the home of the Whites, yet another first-half goal was to be netted by the visiting side against the run of play. Rovers failed to clear a corner properly with the ball falling to Matthew Richards outside of the area who slotted through the crowd of players and into the net on 32 minutes.
There was an air of frustration around Prenton Park as the Whites had started to stamp their authority on proceedings before the visitors took the lead, but the disappointment didn`t last long. Five minutes later Elford-Alliyu found himself with space out wide to float in a cross that took a touch off villain turned hero Richards on its way past David Bevan in goal on 41 minutes.
And soon enough the frustration as turned into jubilation as Cresswell was given another chance to score with a free-kick just outside the area. Joss Labadie was adjudged to be fouled which presented the 20-year old with a chance to erase Monday`s penalty miss from memory, and that he did- the ball curling into the top right corner with Bevan off his line to give the home side the lead into half-time.
Rovers came out of the tunnel as they went down it 15 minutes earlier, and should have increased their lead minutes after the restart. Enoch Showunmi, who had been quiet in the first-half by his standards, was put through when referee Michael Naylor played advantage for a foul on Labadie. But the target man hesitated and ended up chipping wide from outside of the box.
Warner did well to smother a Jamie Paterson cross on 49 minutes, with another ball into the box, delivered by Saddler`s forward Nicholls, needing a header from Taylor to clear the danger.
Saddlers striker John Macken, who had seemingly lacked service all game, headed narrowly wide of the left hand post on 54 minutes with the visitors first sniff of the second period, but a hammer blow was just around the corner for the visitors.
West Brom loanee Elford-Alliyu was rewarded with another start for the Whites following the extension of his loan from the Premier League side, and he duly delivered with his first goal for the club on 56 minutes. Good work from the winger led to the ball coming out wide to Jennings who lashed a ball into the box which was side footed in from 18 yards.
Walsall pushed for a way back into the game after the goal with Paterson producing a shot which was caught by Warner, only for Rovers to pile on the pressure at the other end moments later. Showunmi battled with defenders to earn his side a corner where the target man backheeled a ball into the box which forced Bevan to react quickly to deny a fourth going in on 64 minutes.
Rovers pushed back following Showunmi`s chance as they prepared themselves to shut out their lead. A fairly uneventful 10 minute period saw McChrystal make his first appearance for the club- replacing Ian Goodison at the back, whilst Lucas Akins was brought on for Ian Thomas-Moore on 82 minutes.
Akins had a chance to make an immediate impression following his introduction with an angled strike that Bevan did well to keep out. But, despite the Saddlers producing little all second-half, Macken took responsibility for his disappearance up front by latching onto a pass by Richards and finding the bottom right corner on 85 minutes
Adam McGurk came on for a tired looking Jennings straight after the goal and was forced into pushing back straight after coming on as Rovers endured a nervy end to a game that should have been over.
A mishap in communication between Taylor and Warner gifted Will Grigg with a chance to shoot which was well saved by the veteran keeper, but the wasted chance didn`t spell the end for the visitors. What seemed like thousands of balls were allowed to be pumped into the area as the Whites sat deep, and soon enough they were made to pay for their negative tactics. A flick from Macken into the box drifted into the path of Walsall captain Andy Butler who headed in from close range to earn his side a point in the third minute of added time.
Tranmere: Warner, Kay, Taylor, Goodison (McChrystal 77), Cresswell, Elford-Alliyu, Welsh, Labadie, Jennings (McGurk 85), Showunmi, Thomas-Moore (Akins 82). Substitutes not used: Collister, Wood, Bakayogo, Fraughan.
Walsall: Bevan, Westlake, Lescott, Butler, Smith, Paterson (Gray 75), Nicholls, Richards, Marshall, Macken, Jones (Grigg 60). Substitutes not used: McDonald, Geddes, McGivern, Brain, Lancashire.
Referee: Michael Naylor
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