Stoppage time equaliser denies Rovers win
Lateef Elford-Allyu`s goal inside the first five minutes was cruelly cancelled out by Gary Jones` stoppage time equaliser as Rovers threw away yet another win from a commanding position.
There was one change to the side that lined up against Swindon last Tuesday, with Ian Goodison seemingly shaking off an injury to win his place back in the team ahead of Nick Wood. New signing Andy Robinson made the bench wearing the number nine jersey.
The first significant event of the match came four minutes in when Tranmere took an early lead. After Rovers received a corner thanks to Craig Dawson`s misplaced header, the initial attempt at a cross failed with the ball coming out to John Welsh. The Whites captain swung a ball back in towards Goodison with the veteran laying it off to Elford-Alliyu who struck a fine shot into the net from outside of the box.
The next 10 minutes saw end-to-end action from both sides as Tranmere were looking to get Dale Jennings on the ball as much as possible. Jones- scorer of two goals against Rovers at Spotland earlier this season- looked to be the away side`s danger man when they went forward, with the midfielder starting most of the moves that troubled the Rovers defence.
Buoyed by his early goal, Elford-Alliyu looked lively on the right-wing and was always looking to run at 'Dale left-back Josh Thompson. The West Brom loanee struck another shot from outside the box just wide on 18 minutes.
Tranmere had more chances to extend their lead in the first-half with crosses from Joss Labadie and Elford-Alliyu just missing the White shirts in the box. Ash Taylor found himself in space 25 yards away from goal, only to fire an attempt wide on 23 minutes.
The home side were almost made to pay for their wastefulness in front of goal when an unmarked Thompson headed over the bar from a corner on 25 minutes. Chris O`Grady also had a great chance to level the scores 10 minutes later when Scott Wiseman curled a cross into the six-yard box, only for the striker to get under the ball and also head his attempt over.
Enoch Showunmi barged his way through a couple of challenges and shake off what appeared to be a shirt pull outside of the box on his way to seeing his shot blocked by Marcus Holness on 40 minutes. The attack was one of the last actions of the first-half as the Whites cleared their danger at every given chance to avoid conceding before the break.
The away side made one change at half time with Will Atkinson taking to the field in place of left-back Thompson. Rochdale`s Nicky Adams continued the trend of heading over the bar with an effort that soared over from 12 yards out four minutes into the second half. At the other end, Labadie fired a cross in that required Holness to loft the ball over his own bar minutes later as the game went from end to end.
Elford-Alliyu had another chance to add his second with a shot that just deflected out for a corner on 60 minutes. The next 10 minutes saw Rochdale make their second substitution with target man Liam Dickinson coming on for midfielder Joe Thompson. Goodison went down after picking up a knock trying to clear a ball which led to a five minute stop in play. The veteran picked himself up and limped through three minutes of play before Rovers boss Les Parry decided enough was enough and Nick Wood came off the bench to replace the Jamaican on 73 minutes.
The visitors made another attacking change with Jean Louis Akpa Akpro coming on for midfielder Nicky Adams on 75 minutes, but the bigger round of applause came three minutes later with the introduction of Rovers new man Robinson in place of Jennings. The winger almost made an immediate impact with a curling free-kick that forced a great save out of 'Dale keeper Owain Fon-Williams on 80 minutes.
Tranmere spent most of the last 10 minutes of normal time trying to keep the pressing Rochdale away and trying to get Robinson on the ball in an attempt to counter. Whites captain Welsh had a lively end to the game as the midfielder made a number of crucial blocks and just outside the area to keep the visitors at bay.
The five minutes of stoppage time saw Rochdale deliver a number of crosses and attempt shots from long-range, and it was from a cross that saw a ball eventually fall to 'Dale captain Jones who blasted in from close range to break the hearts of the Rovers fans in the fifth minute of added time.
Goals: Tranmere- Elford Alliyu (4)
Rochdale- Jones (90+5)
Tranmere: Warner, Kay, McChrystal, Goodison (Wood 75), Cresswell, Labadie, Taylor, Welsh, Elford-Alliyu, Showunmi, Jennings (Robinson 80). Substitutes not used: Collister, Morrow, Fraughan, Akins, McGurk.
Rochdale: Fon Williams, Wiseman, Widdowson, Holness, Dawson, Kennedy, Jones, Josh Thompson (Atkinson 45HT), Joe Thompson (Dickinson 67), Adams (Akpa Akpro 76), O'Grady. Substitutes not used: Edwards, Done, Barry-Murphy, Gray.