A lapse of concentration at a straight forward corner, proved to be Crewe's downfall at Prenton Park this afternoon. Crewe simply switched off after 28 minutes and Matthew Pennington simply pulled off at the far post to head home Jason Koumas's delivery. It was a disappointing goal to concede and Crewe had to chase the game from that point on.
To their great credit they put a below par first half display behind them to give it everything in the second half but that real genuine chance never fell inside the box to see us net an equaliser that arguably merited our possession in that second period.
Crewe had half chances with Brad Inman our most likely player to create something and substitutes Mathias Pogba and Uche Ikpeazu had late efforts that didn't trouble our former goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams.
Harry Davis shook off a slight knock on his knee to take his place in the Crewe starting line-up at Prenton Park. He partnered Mark Ellis in the central positions with the former Tranmere Rovers loanee Adam Dugdale recalled to the substitutes’ bench due to an injury to George Ray.
The club’s most recent loan signing Uche Ikpeazu was back on the bench after he was forced to miss our mid-week win over MK Dons due to an ankle injury. With Abdul Osman also named in reserve, Matt Tootle once again captained the Railwaymen at Prenton Park.
After being put under severe pressure by Matthew Kennedy, Crewe’s full-back Kelvin Mellor conceded an early free-kick, but Jason Koumas’ delivery from the right managed to miss everyone at the far post and drift out for a goal kick.
Moments later, a searching ball from the middle of the park from George Evans nearly found a forward run by Moore, but the on-loan Fulham defender, Stephen Arthurworrey read the situation well to clear. Some more promising build-up play down the left saw Tootle and Brad Inman combine skilfully, but the wide man just couldn’t quite squeeze his cross over and it was deflected behind for a corner. George Evans’ attempt from the dead ball seemed to get stuck in the wind and it drifted harmlessly into the side-netting.
At the other end of the pitch our former forward Ryan Lowe tried to make inroads inside the Crewe penalty area but was blocked off by a timely challenge from the covering Mellor. Ellis also had to throw himself at a shot from Lowe as he raced towards our box unopposed. Harry Davis also got away with one when his clearance from Evan Horwood’s cross hit Jake Cassidy, but the on-loan forward didn’t expect it and didn’t react quickly enough to take advantage.
Moore did react to a mistake from Arthurworrey as he tried to cut out a pass from Mellor, and the winger found Inman on the opposite flank but his low shot was tame and straight at our former Academy goalkeeper Owain fon Williams.
Just before the half an hour mark and with nothing really occurring in the game, Crewe gifted a corner to the home side after allowing Jake Kirby to evade three players in the middle of the park. Mellor had to make as last ditch tackle to push it behind to prevent Kennedy from reaching the by-line.
From the resultant corner, taken by Koumas from the Alex right, Matthew Pennington simply pulled off at the far post to head home. It was another avoidable goal and captain Tootle was asking questions of the marking structure.
Kennedy was to become the first player cautioned for a blatant trip on Anthony Grant. He was quickly followed into the referee’s book by George Evans for a lunging tackle on Koumas in the centre circle. Mellor was also booked for bringing down Kennedy in full flight.
In the first half Inman appeared to be Crewe’s most likely creative force and our attacking play was crying out for Chuks Aneke to stamp his authority on the proceedings. Tranmere had nullified his presence when trying to operate between the lines.
Referee Scott Mathieson was unable to continue in the second half. His assistant Paul Marsden took up the duty of referee.
Tranmere’s full-back Horwood had the first attempt at goal in the second half but his effort sailed harmlessly over Ben Garratt’s crossbar.
Crewe continued to get joy down the Tranmere right hand side with Inman again showing his pace and directness to glide past Pennington and his dangerous cross had to put behind before it reached Moore. Moments later, Inman’s next cross did find Moore at the far post but he snatched at the opportunity and he failed to get it on target to trouble Fon Williams. It was a better start from the Railwaymen.
Aneke then showed great strength on the edge of the Tranmere Rovers penalty area and was certainly impeded but the new referee bizarrely didn’t blow for a foul and off balance the Crewe forward couldn’t direct any sort of shot on target. Almost immediately, Tranmere went up the other end and Lowe went down under a coming together with Harry Davis. To his credit the Tranmere striker didn’t complain too much.
Aneke was having more of an influential and following a delight piece of skill where he lofted the ball over a bemused defender he sent Leitch-Smith up the pitch. His pass into Inman gave him ample opportunity to side step to give himself a yard and get a shot off but on this occasion it lacked the accuracy to test Fon Williams. Leitch-Smith then had a firm shot blocked on the edge of the box.
Some more good approach play from the Alex saw Grant feed Leitch-Smith and he in turn, the over lapping Moore and his pull back did find Grant in a little bit of space but he was quickly crowded out and his shot was blocked.
Moments later Lowe struck over before Crewe made the first change of the afternoon with Mathias Pombo replacing Moore. Tranmere soon made a change of their own with Cassidy replaced by Cole Stockton.
Crewe had a strong penalty appeal of their own with 18 minutes remaining when Tootle went down twice in quick succession but referee Marsden waved away the appeals. About a minute later, Ellis went down inside the box after being found by Pogba but the Crewe defender didn’t complain too much.
Uche Ikpeazu replaced Leitch-Smith as Crewe went searching for the equaliser. Tranmere bought on the vastly experienced Andy Robinson for Kirby.
Although Crewe looked the more likely side to score the next goal, the home side did threaten with the clever runs of Lowe and one of his runs into the channel eventually saw Koumas curled a shot a yard wide of Garratt’s right hand post. Koumas was then booked for catching Aneke.
Crewe continued to press Tranmere back. Ikpeazu was presented with a half chance but shot straight at Fon Williams and moments later no-one took a chance on a superb looking cross from Pogba that whipped over the six-yard box.
With the minutes ticking away, the Alex were certainly spending more time in the Tranmere half of the field. After another promising break from Inman, Pogba couldn't get his acrobatic effort on target to trouble the Rovers goalkeeper.