Winning Easter weekends: 2014
Posted: Friday, April 10th 2020
Saturday, November 16th 2013
City’s unbeaten run extended to five games as a resilient second-half showing earned a gutsy point on the Wirral.
Sean O’Driscoll’s side actually controlled much of the first half, taking the lead through Sam Baldock’s first goal in eight matches after 13 minutes.
But Tranmere, previously non-existent as an attacking threat, drew level before the interval courtesy of Liam Ridehalgh’s low drive.
City had to stand up to some direct attacking play from their hosts after the break and might even have snatched victory as the game opened up in the closing stages.
Head coach O’Driscoll welcomed loan duo Karleigh Osborne and Simon Gillett back into the starting line-up after the pair were ineligible for the FA Cup with Budweiser first round victory over Dagenham & Redbridge last time out.
Natural wide men Scott Wagstaff and Joe Bryan were both left at home after failing to shrug off injuries, while Derrick Williams was away on international duty with Republic of Ireland Under-21s.
The task of filling the Wagstaff-shaped void on the right side of City’s midfield went to Bobby Reid, but it was from the left flank that the Bristolian created the first notable opening.
Crossing from the byeline, the youngster looked to have delivered the perfect invitation for Baldock to put the visitors in front, only for Jim McNulty to make a crucial interception.
But it was the same combination who unlocked the Tranmere defence for the opening goal.
Reid’s ball over the top was perfectly timed for the skipper to run in behind and finish confidently, firing a first-time shot across keeper Jason Mooney and into the bottom corner on his left foot.
It was a first half otherwise starved of goalmouth action. The hosts tested City only with crosses rather than goal attempts, and the partnership of Osborne and Aden Flint was having no problems in dealing with the threat.
At the other end, a Greg Cunningham surge from left-back culminated in a one-two with Gillett and seemingly a foul in City’s favour just outside the box, only for referee Kevin Wright to ignore the Irishman’s appeals.
The Robins’ top scorer Jay Emmanuel-Thomas was enduring a quiet afternoon, and when he was presented with a rare shooting chance he sent it high over the crossbar from a tight angle.
City had not looked troubled defensively but had been guilty of failing to test Jason Mooney in the Tranmere goal, making only his third senior appearance in the absence of Wales international Owain Fon Williams.
They would be made to pay for not making more of ample possession as the hosts drew level four minutes before the break.
Osborne got a glancing touch to send a right-wing cross towards the touchline, but the ball was laid back for the onrushing Ridehalgh to fire a low shot which caught the inside of Flint’s right leg en route to the bottom corner.
Rovers were fortunate to be on terms with Elliot Parish no more than a spectator up to that point.
But City responded well to the setback. First Emmanuel-Thomas thundered a low free kick towards the near post which Mooney smartly turned aside for a corner, before Gillett’s well-struck effort was beaten away by the rookie stopper.
The second half would produce a step up both in terms of action and volume inside Prenton Park.
Former Wales international Jason Koumas was the obvious creative influence in the home ranks, and his run from midfield culminated in a pass for Ryan Lowe, who cut back inside Osborne but sliced his shot off target at the vital moment.
Tranmere were growing in confidence as the game went on, but, like City in the first half, were struggling to create clear chances.
Rovers boss Ronnie Moore smelled blood and brought on Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro as a supplementary striker, but the visitors remained a threat on the break as the game opened up in the final ten minutes.
First Emmanuel-Thomas nutmegged his man to set up a crossing opportunity, but with Reid awaiting a tap in at the back post, Ash Taylor’s intervention kept the scores level.
At the other end, Flint was perfectly placed to make a timely goal-line clearance from a Tranmere corner.
Suddenly the contest was a hive of activity. Cunningham led a two-on-one charge but could not pick out the unmarked Baldock, before another Emmanuel-Thomas cross was parried by Mooney away from Baldock, who checked his run to set up Brendan Moloney for a shot quickly charged down.
Overall a satisfactory away draw, even if late chances might mean City left Prenton Park with a hint of regret that one point was not three.
Will Hurrell will retire from professional rugby with immediate effect, following medical advice.
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