The New Year started with defeat for Tranmere despite Joss Labadie's first goal of the season and a penalty from Ian Thomas-Moore.
Rovers, who played most of the match with ten men following the sending off of Marlon Broomes, came from behind twice but conceded soon after on both occasions as they lost 3-2 at Rochdale in their first trip to Spotland in 22 years.
There were five changes to the side that started against Huddersfield in Rovers' last game, with Joe Collister replacing Gunnar Nielsen in goal, Marlon Broomes returning from injury to take the place of Jermaine Grandison at centre back, Aaron Cresswell coming in for Zoumana Bakayogo at left back, Joss Labadie returning to the midfield following his three match ban and Ian Thomas-Moore returning from injury, with Dale Jennings dropping to the bench and Lucas Akins missing out.
A couple of miss hit early back passes gave Joe Collister tricky clearances to cope with, the second of which saw Rochdale earn a corner. However, Rovers quickly cleared and after a surging run from Enoch Showunmi, Lateef Elford-Alliyu's pass found John Welsh who fired over the bar from 25 yards.
Broomes cleared a dangerous cross from Rochdale captain Gary Jones on eight minutes and Craig Dawson headed wide moments later from a Brian Barry Murphy free kick.
Cresswell cleared Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro's low ball from inside the Tranmere six yard box on 11 minutes and the defender shot over at the other end 10 minutes later following a hand ball just outside the area.
Rovers' afternoon was made harder on 25 minutes when Broomes stumbled with Chris O'Grady inside the area and was adjudged to have fouled the former Oldham striker. Not only did referee Carl Boyeson point to the penalty spot but Broomes was shown a straight red card, with Jones just putting his spot kick past Collister's dive to give the home side the lead. Before the restart, Grandison came on for Ash Taylor as Rovers went to a 4-4-1 formation.
Thomas-Moore sent a dipping volley into the arms of Josh Lillis on 31 minutes and 11 minutes later, Rovers drew level. Showunmi's initial shot was saved by Lillis, the ball fell back to the striker who squared to Elford-Alliyu. His effort was cleared off the line, rebounded back to Showunmi whose square ball was fired into the right hand side of the net by Labadie for his first goal of the season.
However, moments after the kick off, Rochdale took the lead once again, this time an attack up the right ending with the ball sent through the six yard box from where Jones turned in past Collister.
Jones sent a 20 yard shot wide of the target for Rochdale six minutes into the second half while a Cresswell free kick went a couple of yards wide six minutes later as Rovers looked to level for a second time.
Collister produced a fine near post save to keep out O'Grady's low right foot effort on 60 minutes and Grandison cleared off the line from Jason Kennedy's volley from the resulting corner.
Jennings replaced Elford-Alliyu on 65 minutes and moments later he played a part as Showunmi's shot was blocked following a Welsh cross.
The young striker side footed narrowly wide from the left side of the area after Showunmi's run was cut out by Marcus Holness on 74 minutes while O'Grady sent a swerving shot narrowly wide from 25 yards at the other end soon after.
Thomas-Moore volleyed just past the right hand post from Wootton's low pass on 80 minutes as Rovers continued to search for their second goal of the game and moments later the striker's cross earned his side a penalty, with Kennedy bringing Labadie down just inside the area. Thomas-Moore stepped up for the spot kick and though Lillis went the right way, there was enough power in the shot for the ball to nestle in the bottom right corner of the net to the delight of the travelling support.
Two shots from O'Grady went close for Dake, the second of which took a slight deflection to earn a corner on 84 minutes. Their next effort did produce a goal and put them ahead for a third time, with Bobby Grant heading in from close range.
Rovers threw men forward as the game drew to a close but they were unable to find a way to goal a third time.
Rochdale: Lillis, Wiseman, Widdowson, Holness, Dawson, Barry Murphy, Jason Kennedy, Jones, Done (Joe Thompson 75), Akpa Akpro (Grant 66), O'Grady. Substitutes not used: Edwards, Josh Thompson, Elding, Gray, Tom Kennedy.
Tranmere: Collister, Wootton, Broomes, Goodison, Cresswell, Labadie, Taylor (Grandison 27), Welsh, Thomas-Moore, Showunmi, Elford-Alliyu (Jennings 65). Substitutes not used: Miotto, Blanchard, Bakayogo, Fraughan, McGurk.
Referee: Carl Boyeson
Yellow cards: Thomas-Moore (36), Barry Murphy (56), Goodison (67), Grant (67)
Red cards: Broomes (25)
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