A debut goal from Jose Baxter wasn't enough for Tranmere as they went down 2-1 at Preston North End.
It was a harsh result for Rovers who spent much of the game on the attack and created plenty of chances in each half.
There was just one change to the team that started the 2-0 win over Wycombe Wanderers as new loan signing Baxter made his debut in place of the injured, and fellow loanee, Ryan Donaldson. Former Tranmere striker Iain Hume started up front for Preston, while Danny Mayor, who was on loan at Prenton Park in 2008-09 was on the bench for the Lilywhites.
An early free kick for a foul on Adam McGurk
was whipped just past the far post by Rovers captain John Welsh while Lucas Akins sent a header into the arms of Preston keeper Andreas Arestidou from Robbie Weir's cross.
On nine minutes Tranmere could have gone ahead. A deep cross from McGurk went over the head of Ash Taylor and a defender in the six yard box and was volleyed straight back across goal by Akins, but the ball was a yard too far away for Taylor to turn in.
After Ian Goodison had twice expertly ended Preston attacks, a long ball from Owain Fon Williams allowed McGurk to muscle Brian McLean off the ball and fire wide from a tight angle on the left side of the area.
Baxter fired over from the edge of the area after good work from Akins on the right wing on 14 minutes while Rovers dealt well with a dangerously positioned Preston free kick soon after.
An outswinging cross from McGurk had to be claimed from just in front of the head of Enoch Showunmi on 22 minutes as Tranmere continued their bright start and a teasing cross from Welsh was headed wide at the far post by McGurk a couple of minutes later.
Weir was agonisingly close to connecting with a Taylor flick on from an Akins long throw on 27 minutes, but for all their pressure Rovers should have fallen behind moments later. A through ball from Paul Coutts saw Jamie Proctor race through one on one with Fon Williams but after rounding the Rovers keeper he turned his shot over the bar.
Clarke Carlisle headed a free kick wide at the far post as the home side came back into the game and on 36 minutes they took the lead. As the ball was crossed towards Neil Mellor, Goodison lost his footing. He recovered to challenge but the big striker went down as he turned and referee Paul Tierney pointed straight to the spot, with Graham Alexander sending Owain Fon Williams the wrong way.
Moments later Coutts broke free to force a save out of Fon Williams at his near post, while a Taylor shot deflected into the side netting at the other end.
In the second minute of first half injury time Rovers went close to levelling. A lofted pass from Akins fell perfectly for Showunmi and the striker turned and waited inside the area before picking out the run of Baxter whose low shot was well saved by Andreas Arestidou.
A miss hit pass from Welsh allowed Preston to break at speed four minutes into the second half but the cross that came into the Rovers area was over hit and caused no threat to Fon Williams' goal.
Rovers levelled on 60 minutes. McGurk played the ball to Akins on the left, the striker cut inside and saw his low shot deflect away from Arestidou and on to the post and Baxter was first to react, smashing into the net from six yards for a debut goal.
Weir's 20 yard drive forced Arestidou into a save on 61 minutes while a curling free kick from McGurk landed on the roof of the Preston net a couple of minutes later.
Fon Williams comfortably caught a shot from Mellor on 68 minutes after the former Liverpool striker was released up the right by Conor McLaughlin and a few minutes later the home side regained the lead. Rovers lost the ball deep in the Preston half from a throw in and Iain Hume quickly played in Coutts who in turn found Mayor and the winger shot low past Fon Williams from the left side of the area.
Preston were reduced to ten men with 15 minutes remaining when Paul Parry was shown his second yellow card of the afternoon, both of which were for fouls on Akins. The red card meant that Mayor, on as a substitute only ten minutes earlier, was replaced in a defensive change.
Taylor put a clearance close to his own top left corner on 81 minutes while Mustafa Tiryaki came on in place of Showunmi with seven minutes of normal time remaining.
McGurk and Tiryaki both won corners as Rovers pressed for an equaliser late on, the second of which saw Akins shoot wide, while Fon Williams twice saved from Mellor in Preston counter attacks.
Preston: Arestidou, McLaughlin, Carlisle, Hume (Ashbee 81), Coutts, Proctor (Mayor 65 (Gray 76)), Nicholson, McLean, Parry, Alexander, Mellor. Substitutes not used: Ashbee, Tsoumou, Comrie.
Tranmere: Fon Williams, Raven, Taylor, Goodison, Buchanan, Welsh, Weir, Baxter, Akins, Showunmi (Tiryaki 83), McGurk. Substitutes not used: Coughlin, Kay, Bakayogo, Labadie.
Referee: Paul Tierney
Yellow cards: Parry (18), Buchanan (29), Welsh (52), McLaughlin (70), Arestidou (90+1)
Red card: Parry (75)
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