Tranmere Rovers were the on the wrong end of a seven goal thriller at Prenton Park in the Checkatrade Trophy after losing 4-3 against Crewe Alexandra.
Paul Mullin, Jay Harris and Cole Stockton all scored their first goals of the campaign for Rovers as they led 3-1 with 20 minutes to go.
However, a late fight back from the visitors sealed the win but there were a number of positives to take for Tranmere, including the return of full back Adam Buxton from a long term injury.
Having made eights changes, Rovers seemed to make the better of what was a relatively subdued first quarter. Rovers looked to the right wing as their attacking motive in the opening stages, using the pace of Dylan Mottley- Henry to cause the Crewe defence some problems and the 21-year-old almost provided the cutting edge on a couple of occasions, almost catching up to a loose ball which would put him through on goal before finding space on the right and delivering a great ball to the back post which was headed away just as Larnell Cole looked poised to tap into an empty net.
Despite all the early chances falling to Rovers, it was the visitors that took the lead on the 20 minute mark. Their first meaningful attack of the game was a ball over the top which split the defence in half. Chris Porter latched onto the ball inside the ‘D’ before composing himself and dinking it over the onrushing Shamal George.
Rovers almost responded straight away when some fantastic intricate play in the midfield resulted in Zoumana Bakayogo whipping in a delightful ball, which evaded the only Alexandra player near the ball and fell straight to the feet of Mullin, however he could only side foot the ball wide on the volley.
As the game began to open up, with more chances occurring at both ends, a clash of heads between Mottley- Henry and visitors’ left back O’Connor saw the latter stretchered off following a lengthy stoppage.
Ten minutes were added on at the end of the first half and three minutes in Rovers found their equaliser. Workhorse Harris nicked the ball in the final third and advanced forward before unleashing a rocket from about 25 yards into the top corner.
Moments later Rovers were somewhat fortunate to escape conceding when referee Graham Salisbury adjudged there to be a foul in the Rovers area during a corner, just as Porter fired a header in off the crossbar. To rub salt in visitors wounds, Rovers were ahead going into half time thanks to Stockton, who latched onto the rebound from an effort from Mullin which was parried by Garratt right into his path.
Rovers started the second half on the front foot and were rewarded almost immediately, the ball ricocheting right to the feet of Mullin in the area, he fainted a shot forcing Garratt to dive before taking the ball in the other direction and slotting home.
Crewe nearly responded on the hour mark, Chris Porter heading just wide from a freekick and then Callum Ainley hit a lot shot across goal which forced a save from George.
Crewe kept on believing, throwing players forward and they clawed a goal back with 20 minutes remaining, Alex Nicholls latching onto another great set-piece from James Jones.
In a crazy two minutes the game was turned on its head. Yet another free kick caused problems and Alexandra’s striker jumped higher than the loanee keeper from Liverpool to head in. Straight from Rovers kick off Crewe won the ball and attacked again and visitor’s number eight Jones turned from provider to turn in the six yard box and fire the ball into the bottom right hand corner. After an unbelievable turn around, Rovers had one last opportunity in the dying moments, with Bakayogo firing an effort through a sea of bodies but wide.
Tranmere: George, Buxton (77 Caprice), Ellis, Monthe, Bakayogo (Capt), Mottley- Henry (63 Tollitt), Harris, Gilmour, Cole, Stockton, Mullin (81 Jennings) Subs not used: Passant, Norwood, Smith, Banks
BY JAKE MATHOT