A Paul Glatzel brace helped Tranmere Rovers conclude Group B of the Papa John’s Trophy in top spot after Rovers bounced back from two goals down to win 3-2 against Oldham Athletic at Prenton Park.
A first half double by Zac Dearnley gave the Latics a two-goal lead despite Rovers dominating much of the play on home soil.
Strikes either side of half time from Liverpool loanee Paul Glatzel and his strike partner Nicky Maynard saw Tranmere level an eagerly contested encounter under the lights.
Glatzel fired in the match winning goal in the latter stages of the second period as Rovers ensured they ended the group stage of the competition with a 100% winning record, following victories earlier this season versus Salford City and Leeds U21s.
Micky Mellon opted to make ten alterations from the starting line-up that were victorious at Crawley Town in the FA Cup First Round last Saturday. Nathaniel Knight-Percival the only starter in West Sussex to retain his place in the team.
Despite Keith Curle selecting a strong outfit with just four changes for the Latics from their Cup draw against tier three Ipswich Town last time out, Rovers were the side who raced out of the traps quickest in the opening exchanges.
Maynard and Mark Duffy linked up to great effect for Tranmere to manufacture two golden chances for an early breakthrough.
Duffy cleverly picked out the forward inside the box who struck wide with a snapshot, before the 34-year-old saw a goalbound shot deflected behind for a corner following another eye-catching pass by the attacking midfielder in the sixth minute.
An encouraging start to proceedings for Mellon’s men was soon undone when a swift counter-attack by the visitors resulted in an opening goal. Dearnley expertly converted into the bottom corner one-on-one with Joe Murphy as the clock reached the quarter-hour mark.
Tranmere quickly found their groove again after the set-back of conceding. Kieron Morris unleashed a venomous hit from range which narrowly whistled wide as Rovers appeared determined to restore parity in the match.
Morris once again showcased his shooting threat when his free kick 25-yards out had Oldham goalkeeper Jayson Leutwiler scrambling across his goal in the 33rd minute. Unfortunately for the Englishman, his effort came inches away from finding the top corner.
Tranmere were dominating possession looking the more likely team to score the next goal, but on the brink of the break Oldham doubled their advantage. Nicky Adams crossed for Dearnley who bagged his second of the game. This time powering in with his head unmarked six yards out.
It looked like Rovers would have the task of overturning a two-goal deficit in the second period. However, in stoppage time, Ryan Stratutlis delivered a wicked ball into the path of Glatzel who bundled home his first goal for Rovers to end the half on a high.
Rovers were pressing for an equaliser right from the get-go in the final 45 minutes. In the 55th minute, Tranmere were rewarded for their persistence. Glatzel continued his impressive performance this time turning provider. The youngster’s fizzing cross on the right flank picked out Maynard who edged a yard on the Oldham defence and guided a volley into the net.
Mellon’s troops were not content with settling for a point after a remarkable comeback to leave the game all square. Morris worked an angle on his unfavoured right foot and forced a neat save low down by Leutwiler.
There was a scare for Tranmere on the hour mark when Captain Murphy was needed to prevent the Greater Manchester side from restoring their lead. The experienced keeper denied Dearnley a hat-trick with a fine reaction stop.
The vital moment in the game came with just 15 minutes left to play. Morris slipped through Glatzel who rifled in the winning goal to the delight of the Super White Army in attendance.
Next up for Rovers is a return to Sky Bet League Two action this weekend when Sutton United are the opponents at Prenton Park. The draw for Round Two of the Papa John’s Trophy will take place on Saturday 13 November with the subsequent ties commencing later this month.
Tranmere team: Murphy, Stratulis, Knight-Percival, Davies, Maguire, Foley, Morris (Macdonald 88’), Duffy, Glatzel, Walker (Watson 66’), Maynard (Dieseruvwe 88’)
Subs not used: Doohan, Dwyer, Jones, Nevitt