Connor Jennings second half equaliser ensured Tranmere Rovers a well-deserved point in a tight North West derby against Oldham Athletic.
Johan Branger opened the scoring for the visitors in a cagey first half of limited chances before r Jennings replied midway through the second as the game with a cool finish.
Dylan Mottley-Henry and Paul Mullin replaced Jonny Smith and Harvey Gilmour following last week’s League Two match at Crewe.
Zoumana Bakayogo maintained his place in the side following his return to the first team in the past week. The left back provided a good attacking threat but was noticeably solid defensively in dealing with a number of in swinging crosses from the left hand side.
Rovers team chemistry created openings as they made a promising start against the Latics.
A change to a 4-4-2 formation enabled Mullin and James Norwood to link up more often and they did so well on several occasions in the first half. A quick one-two between the strikers released Norwood on the right hand side and he burst into the area only for some good tracking back from the Oldham defence denying him the chance to shoot.
The first half lacked many clear goal scoring opportunities however Oldham made the most of theirs. With 39 minutes played, Gevaro Nepomuceno delivered a low corner into the box from the right and it bounced kindly for Branger to fire in from the centre of the box past Scott Davies, who couldn’t get enough on it to keep it out having dived down to his right.
Ollie Banks had the best chance for Rovers in the first half, however the ex-Oldham player fired a freekick over from 25 yards. On the stroke of half time Manny Monthe hit a freekick into the box which Norwood got his head to from the edge of the area, but it was straight forward for visitors keeper Daniel Iverson to catch.
Within minutes of the second half Norwood hit a freekick which went just wide of the right hand post from the ‘D’.
The league’s top scorer had another opening towards the hour mark. Mottley-Henry crossed in from the right to Mullin, whose chest control dropped to Norwood, although he was under pressure and his left footed effort went over the crossbar.
A fantastic piece of play from Jake Caprice saw him beat his man and fizz a dangerous ball into the area where Norwood touched it down to Jennings who, but for a fantastic block, looked certain to equalise.
Rovers search for their leveller saw them open up more defensively and experienced forward Ishmael Miller nearly capitalised when he received substitute Sam Surridge’s knockdown but Monthe did enough to force him to fire wide.
Surridge was then played through with only Davies to beat but he followed his run as he attempted to round him, staying big before diving brilliantly to push his eventual effort wide.
Rovers maintained their positive pressure and it finally paid off after 71 minutes. Norwood had a freekick loop up off the wall and Mottley-Henry improvised to head the ball across goal finding Jennings on the edge of the six yard box and he drilled the ball right into the right hand corner of the net.
Jennings almost turned provider moments later as he whipped the ball from the left towards the unmarked Mottley-Henry, but the winger failed to get anything on it despite throwing himself at the ball.
The final few minutes were scrappy, with both sides too cautious come away with nothing.
Oldham applied some pressure towards the end of additional time however Rovers defended well to maintain their solid home record, which they will take into next Sunday’s FA Cup second round match where they will host Southport.
Davies, Caprice, McNaulty (Capt.), Monthe, Bakayogo, McCullough, Banks, Mottley-Henry, Mullin (86 Stockton), Jennings, Norwood. Not used: George, Ridehalgh, Sutton, Harris, Smith, Gilmour.
Report by Jake Mathot