A spirited second half fight back from Tranmere Rovers secured their first win of 2019 with a 3-1 victory at Cheltenham Town.
Goals from the division’s top goal scorer James Norwood, a debut strike by Ishmael Miller and a third from the returning Ollie Banks sealed the win for Rovers, after Luke Varney put the hosts ahead at the end of the first half.
The win means Rovers now have more points than we did the last time we played in this level in 2014/15 and we still have 19 games remaining before the close of the season.
Tranmere Rovers manager Micky Mellon handed debuts to David Perkins and Miller for the league clash against the Robins.
Ollie Banks made his first start of the calendar year for the Club after a spell on the sidelines through injury. Connor Jennings missed out through injury.
The hosts nearly took the lead within the first two minutes, Ryan Broom’s cross from the right got caught in the wind and clipped Scott Davies’ crossbar.
Striker Miller was not too far away from a debut goal in the 25th minute, the best chance of the game so far after a quiet beginning. A long ball upfield was held up well by Norwood, he laid the ball off for the former Oldham man who hit just wide of the mark.
The chance sparked Tranmere into life and one minute later, a snapshot from Norwood after a strong run from Perkins in midfield, who worked hard and didn't stop for the full match, saw Scott Flinders tip Norwood's effort round his right-hand post for a corner.
Cheltenham were looking threatening when they moved forward, and as Jacob Maddox lashed a shot from inside the box over Davies’ bar.
At the other end, Miller had his second goal scoring chance of his TRFC career, put through on goal by Norwood, Miller held off the attention of a Cheltenham defender, but Flinders made himself big to deny the striker a debut goal in the 39th minute.
The hosts went in front in the 41st minute, as Varney continued his good form in front of goal, sneaking past the Rovers defence, the experienced striker slotted home just before the half time break.
Rovers came out for the second half lifted and within a minute, Norwood levelled for Tranmere after his initial shot was blocked from a Jake Caprice cross, but the striker kept cool to slot home in front of the travelling support.
A flurry of chances came for both teams in a five minute spell, first of all, defender Mark Ellis clearing off the line a certain goal for the hosts. At the other end, a stunning stop from Flinders denied Norwood a second, tipping the ball round the post which was destined to nestle in the top right hand corner.
From the first minute of the second period, Rovers were intent on turning this second half around and they did just that on the hour mark, as Miller got his deserved debut goal.
The striker, who missed two half opportunities in the second period, made it third time a charm when he pounced on Norwood’s saved shot to put TRFC 2-1 up.
In the 70th minute, Miller came off to a standing ovation from the travelling Rovers support, with fellow striker Paul Mullin.
TRFC’s number nine made an immediate impact, providing an assist for Tranmere’s third goal of the game. The goal scoring opportunity came about when Norwood hassled the ball away Cheltenham captain Ben Tozer. Norwood then played the pass to Mullin who passed it on to Banks on the edge of the box, and the midfielder did the rest, slotting the ball into the far corner to send the travelling support into raptures.
Banks made way in the 76th minute, as fellow midfielder Jay Harris came on to join Perkins and Luke McCullough in the middle of the park for Tranmere.
Mullin had a chance to make it four for TRFC after Norwood put him through on goal with a fantastic pass, but his chip was unable to hit the target. Tranmere comfortably saw out the remainder of the game to secure an important away victory, and attention now turns to Swindon Town at home on Saturday 19th January. For ticket information, please click here.
Davies, Ridehalgh, McNulty, Monthe, Ellis, Caprice, McCullough, Perkins, Banks (76), Norwood, Miller (Mullin 70). Unused subs: Pilling, Buxton, Bakayogo, Smith, Gilmour.