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2018/19 Review - Another season to remember

3 June 2019

It has been quite the season for Tranmere Rovers as they navigated themselves through the fourth-tier after returning to the EFL in August.

Micky Mellon’s men earned themselves a spot in the Play-Offs to ensure that their campaign continues beyond the final weekend of the regular fixture schedule.

James Norwood’s highest goal return have been a catalyst for Rovers spending the majority of the term in and around the top seven as they aim for a second successive promotion.

Their first year back at the EFL has seen plenty of highs, including winning seven games on the spin, a feat which earned Mellon the divisional Manager of the Month award.

So, if you want to relive TRFC’s past nine months of action, the official matchday programme will guide you through the 2018/19 season in review.

 

AUGUST

Tranmere Rovers’ first month back in the Football League after a three-year hiatus saw them begin life in Sky Bet League Two positively, slipping to just one defeat in the fourth-tier.

On the opening weekend of the campaign, Norwood scored the first two of goals of the campaign as his double saw Rovers come from two down to earn a battling point away at Stevenage.

A week later, Tranmere returned to the Wirral, where Prenton Park staged a Sky Bet League Two fixture for the first time since May 2015.

And the SWA would head home happy as Norwood was on target again after 13 minutes to score the only goal of the contest in a 1-0 victory over Cheltenham Town which got Micky Mellon’s men up and running.

Following an EFL Cup exit at the hands of Sky Bet League One outfit Walsall at Prenton Park, Rovers would taste defeat for the first time away at Swindon Town.

Despite going two goals to the good inside the opening quarter of an hour at the County Ground through Jonny Smith and Norwood, Tranmere’s afternoon in Wiltshire soon turned sour after Jay Harris’ dismissal with 17 minutes played.

The numerical advantage proved decisive for Swindon, with Elijah Adebayo pulling one back before second-half strikes from Marc Richards and Joe Romanski turned the match on its head in favour of the hosts.

August concluded with two consecutive games in front of their own supporters at Prenton Park, holding Mansfield Town to a goalless draw under the floodlights.

Days later, Norwood’s fifth goal in as many games secured Tranmere a late winner in a 1-0 triumph over Port Vale.

Tranmere ended the month in 10th position, with eight points the return from their first five outings back in the division.

 

SEPTEMBER

September kicked-off with a point on the road away to Northampton Town at Sixfields, as Norwood struck again with 51 minutes played which was cancelled out by Junior Morias’ leveller on the hour-mark.

The draw at Northampton was followed up by a 4-3 defeat at home against Crewe Alexandra in the Checkatrade Trophy.

A week later, and Tranmere returned to league action at Prenton Park, where they were held to a 1-1 draw by Colchester United, with the in-form Norwood scoring again just before the break prior to Harry Pell’s second-half equaliser.

Rovers’ visit to Brunton Park proved to be the venue for their first away win of the season, where they picked up a 2-0 triumph at the home of Carlisle United.

Goalkeeper Scott Davies denied Jamie Devitt from the penalty spot before Tom Parkes’ own goal and Paul Mullin’s in the closing 10 minutes strike secured the three-points in Cumbria.

It proved to be a big milestone for Mellon’s men, who had achieved a win away from their Prenton Park home that had previously eluded Rovers in the early stages of the campaign that they found themselves navigating through.

Next up was a narrow 1-0 home defeat to Newport County, where Fraser Franks scored the only goal of a tight game on the Wirral, a result which saw Rovers defeated at home for the first time in Sky Bet League Two this term.

The month finished with a hard-fought 1-1 draw away to MK Dons, where Chuks Aneke’s equaliser was enough to earn Paul Tisdale’s hosts a share of the spoils at Stadium MK after Smith’s initial strike had given Rovers the lead in Buckinghamshire.

Rovers stood 15th in the standings as September came to a close, having attained 14 points after 10 fixtures of the campaign played.

 

OCTOBER

October got underway with Danny Cowley’s league leaders, Lincoln City, in town for a Tuesday night clash under the lights, a game which saw Mellon’s hosts come out on top against the Imps. Norwood was the matchwinner again to secure a 1-0 and kick-start the month in style.

Rovers won another three-points the following Saturday, this time a 4-3 thriller away to Morecambe at the Globe Arena, in a game where Harvey Gilmour’s brace, including his 89th minute decisive winner, proved pivotal.

Despite a Checkatrade Trophy defeat at Shrewsbury Town, Tranmere picked up their third straight win in a Friday night football clash against Macclesfield Town in front of the SWA at Prenton Park.

Midfielder Gilmour again proved to be vital in the victory by scoring from 18-yards in the 1-0 triumph over the Silkmen as he went on to win the EFL Young Player of the Month.

A goalless draw away at Yeovil Town was followed up by a midweek 3-1 defeat on their travels again, losing out to Play-Off rivals Forest Green Rovers 3-1 at the New Lawn.

However, despite going two games without a win, Tranmere bounced back with a five-star display to wow the Prenton Park crowd as they dismantled Crawley Town, giving the SWA a treat.

First-half strikes coming from Connor Jennings on 25 minutes and Norwood two minutes before the break set the tone for an afternoon where Tranmere dominated their opponents from Sussex from start to finish.

After the interval, Norwood added his second goal after 54 minutes prior to the ruthless Rovers scoring two in two minutes from Adam Buxton’s penalty and Mullin on the hour.

Ollie Palmer’s volley was the consolation for Crawley, with the result seeing Tranmere remain seventh in Sky Bet League Two.

October ended with Rovers bowing out of the Checkatrade Trophy Group Stage after defeat to Manchester City U21.

 

NOVEMBER

Rovers picked up where they left off at the start of November, with striker Norwood adding a further two goals to his ever-increasing tally in a 2-0 win over Exeter City at Prenton Park.

Norwood struck either side of half-time, firstly on the half-hour before adding his second after the break as the visiting Grecians also had Dean Moxey sent off late on.

November also saw the start of Tranmere’s Emirates FA Cup journey, which began with a home fixture with National League South outfit Oxford City in the first-round proper.

James Norwood’s last-minute leveller secured a 3-3 draw and rescued a replay after a hat-trick from Kabongo Tshimanga saw the non-league side come close to an upset at Prenton Park.

It was back to Sky Bet League Two matters the following weekend where a trip to Gresty Road to play David Artell’s Crewe Alexandra.

Goals from Norwood and Mullin were not enough for TRFC in Cheshire as they were beaten 3-2 courtesy of Callum Ainley’s double and Charlie Kirk’s strike.

Rovers then faced a replay away at Oxford City for the right to face Merseyside neighbours Southport in the Emirates FA Cup second-round, as Tranmere comfortably secured their passage to the next stage through first-half goals from Norwood and Mullin, who were again on target.

Tranmere’s November concluded with a 1-1 draw at home to Oldham Athletic before a midweek 5-2 defeat to Grimsby Town at Blundell Park, as they went in to a bumper December in eighth position, just out of the Play-Off places on goal difference.

 

DECEMBER

Tranmere began the final month of 2018 with a Sunday afternoon Emirates FA Cup second-round tie against fellow Merseyside club Southport.

Rovers went in to an 18th minute advantage when Smith curled in to the top left-corner before Bradley Bauress’ strike from the range which frustrated Rovers to a replay.

The following Saturday, Mellon’s squad brought their three-game winless run to an end after a solitary goal from Norwood saw off Cambridge United 1-0 at Prenton Park.

Back on the road in their next outing, Tranmere were defeated 3-2 away at Notts County, despite getting back on level terms twice either side of the break through Smith and Jennings, the Magpies achieved their Meadow Lane win after Jon Stead’s brace either side of Kane Hemmings’ effort.

Jennings was back on the scoresheet a few days later as Tranmere set-up their third-round tie at home to Tottenham Hotspur after the midfielder’s first-half brace downed Southport under the floodlights of Haig Avenue.

A topsy-turvy month of festive action continued with a 2-1 loss against Bury at Gigg Lane, with the visitors coming unstuck in Greater Manchester with Nicky Maynard and Caolan Lavery settled the result in the Shakers favour, with Ritchie Sutton’s consolation in the closing moments all Rovers could produce.

There was more to cheer for the SWA on Boxing Day as Tranmere put in a professional performance to beat Morecambe 3-1 at Prenton Park.

First-half goals from Cole Stockton, Norwood and Harris set Rovers on their way to an impressive three-points over Jim Bentley’s Shrimps, who pulled one back through Jordan Cranston’s drive from distance.

Rovers last game of the year proved to be that of a goalless draw at home to struggling Yeovil Town as they headed in to 2019 occupying ninth in the division, two-points from the Play-Offs.

 

JANUARY

The New Year started with a trip to the Moss Rose, where Macclesfield Town were Tranmere’s first opponents of 2019.

Mellon’s men from the Wirral went ahead from Jennings’ strike just after the half-hour before Koby Arthur levelled up the scores before half-time as Rovers were made to settle for a point away at Sol Campbell’s side.

An Emirates FA Cup third-round defeat at home to Premier League giants Tottenham Hotspur in front of a sold-out Prenton Park support didn’t dampen spirits at TRFC, who went on to win 3-1 away to Cheltenham Town once they returned to their Sky Bet League Two schedule, as goals from Norwood, new signing Ishmael Miller and Ollie Banks helped Rovers back to winning ways at Whaddon Road.

But the month came to an end with two defeats on the spin. Firstly, losing 2-1 at home to Swindon Town prior to a 3-0 reverse away against fellow promotion candidates Mansfield Town.

The back-to-back reverses saw Tranmere drop down to 10th in the division as the season passed its halfway point going in to February.

Rovers strengthened their side in the January transfer window as new faces came through the door at Prenton Park.

New recruits to join the TRFC ranks included the signings of experienced midfielder David Perkins from Rochdale, and forwards Miller and Chris Dagnall, as well as the permanent capture of Gilmour from Sheffield United.

Ben Pringle, Kieron Morris and Sid Nelson all signed on loan from Preston North End, Walsall and Millwall respectively as Rovers aimed to push on in the closing months of their first campaign back at EFL level.

 

FEBRUARY

Tranmere entered February with a rearranged home fixture under the Prenton Park floodlights against Keith Curle’s Northampton Town up first.

Rovers suffered a third straight Sky Bet League Two defeat against the Cobblers, with Sam Hoskins’ first-half opener coming either side of Norwood’s equaliser.

In their next game, Tranmere returned to winning ways, seeing off nine-man Stevenage in front of the SWA.

Loanee Morris got the afternoon off to a good start in first-half added time before Norwood ensured that the three-points would remain in Birkenhead late in the fixture to seal to triumph against Dino Maamria’s men, who had Ben Nugent and Adebayo sent-off.

Tranmere were back on the road for their following two consecutive matches, where they would pick up four-points on their travels.

A goalless stalemate away at Cambridge United preceded a 2-1 win away in a rearranged match at Port Vale.

Norwood’s brace, scoring a goal in each-half, was enough to secure victory in Staffordshire despite Ben Whitfield halving the deficit for the Valiants before seeing a late goal ruled out for offside at Vale Park as Tranmere held on.

February ended with another narrow Tranmere win, as Rovers were indebted to Jennings again who struck the winner with 20 minutes to go in a 1-0 home triumph over Notts County at Prenton Park.

Ending February in ninth place on 54 points from their 34 fixtures of the season played, Tranmere were firmly in the mix for a Play-Off position following on from a positive unbeaten run of form which they had developed throughout the course of the month.

 

MARCH

March continued in the same way that February finished, with Tranmere extending their winning streak.

Norwood was on hand to earn Rovers a slim 1-0 win away at Exeter, striking on the half-hour as the promotion push continued.

Rovers stopper Davies was on hand to preserve the three-points in Devon, thwarting Randell Williams before denying Jonathan Forte and Hirem Boateng in stoppage time as Tranmere recorded a priceless victory at St James Park.

Norwood hot streak continued as he went on to net the winner as Tranmere entertained Crewe Alexandra as Friday night football returned to Prenton Park.

Rovers’ winner came when Davies’ long ball down field was controlled by Norwood, who took the ball down and guided the ball right-footed underneath the dive of Railwayman stopper Ben Garratt.

TRFC held on after Shaun Miller was kept out by Davies’ sprawling stop as their run continued.

The following Tuesday, it was fantastic four for TRFC after a dominant display to dispatch Grimsby Town at Prenton Park.

Four Tranmere goals in 44 first-half minutes stunned the Mariners as Tranmere put on a show for the SWA, with Jennings grabbing himself a brace either side of strikes from Manny Monthe and another one from Norwood – after Martyn Woolford had initially drawn Michael Jolley’s side level.

Rovers were back on the road as they made the long trip down to Essex for a clash at Colchester United.

Two efforts either side of half-time from Norwood and industrious midfielder Perkins were enough for Tranmere to record a sixth straight win at the home of the U’s.

TRFC’s final game of March saw them notch up a seventh straight victory as they powered past Carlisle United in a 3-0 triumph at Prenton Park.

Banks set the ball rolling with his opener in first-half added time prior to Norwood and Monthe adding further goals to cap off a fine month’s work for Mellon’s side, which earned the boss the Manager of the Month award as Tranmere climbed to fifth in the division as the closing weeks of the season approached.

 

APRIL

Tranmere’s long winning run came to an end in early April when they lost 2-0 away at Oldham Athletic in a rearranged fixture under the Boundary Park floodlights.

Callum Lang scored in each half as Rovers were beaten by their North West rivals in Greater Manchester.

Rovers were back on the road in their next match, making the long journey down to South-East Wales as they earned a point away at Newport County in a Rodney Parade stalemate.

But despite the frustrations of their previous two games, Tranmere kept up the pace with the top three by beating MK Dons 2-1 in a top-of-the-table meet at Prenton Park.

Rovers led through Perkins after half an hour, but their advantage lasted for two minutes as Kieran Agard equalised for the Dons almost immediately.

And Rovers’ winner came from Jennings, who headed home Pringle’s cross which made it nine wins from 12 games for TRFC.

A Good Friday set-back to fellow Play-Off hopefuls Forest Green Rovers, where Tranmere suffered a 1-0 defeat at home, with Junior Mondal striking the only goal of the encounter.

Tranmere’s second fixture of the Easter weekend proved to be a positive point in a goalless draw away to champions Lincoln City at Sincil Bank.

And TRFC ensured that a great first season back in the EFL will continue with a place in the Play-Offs, which they confirmed with the recent 1-1 draw at home to Bury last month with one game to spare ahead of the final day visit to Crawley Town. 

 

MAY

After the loss against Crawley Town on the last day of the campaign, Tranmere finished in sixth position, setting up an exciting play-off semi-final tie against Forest Green Rovers. Mellon’s troops took full advantage of playing at home in the first leg. Ollie Banks blasted in from distance to clinch a one-goal lead heading into the return match at the New Lawn. The match in Gloucestershire started badly for Tranmere after the tie was levelled when Joseph Mills headed in early on. However, soon later Rovers’ talisman, Norwood, struck his 32nd goal of the season in emphatic fashion - sending Tranmere to Wembley to face Newport County and with a chance to achieve consecutive promotions.

The day of destiny arrived on the 25th May. With the game on a knife edge heading into extra time, Mark O’Brien, the Newport captain, was dismissed for a second bookable offence in the 89th minute to hand Rovers the initiative in the additional 30 minutes at the home of English football. A penalty shootout looked to be the most plausible scenario to decide who jumped into Sky Bet League One, until Jennings nodded home a Jake Caprice cross in the dying embers to seal back-to-back promotions in the most dramatic style.

 

There is still time to sign up for League One football at Prenbton Park next season! CLICK HERE to puchase your season ticket


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