Despite a spirited second half performance from Andy Parkinson’s side, Preston struck late on in the game to see the visitors take all three points.
Tranmere started the game the brighter of the two sides, in the fourth minute midfielder Nathan Corness beat his man on the right flank to put in a dangerous ball into the path of forward Danny Walker-Rice who just failed to connect from six yards out. A few minutes later, the duo were threatening Preston again, this time Walker-Rice found Corness who found his shot blocked from just outside the box.
Preston began to grow into the game, centre-half Lewis Earl carried the ball from his own half going on a mazy run that saw him test keeper Bayleigh Passant from 12 yards out, the Tranmere number one dealt with the effort comfortably.
On the 30th minute, following increasing pressure from North End, the visitors got their opener in a somewhat controversial scenario. Following Passants kick, Walker-Rice was flagged for offside; Rovers seemed to temporarily switch off seeing the flag being raised. However, the referee gave PNE the advantage, which saw them work the ball well down the right hand flank, with wide man Ethan Walker finding forward Thrys Dolan who made no mistake from six yards out. After some deliberation from the ref who consulted his linesman the goal was awarded.
The 2nd half saw Parkinson make some tactically changes, with Walker-Rice dropping into midfield and Corness going upfront. The change appeared to have a positive effect on Rovers performance, just ten minutes after the restart Ben Kerr whipped in a dangerous ball that was momentarily cleared before Corness acrobatically executed an overhead kick that was inches wide.
On the 66th minute, Parkinson looked to freshen things up, making a triple change that saw U16s Demetrius Rhami and Ryan Stratlilis enter the game, along with first year scholar Jake Burton.
Almost instantaneously, the change made an impact, on the 71st minute Passant quickly took a goal kick which flew over the Preston back line and found Nugent who selflessly squared the ball to his teammate Jake Burton who converted to give Rovers the equaliser.
The momentum was with Tranmere and shortly after the equaliser, Carl Spellman had an opportunity to give Rovers the lead, but his long range effort was well saved by the Preston stopper. Corness also came close, with his shot being blocked in the box from eight yards out.
Unfortunately for Rovers, North End caught Tranmere out with a late counter attack. Midfielder Baxter played a pinpoint cross field pass to find Walker who beat his opposite man and drove into the box, finding substitute Brannigan who slid in and knocked the ball over the line from a few yards out.
In the short time they had left Tranmere were unable to breakdown the Preston defence and unfortunately saw them fall to their first defeat of the year, ending a run of seven games unbeaten.
Rovers have the opportunity to bounce back next week as they face a trip to Fleetwood Town on Saturday.
By Harry Taylor