Isaac Olaofe’s second half strike inflicted a narrow 0-1 defeat on Tranmere Rovers in Sky Bet League Two against Sutton United at Prenton Park.
Isaac Olaofe coolly converted the decisive goal of an evenly contested match after dispossessing Rovers’ captain Peter Clarke in the second period.
The defeat on home soil ends a run of two consecutive victories for Tranmere following recent Cup successes against Crawley Town and Oldham Athletic.
The boss made nine changes from the side that started the commendable comeback win in the Papa John’s Trophy versus Oldham on Tuesday. Nathaniel Knight-Percival and Kieron Morris the two players retaining their places in the team.
Integral leaders in the squad, Clarke and Jay Spearing, earned recalls after sitting out the midweek Cup win. The latter walking a disciplinary tightrope, just one booking away from triggering an automatic one-match ban.
Elliott Nevitt also featured from the outset fresh off the back of signing a contract extension with the Club until the summer of 2023 on Friday.
Prior to kick off, a playing of The Last Post was followed by an impeccably observed minute silence in remembrance of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
It was last season’s National League champions who initially started brightest in the Birkenhead drizzle. With two minutes on the clock, Spearing halted the advances of Olaofe who was powering towards the Tranmere box with purpose. Referee Will Finnie brandished his yellow card at the Englishman who will now miss the trip to Bristol Rovers next week after accumulating his fifth yellow of the campaign.
Mellon’s troops soon found their feet in the contest. A succession of corners almost yielded a breakthrough as Rovers applied pressure, but the Sutton defence stood strong to continually clear to safety.
Confidence was growing in the Tranmere ranks attacking the Argyle Satellite Taxis Kop. Callum McManaman came inches away from netting an opener when his curling strike from the edge of the area trickled narrowly wide in the 24th minute.
There was concern for the exciting winger minutes later. A late Coby Rowe challenge left the Liverpool-born man lying stricken on the turf. However, following the receival of brief medical treatment, he was able to continue playing.
Chances appeared hard to come by for both outfits in Tranmere’s first league outing for two weeks. That was until the Yellows sprung into life in the latter stages of the first 45 minutes.
David Ajiboye hung an enticing ball into the box which found Will Randall ghosting in at the back post in the 41st minute. His looping header appeared to be goal bound but for the woodwork coming to the rescue to the relief of Ross Doohan between the sticks.
Ajiboye then showcased his quality for a second time. After shifting the ball beyond Calum MacDonald with devastating pace, the 23-year-old lacked end product firing wide.
In the dying embers of the half, Liam Feeney had an opportunity to send Tranmere into the break in the lead. Breaking forward on a swift counter-attack, Feeney worked an angle on his unfavoured left foot for a hit which sailed over the crossbar to leave the match all square at half time.
The Yellows looked the more likely team at the beginning of the second period.
Randall struck a speculative long-range attempt skywards before captain Clarke denied what seemed a certain Sutton goal by clearing a Rowe effort off the line in the 56th minute.
On the hour mark, Tranmere manufactured their first chance of the half. Josh Dacres-Cogley delivered a cross from out wide. Nevitt Rose highest six yards from goal but couldn’t guide his header on target.
The introduction of Glatzel midway through an evenly poised second half almost had the desired effect. The youngster raced clear of the U’s backline but the visitors recovered well to eventually produce a last-ditch block.
Rovers were dealt a killer blow with 20 minutes left to play. Olaofe stole possession from Clarke, glided forward and slotted home one-on-one against Doohan.
Mellon’s side pressed forward in search of an equaliser with the backing of the SWA. Ryan Watson went close with an effort from the edge of the box late on but Sutton held on to pick up the three points.
Tranmere team: Doohan, Dacres-Cogley, Knight-Percival, Clarke, MacDonald, McManaman, Morris (Glatzel 64’), Spearing, Foley, Feeney (Hawkes 58’), Nevitt
Subs not used: Murphy, Davies, Foley, Maynard, Duffy