A Charlie Jolley brace ensured Tranmere Rovers recorded a fifth consecutive home victory in Sky Bet League Two with a 2-0 win against Rochdale at Prenton Park.
Jolley fired home a quick-fire double early in the first half. Two emphatic finishes which proved decisive in securing three points for Rovers in front of the SWA.
Despite struggling to create many clear-cut chances for the rest of the match, Tranmere defended resolutely to preserve their clean sheet and remain second in the table.
The boss made two changes from the side that earned a draw at Salford City in midweek. Kieron Morris returned after his isolation period to feature in the line-up. Kane Hemmings also made his debut after joining the Club from Burton Albion on Thursday.
Heading into the game in the midst of an eight-game league unbeaten run, Rovers were brimming with confidence as they searched for an early breakthrough.
It took just three minutes for Tranmere to find an opener. Slack distribution by Rochdale goalkeeper Joel Coleman was pounced on by Jolley. The in-form youngster intercepted, drove into the area, and fired into the top corner to register his third goal of the campaign and hand Rovers the lead.
The duo of Hemmings and Jolley were pressing the Dale defence relentlessly forcing errors on the ball. The latter was rewarded for his efforts once more on the quarter-hour mark. Finding himself in acres of space in the box, Jolley coolly curled home his second of the game to double Tranmere’s advantage.
Micky Mellon’s men seemed determined to build on a productive start to proceedings against opposition who had not played a competitive fixture since December.
A high intensity and willingness to regain possession was an admirable feature of Tranmere’s play, but the visitors stood firm to deny further opportunities for Rovers to conclusively take the game out of their grasp.
A rare venture into Tranmere’s final third in the 38th minute nearly resulted in Dale halving the deficit. Alex Newby drilled a deflected right foot shot goal bound, but Ross Doohan saved well with his outstretched boot.
A late challenge by Jolley on Liam Kelly brought about the first yellow card of the match to kickstart the second period. A final 45 minutes in which Robbie Stockdale’s troops emerged from the tunnel intent on fighting their way back into the contest.
Conor Grant tumbled in the box after a promising Rochdale attack in the 48th minute, however, referee Ben Toner waved away claims for a penalty.
That was before Kelly’s corner picked out Dale captain Eoghan O’Connell who had darted across the front post. The defender’s flick on towards goal was comfortably collected by Doohan.
Just prior to the hour mark, there was a brief injury concern for the exciting Jolley. The 21-year-old went to ground clutching his ankle but was able to continue his quest for a hat-trick following treatment.
The introduction of Sam Foley in place of Jolley added an attacking spark into Tranmere’s play. Foley’s through ball narrowly averted Hemmings in the 79th minute who had surged in-behind, before the midfielder hit over the crossbar with a snapshot seconds later.
A heroic save from point blank range by Doohan prevented a potentially nervy ending for Rovers. A fizzing cross from wide travelled beyond Peter Clarke into the path of Matty Done who was denied by the shot stopper, concluding a fantastic afternoon for Tranmere on home turf.
Tranmere team: Doohan, Dacres-Cogley, Davies, Clarke, MacDonald, McPake, Spearing, O’Connor, Morris, Jolley (Foley 78’), Hemmings (Nevitt 84’)
Unused subs: Murphy, Merrie, Feeney, McManaman, Maguire