A young Rovers squad put in a fine showing on Tuesday evening to begin their Papa John's Trophy with a penalty shootout win over League One side Bolton, after the two sides played out a pulsating 2-2 draw.
First-half goals from the returning Kieron Morris and Paul Lewis gave Rovers a 2-0 lead, before Bolton commenced a fight back in the second half to take the game to penalties. There, Rovers held their nerve to earn a bonus point, which could come in handy later on in the tournament.
It was a lively start to the game, with both sides holding their own in the early exchanges. A long-range free-kick from Bolton's Josh Sheehan was the first real opportunity of the game, calling Mateusz Hewelt into a fine save.
At the other end, Rovers' first chance of the evening came through Rhys Hughes, his effort from 25-yards was gathered by Bolton's Joel Dixon.
The SWA continued to probe their League One opposition and took the lead just after the 20-minute mark, a low-driven strike from Kieron Morris beating Dixon in the Bolton goal. A first goal of the season for the winger, after making a return to action at the weekend.
By this point, the SWA were very much on top and could've doubled their lead through Elliott Nevitt, who saw his attempt blocked after receiving a pass from Kieron Morris, who was causing the visitors all sorts of problems.
After a bit of a lull in the action, it was Bolton who had the game's next opportunity through Dapo Afolyan, his effort calling Mateusz Hewelt into a fine save.
This seemed to awaken Rovers, who added their second goal of the evening just moments later, with Paul Lewis slotting past a stranded Dixon. The first goal for Lewis since returning to Birkenhead in the summer, after some clever play by Chris Merrie in the buildup.
That would be the last piece of action in the first half, with Rovers very much on top and good value for their lead at the break. After a really impressive showing from Micky Mellon's team in the opening half.
The visitors made a lively start to the second half and had a chance to cut the deficit through Jón Daði Böðvarsson, the Icelandic striker guiding his header just wide of Mateusz Hewelt in Rovers' goal.
After weathering some pressure from Bolton at the start of the second half, the SWA had a chance to add their third goal through Rhys Hughes, who curled just wide from the edge of the box.
With just under 20 minutes to go, the visitors pulled a goal back via Kieran Sadlier, the attacking midfielder firing past Mateusz Hewelt after Rovers had struggled to clear their lines.
Rovers weren't to rest on their laurels and went chasing a third goal, which they very nearly found through substitute, Arthur Lomax. The youngster went on a mazing before driving his effort just wide of the Bolton goal.
In stoppage time Rovers had a chance to kill off the game through Kane Hemmings, who had made his presence felt off the bench, the striker's attempt calling Joel Dixon into a comfortable save.
Rovers were punished for this missed opportunity, as just moments later Bolton levelled the game, a stunning strike from Conor Carty rocketing past Mateusz Hewlet to send the game to a penalty shootout.
Shooting towards the Bolton supporters, both Rovers and Bolton made a fine start scoring their first two penalties, before Mateusz Hewelt denied Lloyd Isgrove and Reece McAlear converted the following penalty to give the SWA the advantage. That would prove to be the decisive moment in the shootout, as Jake Burton held his nerve later on to gain Rovers the extra point, with a 5-4 win in the shootout. A second penalty shootout triumph of the season for the SWA!
A solid evening's work for Rovers all told, who opened up their Papa John's Trophy account with 2 points, after a fine display against the much-fancied Bolton.
Next up, a trip to the Walsall at the weekend, with the next instalment of Papa John's action coming at home to Leeds U23's on the 4th October.
Tranmere Team: Hewelt, Dacres-Cogley, Byrne, Simeu, Bristow, Morris (Lomax 45'), Merrie, McAlear, Lewis (Burton 68'), Hughes, Nevitt (Hemmings 68')