TRANMERE Rovers paid the price for poor defending when they were beaten 3-2 at Port Vale on Saturday.

Rovers trailed 3-0 early in the first-half but gave themselves hope with goals from Ash Taylor and Jason Koumas.

However, despite pressing for an equaliser, they were unable to get the all-important third goal and went home empty handed.

The defeat has pumped up the volume of alarm bells ringing for the Birkenhead club.

With seven games to go until the end of the season, Rovers are locked in a titanic battle for League One survival.

Tranmere are just one place above the drop zone, and the players must also try to put out of their minds two unsettling off-field issues.

In February they saw their manager Ronnie Moore suspended as part of an FA investigation into a potential breach of betting rules.

And last Monday, chairman Peter Johnson promised he will be selling to a new owner “within weeks.”

Assistant manager John McMahon, given first team responsibility in Moore’s absence, could be forgiven for wondering if the fates are conspiring against them after Rovers were denied a penalty for a challenge on Vale’s Liam Ridehalgh.

McMahon said: "I've looked at the penalty claim seven times in the changing room with the players, and for the life of me I can't see why he's not given it.

“It's not even close. It's absolutely nailed on.

“The lad has totally missed the ball and it's a yard inside the box.

“At the minute we don't seem to be getting them but we'll keep working hard.

"I can make excuses about officials all day long, what I can't make excuses about is our poor defending.

"We've got to move on. It's a set-back for us but we've got to build on the positives and hopefully we can turn the corner.

"We won't stop believing, we'll keep fighting.

“We're well up for the fight and we'll keep fighting until the last game of the season."

 On Tuesday evening, Tranmere will be hosting Swindon Town at Prenton Park.

They'll then face a crucial clash with fellow league strugglers Carlisle Utd, one place below them, this Saturday.

McMahon said: “It’s a tough week in terms of games and getting those much-needed points.

“Every game is a big game now.

“In fact, every game is like the FA Cup to us.”