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Tranmere Rovers......4

South Park................1

Tranmere sailed into the third round of the FA Trophy after seeing off minnows South Park FC at Prenton Park.

The Ryman League Division South side had already defied the odds by reaching this stage of the competition.

But first half goals from Ritchie Sutton, Jeff Hughes and Jake Kirby, and a late Cole Stockton header, insured the Surrey side were eliminated with relative ease.

With no competitive fixture since New Years’ Day, Micky Mellon fielded a full strength side clearly with the intention of shaking the defeat at Macclesfield out of their system.

Midfielder James Wallace signed a permanent contract with Tranmere just prior to kick off, but was absent through illness, so there was a place for club captain Steve Jennings in the starting XI.

There was also a very welcome return on the bench for Andy Cook, who had been absent – and missed – with a serious finger injury.

Park goalkeeper Callum Thomas was called into action in the sixth minute, comfortably holding a close range header from Ritchie Sutton.

The visitors had a chance two minutes later when Scott Davies had to be alert to beat Joe Jackson to a cross at his front post, conceding a corner in the process.

Rovers were in front inside quarter of an hour however via a routine set piece. A slippery run from Andy Mangan forced a corner and from the resultant Jeff Hughes delivery, Sutton arrived to head home at the far post unmarked.

By 20 minutes they were two nil up when James Norwood was chopped down in the penalty area, before Hughes calmly dispatched his spot kick from 12 yards.

The Sparks then had their first shot of the match when the assistant manager’s son James McElligott fired just over from 25 yards.

With the half hour point approaching, the visitors had a proper opportunity when Liam Ridehalgh committed a petty foul on the edge of box and from the free kick Dylan Merchant saw his goal bound header cleared off the line.

Tranmere were now finding space but their opponents persevered. A long range effort from Jerry O’Sullivan called Davies into action, coolly clawing the ball out of the top corner.

Lee Vaughan swung a low cross in from the right, which Mangan volleyed just wide.

But a minute before the break Rovers effectively ended the contest when Mangan crossed from the same position for Kirby, who steadied himself before smashing the ball into the roof of the net.

In first half injury time Sparks’ left back Luke Elliot ignited some unrest with a heavy late challenge on Sutton but escaped with a yellow and a ticking off from the referee.

Rovers ‘keeper Davies also received a booking for his part in the aftermath, much to his dismay.

After scrappy start to the second half, Kirby collected the ball on the edge of the box and drifted inside past a defender before firing just over the bar.

A deep cross from Vaughan was nodded down by Norwood before Hughes scuffed his first time shot just wide from 12 yards.

Micky Mellon made a triple substitution on the hour, bringing on Cook, Ben Tollitt and Stockton for Mangan, Lois Maynard and Norwood respectively.

But it was the Sparks who scored the next goal. Kieran Lavery etched his name firmly into the history of the club with a delicious 25-yard free kick that left Davies clutching thin air.

The South Park captain celebrated by running the full length of the pitch before diving in front of the travelling supporters, quickly followed by his gleeful team mates, who piled on top.

In fact Lavery nearly grabbed a second moments later, shooting just wide as Rovers momentarily switched off.

On 79 minutes, Ritchie Sutton was dismissed in what appeared to be a verbal off-the-ball incident, with the Rovers defender seemingly miffed at receiving his marching orders.

Despite the wobble, Tranmere regained their composure and eased the short spell of South Park pressure.

As the game edged towards the full time whistle, substitute Stockton headed home a Liam Ridehalgh cross from close range, giving the score line a more respectable feel from a Tranmere perspective.

It was not as comfortable in the second half as Rovers would’ve planned, but nevertheless they advance in the competition while South Park’s travelling army of 202 fans – double their average home attendance – still enjoyed an afternoon to remember.

After the game was over Mellon said: "When you go out for the second half 3-0 up we said keeping pushing forward.

"But we stopped passing it as well as we had done in the first half and gave up control too cheap.

"Off the ball we weren’t as good either but the important thing is we’ve won 4-1.

“We were always onto a bit of a hiding to nothing, but you’ve just got to go and win the game. Of course we demand a wee bit more than just winning - but we’re through.

“We’ve had conflicting reports on the incident but it’s certainly disappointing to have had somebody sent off. It takes the edge off the result. It was a crazy sending off.

“I hope they’ve (South Park) had a terrific day, because they’ve worked hard to get to this round.

"To come to a club like Tranmere, you see what it means to players.

"Hopefully they’ve created some good memories for themselves.”

Match Stats

Tranmere Rovers 4, Sutton 14, Hughes (pen) 20, Kirby 44, Stockton 90

South Park 1, Lavery 73 Half time: 3-0 S

tar man: Jeff Hughes (Tranmere Centre midfielder).

Attendance: 2,801

Entertainment: 3/5

Ref rating: Joseph Johnson (6/10)

Tranmere (4-4-2): Davies; Vaughan, Sutton, McNulty, Ridehalgh; Kirby, Hughes, S Jennings, Maynard (Tollitt 62); Norwood (Stockton 62), Mangan (Cook 62).

Subs not used: Turner, C Jennings

South Park (4-4-2): Thomas, O’Sullivan, Stafford, Merchant, Elliott, McElligott, Ayling (Rixon-Nicholls 80), Moody, King (Burgess 82), Lavery, Jackson (Quartey 66).

Subs not used: Gill, Burgess, Lovegrove, Rixon-Nicholls