Tranmere Rovers 0 Dover Athletic 1

TRANMERE Rovers slumped to their third defeat of the season after a late second half penalty gave Dover Athletic all three points at Prenton Park.

Ryan Bird struck the only goal of the game in the 82nd minute from the penalty spot, leaving struggling Rovers languishing in 18th place in the National League.

Micky Mellon named an unchanged side from the one that won at Solihull Moors on Bank Holiday Monday.

The visitors had the first chance of the match two minutes in, when Jamie Allen hit a speculative effort well off target.

Five minutes later Mitchell Pinnock fired another long-range strike over the bar as Dover continued to demonstrate their intent.

Tranmere's first moment of note arrived just before the quarter of an hour mark, when Andy Mangan struck a tame free kick into the clutches of Mitch Walker.

Jay McEverley had to at his best to divert a testing Dover cross round for a corner – clearing the ball at full stretch.

Rovers were struggling to hurt their opponents but in the 27th minute centre back Ritchie Sutton forced a low save out of Walker after the host finally pieced a decent move together.

Andy Cook had received little service but managed to get a shot off on the half hour mark that whistled just wide of the post.

A measured chip from Jay Harris then found Jeff Hughes on the edge of the box but his half volley was well saved by Walker.

Scott Davies was enjoying a quiet afternoon up to this point but he had to get down low to save a first-time strike from Allen 10 minutes before the break.

Ollie Norburn sailed an effort – on the turn – from the edge of the box well over the bar, as the hosts continued to disappoint in front of goal.

Miss-control from Steve McNulty presented Dover with a good chance just before the break but Pinnock pulled his shot wide, before Jay Harris followed suit at the other end of the pitch.

Tranmere started the second half with more purpose and when Mitch Duggan found Cook in the box Walker had to be at his best to repel his close range header.

Athletic fired a warning to their hosts in the 51st minute when Femi Ilesanmi cut inside Duggan a bent an effort over the bar.

James Norwood came on for Mangan as Rovers continued to toil for an opening.

Defender McEverly drove through the middle, gliding past one defender before pulling a left foot shot just wide.

Connor Jennings replaced Norburn on the hour before Davies pulled off a full stretch save to deny Tobi Sho-Silva.

Norwood should have put Tranmere ahead when he failed to connect properly with Liam Ridehalgh's wicked free kick – pushing the ball wide.

Dover went close inside the final 20 minutes when an Ilesanmi header beat Davies and crashed off the underside of the crossbar.

Rovers wanted a penalty when Norwood appeared to be upended by Giancarlo Gallifuoco in the box with 12 minutes to play.

But straight after that incident the visitors were awarded a spot kick themselves when Sutton dallied too long on a clearance and inadvertently swiped the leg of Bird.

The same player took the opportunity himself and he made no mistake, riffling the ball past Davies from 12 yards.

Ridehalgh had a great chance to save a point for Rovers late on after he was put in on goal by Norwood, but Walker saved with his feet before Connor Essam cleared off the line.

Walker was in inspired form, denying Norwood in the 90th minute with another reflex save, but he could only watch as Cook's towering header sailed just wide of the goal frame.

Harris blazed one over in injury time but it was not to be for Rovers whose baffling start to the season continues.

After the match Micky Mellon said: "We're absolutely gutted to lose a game of football.

"We set out to try and win all the games, but to lose it the way we did was a hard one to take.

"As we always say, if you're not good enough to take the chances when they come along and get ourselves in the lead, you always leave yourself liable to something like that happening.

"We did have opportunities.

"It wasn't a conveyor belt of chance after chance but we did have opportunities to take the lead and also to equalise.

"We just haven’t been good enough to take them."