Ebbsfleet United 0 Tranmere Rovers 0

TRANMERE'S underwhelming start to the season continued with a goalless draw at Ebbsfleet United, but they had to play the final 42 minutes with 10 men.

Defender Jay McEverley was dismissed early in the second half after he picked up his second yellow card of the afternoon, but despite some sustained periods of pressure, Rovers held firm for a point at least.

It leaves them languishing in 17th place in the National League table.

Micky Mellon made two changes from the side that crashed to defeat at Maidenhead on Tuesday night, recalling the fit-again McEverley for Evan Gumbs, while Connor Jennings was given the nod ahead of Andy Cook.

Rovers came into this match desperate for a positive result, having suffered four losses in their first 10 matches.

James Norwood tried his luck from the edge of the box early doors but Kenny Clark blocked his shot on the turn.

The Eastbourne-bred striker went closer on the quarter of an hour mark, when he flicked a Jay Harris cross, just wide of the front post.

McEverley first found himself in the referee's notebook before the half hour, when a tussle with Chris Bush – who was also booked – turned into a fracas.

Fleet responded and Steve McNulty had to stretch to divert an effort around the post for a corner.

But Rovers countered quickly with Adam Buxton forcing a low save out of Nathan Ashmore that he could only gather at the second attempt.

Encouraged by his foray forward, Buxton then tried a first time volley from 20 yards but it was straight down the throat of the Ebbsfleet stopper.

The hosts’ best chance of the first half arrived on 43 minutes, when towering striker Danny Mills was denied a certain goal by a heroic block from Buxton six yards out.

Fleet exerted some early pressure with a succession of corners and despite only half-coming for a cross, it was Scott Davies who bundled a goal bound effort off the line.

McEverley’s early bath arrived only three minutes into the second half, when he pulled back his marker, leaving the referee with little option but to send him off.

The hosts smelt blood, with Jack Powell shooting just wide, before Andy Drury curled one over the bar.

Mills then sent a one header wide before sticking another effort off-target as the Fleet tried to make their numerical advantage count.

Tranmere dug in to withstand the pressure as did their fans, who absorbed the adversity and backed their team with partisan enthusiasm.

With Tranmere carved open, a low cross from Weston was knocked goal bound by McNulty forcing Davies into a reflex stop before the overworked stopper recovered to deny Mills with an incredible flick around the post.

But Tranmere were showing plenty of steel and character and when Norwood charged past Bush he fired a low shot on goal that Ashmore could only punch away for a corner.

Davies had to get down low to stop a deflected effort from Weston skidding in, but despite some late pressure from Ebbsfleet, Rovers were good value for a point.

Tranmere’s players received a mixed reception from their supporters at the end and sitting only four points above the relegation zone – with the visit of Wrexham to come on Saturday – the need for a victory has never been greater.

Rovers manager Micky Mellon said afterwards: "Under the circumstances, to get a clean sheet and a point – I think at 40 minutes to go – we probably would have accepted that. Of course we came to try and get three points but it was made difficult for us just after half-time.

"I think we were alright for about 30/35 minutes and then a few things went against us.

"We got disappointed and we sort of came off what we were doing in the first 35 minutes.

"When we got in at half time we had a chat about that and then we start the second half upping the tempo a little bit, putting people under a wee bit more pressure.

"But I think the game was completely changed when we went down to 10 men, so the boys absolutely dug in and got us a point in the end.

"It's always difficult when you go down to ten men. I never criticise my players – I love my players – but you would expect someone with a wee bit of experience maybe not to get involved.

"We all know the situation that we're in, but a clean sheet and a point with ten men is something for us to build on."

Match stats

Ebbsfleet United 0 Tranmere Rovers 0

Half time: 0-0

Star man: Scott Davies (Tranmere goalkeeper)

Attendance: 1,525

Entertainment: 2/5

Ref rating: Alan young (6/10)

Ebbsfleet (4-4-2): Ashmore, Connors, Clark, Powell, Drury, Weston, Payne, Mills (Kedwell 79), Magri (McQueen 79), Coulson, Bush

Subs not used: Rance, Miles, Mambo Bookings: Bush

Tranmere (3-5-2): Davies, Sutton, McNulty, McEverley, Buxton0, Hughes, Norburn, Harris, Ridehalgh, Jennings, Norwood (Waring 84)

Subs not used: Pilling, Cook, Alabi, Dunn Yellows: Harris, McEverley, Jennings, Davies Reds: McEverely