Tranmere Rovers 3 Maidenhead United 2

A DREAM debut goal from Josh Ginnelly helped Tranmere nudge to victory over gritty Maidenhead United at Prenton Park.

James Norwood struck early doors before Burnley loanee Ginnelly doubled the advantage soon after half-time.

A Steve McNulty own goal gave United renewed optimism before substitute Jeff Hughes restored a two goal advantage for the hosts.

Remy Clerima pulled a late one back for the visitors, but Rovers held firm and in doing so have closed the gap on league leaders Macclesfield Town to just five points.

Micky Mellon made three enforced changes to the side that won at Woking last weekend.

With Andy Cook serving a one-match suspension, Jake Kirby returned to the starting XI for the first time this season, while a hamstring injury for Larnell Cole presented a maiden club appearance for winger Ginnelly.

Eddie Clarke – who is the subject of interest from League One table-toppers Wigan Athletic – missed out through injury, allowing Liam Ridehalgh to return at left-back.

Rovers raced out of the blocks and didn't have to wait long to get their noses in front.

Just four minutes in, Norwood picked up the ball on the edge of the box and firmly side-footed a 20-yard effort into the bottom right corner.

The Eastbourne-raised striker was hungry for more and soon forced a corner out of Carl Pentney with another right-footed effort.

United responded with a hooked effort from Moses Emmanuel but it was easily held by Rhys Taylor.

On-loan ‘keeper Taylor was called into action again when Rovers failed to deal with a high ball into their box – darting off his line to clear the danger and flattening Emmanuel in the process.

Maidenhead continued to push forward and a flick on from Sean Marks resulted in Ryan Upward firing a stinging volley just wide.

Rovers nearly doubled their lead when Norwood whipped in a cross for Kirby, but on the stretch, he could only flick the ball over the bar from six yards out.

A smart ball down the middle from Ollie Norburn put Jay Harris in on goal but the Tranmere midfielder wasn’t quick enough on the gas, allowing United to clear for a corner.

Back came the yellows – this time Marks fed Barratt on the edge of the box, who fired over when he really should have found the target.

On the stroke of half time, Norwood had a great opportunity to give Rovers a 2-0 lead but with just the keeper to beat he took the ball too wide before seeing a shot from an acute angle cleared off the line.

That miss almost proved costly immediately after the restart, when Taylor was forced to make an early save from Marks, denying a certain equaliser.

But on 50 minutes home nerves were calmed as Rovers went two up and this time Norwood turned provider, spraying a sublime pass into the path of Ginnelly who poked the ball past Carl Pentney into the net.

That comfort zone was short lived however. Only six minutes in fact. When United attacked down the right, Steve McNulty tried to cut out a cross, destined for Barratt, but only succeeded in turning the ball into his own net.

A nervy spell resumed and with no favours off the referee Taylor had to be alert to cut out another chance for the visitors at his near post.

With 25 minutes to go, Kirby was withdrawn for striker Andy Mangan before new boy Ginnelly made way for Hughes on 78 minutes.

And it was the latter who made a telling impact – collecting the ball on the edge of the United box no more than a minute after coming on before drilling a low left foot shot into the goal.

The brilliant Norwood then slipped Mangan in on goal but his attempted chip sailed harmlessly into the Kop.

Maidenhead weren’t done however and when a free kick was chucked into Taylor’s penalty area six minutes from time, Clerima reached it first to nod home and give the visitors renewed hope.

Despite a nervy finish and some dubious referring, Rovers saw out four minutes of injury time for the win and are breathing down the necks of their promotion rivals.

And with star winger Ben Tollitt reportedly on the brink of a return to first team action, Tranmere are in good shape for a serious title tilt.

Reflecting on the result, Rovers manager Micky Mellon said: "It's a terrifically hard-fought three points against a big strong side who knew exactly what they were going to do.

"It was good to see the goals shared around the group. We’ve had a few injuries and suspensions but the togetherness to get us a result with the fans was terrific.

"James Norwood ran his socks off but without doubt the man we should be applauding is Steve McNulty.

"His shin bone is in an unbelievable state and he comes in and plays like that. We knew that we needed that type of presence against a team like Maidenhead.

"If we didn't have McNulty today we could’ve been in a wee bit of trouble."

Match stats

Tranmere Rovers (3): Norwood (4), Ginnelly (50), Hughes (79) 

Maidenhead 2: McNulty (o.g.) 56, Clerima 84

Half time: 1-0

Star man: James Norwood (Tranmere striker)

Attendance: 4,980

Entertainment: 3/5

Ref rating: Simeon Lucas (5/10)

Tranmere (4-4-2): Taylor; Buxton, McNulty, Sutton, Ridehalgh; Ginnelly (Hughes 78), Harris, Norburn, Jennings, Kirby (Mangan 65), Norwood

Subs not used: Wharton, Dunn, Gumbs

Maidenhead (4-4-2): Pentney, Clerima, Steer, Odametey, Massey, Emmanuel (Barratt 24), Marks, Pritchard, Upward (Owusu 75), Kilman, Goodman

Subs not used: Comley, Peters, Smith