Tranmere Rovers 1, Macclesfield Town 4 

TRANMERE's automatic promotion hopes were dealt a huge blow as their nine-match Prenton Park winning streak was chucked in the bin by table-toppers Macclesfield Town.

The Whites started this match in second position and could have closed the gap at the top to one point with a victory here, but a more cohesive unit with a clinical end product undid them.

Rovers dominated the opening 45 minutes, but fell behind in first half injury time when Danny Whitaker poached from close range.

Cook pulled the hosts level shortly after the break but a brace from the brilliant Elliot Durrell either side of a Whitaker penalty embarrassed Tranmere in front of a season-s best home crowd of 7,385.

Micky Mellon made one change from the weekend, granting star winger Ben Tollitt his first start since returning from injury, with Josh Ginnelly dropping down to the bench.

After an unsettled opening couple of minutes from the hosts, Cook had the first chance of the match five minutes in when he prodded a speculative effort over the bar from the edge of the box.

Ollie Norburn then teed up Connor Jennings before the attacking midfielder flashed a dipping effort just over the bar.

Cook should have given Rovers the lead 10 minutes in when James Norwood slipped him in on goal, but the usually lethal striker delayed his shot and despite going to ground, Shwan Jalal was able to get a leg on it and divert it wide for a corner.

Rovers kept up the pressure with Cook heading just wide from a testing Liam Ridehalgh cross.

Cook had the ball in the net moments later but he was flagged offside much to his disgust – as the linesman found out to his cost.

Just before the half hour mark Cook struck another one over before a first time cross from Norwood was met by the burley striker again, this time glancing just wide.

Jennings was everywhere.

He sprinted 20 yards to nick the ball off a sleeping Macclesfield defence and knocked one in for Norwood but he could only shoot wide when he should have done better.

Indecision from Ritchie Sutton let Tyrone Marsh in for Town's first real chance, but his shot was straight at Scott Davies.

Jennings looked to have capitalised on a mistake by fullback Jared Hodkiss but as he shaped to shoot he handled the ball and the official halted play.

Despite dominating the majority of the first half Tranmere found themselves behind at the break as they switched off in injury time.

A ball into the Rovers box was half cleared by Steve McNulty, but Durrell was able to cross beyond Ridehalgh allowing Whitaker to slam home from close range.

That was harsh on Rovers who had bossed the opening 45 minutes and paid a heavy price for a moment's lack of concentration.

But within five minutes of the restart the hosts were level.

Norwood out ran the sleeping Town defence and composed himself before floating in a cross for Cook who nodded it past Jalal into the goal.

Prenton Park roared as Tranmere went in search of the lead however the Silkmen had other ideas.

On 55 minutes Durrell burst through the middle and unleashed a pile driver that skipped beyond Davies into the goal.

Back came Rovers.

First Jay Harris saw a long range drive saved by Jalal before the Mac 'keeper went one better; reacting brilliantly to claw Norburn’s deflected shot to safety.

Davies was equally busy at the other end – palming a stinging volley from George Pilkington over the bar.

But from the subsequent corner Ridehalgh was adjudged to have handled the ball and the referee pointed to the spot.

Whitaker made no mistake from 12 yards, giving shell-shocked Rovers a mountain to climb.

In search of a goal, Rovers lost their shape and their discipline.

It led to another Macclesfield goal.

A swift counter-attack concluded with Durrell lashing a beautiful bending strike into the top corner of the net sending the travelling fans behind the goal wild.

Free-flowing Town could have scored a fifth but Adam Buxton cleared Mitch Hancox's scuffed effort off the line.

Cook almost pulled one back with an injury time header, but it was tipped onto the bar by the outstanding Jalal.

Defeat drops sorry Rovers back down to sixth and significantly now seven points behind Macclesfield, who have a game in hand.

After weeks of solid progression the play-offs are once again looking like Tranmere's best hope of getting back in the Football League.

They'll want to forget this humbling in a hurry.

Rovers manager Micky Mellon said afterwards: "We're disappointed to lose a home game with three big points at stake with a good crowd here.

"There were certain things that we know we needed to be better at.

"In the first half I think that we played well and were unlucky to go in a goal down.

"Then, in the second half we got the equaliser and then were disappointed so soon after that we gave away the types of goals that we did.

"They'll say they were good goals. We'll say that we should do better. That's the nature of the football.

"We're disappointed that we got ourselves into certain positions and we didn't show the quality that the boys have got.

"Maybe to many times we didn’t show that little bit of quality that's needed in games that have such a valuable three points as they did tonight."

Match stats:

Tranmere Rovers 1 (Cook 49)

Macclesfield Town 4 (Whitaker 45+2, 62, Durrell 55, 66) 

Half time: 0-1

Star man: Connor Jennings (Tranmere midfielder)

Attendance: 7,385

Entertainment: 4/5

Ref rating: Peter Wright (7/10)

Tranmere (4-4-2): Davies; Buxton, McNulty, Sutton, Ridehalgh; Tollitt, Norburn, Harris, Jennings; Cook, Norwood

Subs not used: Taylor, Ginnelly, Hughes, Mangan, Clarke

Macclesfield (4-4-1-1): Jalal, Hodgkiss, Lowe, Pilkington, Fitzpatrick; Durrell (Burgess 82), Whitaker, Whitehead, Hancox, Marsh (Evans 78), Blissett

Subs not used: Wilson, Ramsbottom, Kennedy