Tranmere Rovers 1 Walsall 3

TRANMERE's return to the League Cup was a brief one after they were soundly beaten by League One Walsall in the first round at Prenton Park.

Rovers started brightly, but it was ex-Boreham Wood striker Morgan Ferrier who gave the Saddlers a deserved half-time lead.

Former Tranmere winger Josh Ginnelly and Zeli Ismail extended Walsall's advantage after the break before Larnell Cole grabbed a late consolation for the hosts.

Micky Mellon made seven changes to the side that beat Cheltenham Town here on Saturday, handing maiden starts to Shamal George, Paul Mullin, Mark Ellis and Harvey Gilmour.

Rovers almost took the lead in the third minute when Ollie Banks whistled a rasping drive just over the bar.

Banks went closer still in the 12th minute when he forced a save out of Chris Dunn with a low strike.

Cole Stockton then headed just wide from a corner as Tranmere showed the early attacking endeavour.

Rovers old boy Andy Cook had a half chance moments later but he scuffed it to the relief of the Kop.

A mistake by Manny Monthe allowed the Saddlers to counter attack but Ginnelly saw his shot blocked.

Shots from Ferrier and Ginnelly were blocked by Mark Ellis and Monthe respectively as the visitors started to look more dangerous.

Ellis was forced to make another solid block to deny Ferrier again 25 minutes in before George punched the subsequent corner clear.

But three minutes later, Ferrier got the better of Ellis – turning him on the edge of the box – and drilled the ball under George to give the Saddlers the lead.

The former Boreham Wood striker was booked for his over-zealous efforts in the ensuing celebration.

Another long range Banks effort was comfortably saved by Dunn before the Tranmere midfielder saw another drive deflected just wide. Monthe headed over from the resultant corner.

Former Oldham midfielder Banks continued to be Tranmere's greatest goal threat and when he burst through the middle just before the break, he was only denied by the foot of Jon Guthrie.

Walsall should have doubled their lead straight after the break when Steve McNulty missed Luke Leahy’s cross, but Cook's shot was week and easily held by George.

The ex-Tranmere hero tried his luck again on the turn moments later but it was straight at the Rovers 'keeper.

A ball over the top from Banks just before the hour mark set Cole Stockton on his way, who held off his marker, but could only stick it over the bar.

Banks then slalomed his way past three Walsall defenders but could not get enough purchase on his shot and the chance was gone.

In the 65th minute, Walsall doubled their advantage when a cross was headed by Harvey Gilmour straight into the path of Ginelly, who smashed the ball home from 12 yards out.

And three minutes later the Saddlers made it three when Ismail drifted past Ellis and stroked the ball beyond George into the far corner of the net.

The visitors were denied a fourth when George saved well from Kane Wilson, as Tranmere started to look a little ragged.

With 12 minutes remaining, Rovers pulled one back when Cole collected the ball on the edge of the box and smashed it into the roof of the net.

Stockton saw an overhead kick saved and substitute Johnny Smith hit the side netting as Rovers rallied late on, but it was too little to late and it is Walsall who deservedly advance to the second round.

Rovers boss Micky Mellon said afterwards: "It is what it is. We've made a lot changes and given a lot of lads match time, which was important.

"At times we played some good football, created good chances.

"We always looked a wee bit vulnerable on the counter, probably too much for our liking to be fair.

"But it is difficult because there were a lot of changes and we have to take that into consideration.

"Losing a goal from a long throw when people are detailed to do jobs on the edge of the box is frustrating, but fair play to the boys, we made a lot of changes and they put a good shift in.

"We've got a lot of games to play, of course we wanted to go out and do well but there's a lot of football to be played.

"We've lost (Ritchie) Sutton now (with a suspected broken leg) and we've got Zoumana (Bakayogo) with a calf injury, so it's important with the squad that we have that we share the time around because we can't be losing many more."