A JAY Harris red card proved disastrous for Tranmere as they blew a two-goal lead and were beaten 3-2 by Swindon Town at the County Ground.

Early strikes from Johnny Smith and James Norwood put Rovers in command early doors but a rash challenge from hot-headed midfielder

Harris produced a straight red card only 17 minutes into the match. With the numerical advantage, the home side hit back through Elijah Adebayo and in the second half they were able to dominate and add further goals from Marc Richards and Joe Romanksi.

The defeat is Rovers' first of the Football League Two season.

With Zoumana Bakayogo and Ritchie Sutton both injured, Micky Mellon started defenders Manny Monthe and Mark Ellis, both of whom had played against Walsall midweek in the League Cup.

Connor Jennings went close early on when he diverted Smith’s shot just wide of the post following Ollie Banks' corner.

But Tranmere went in front inside 10 minutes when Norwood slipped a smart ball in behind the Robins defence allowing Jennings to cross low for Smith to stroke home at the far post.

And that lead was doubled four minutes later when Jennings clipped a forward ball over the top to Norwood, who took one touch before slotting the ball below Lawrence Vigouroux into the net.

It's rare that Tranmere get everything their own way so there was no reason to think that this match would be any different.

By the 17th minute they were down to 10 men when Harris lunged in thigh high on Martin Smith and was immediately shown a red card.

Buoyed by that incident, Swindon pulled a goal back three minutes later.

Adebayo picked the ball up on the edge of the box an evaded a challenge before poking the ball past Scott Davies.

A cross from Matty Taylor was just beyond the head of the towering Adebayo, as the hosts looked to make their numerical advantage count.

A shot from Taylor was forced behind for a corner before the same player made a hash of an effort from further out moments later.

With an extra man on the field, the Robins grew into the game as the half wore on, but Tranmere are well school in the art of fighting against adversity and stood up well.

When Adebayo turned Jake Caprice in the penalty area, his shot was blocked by Steve McNulty before Keshi Anderson lashed the rebound over the bar.

Crosses from Caprice and Jennings gave Swindon problems before the break but having started like a train, Mellon would have just been happy to still be in the lead by half-time.

A shot from Michael Doughty was dealt with my Davies at the second attempt as the second half got underway.

Martin Smith then ballooned one over the bar as Rovers looked to limit the Robins to long range efforts.

When Jermaine McGlashan got the better of Manny Monthe, he crossed for Smith on the edge of the box, but he blazed over and was then rewarded for his efforts by being substituted.

Swindon looked certain to equalise when March Richards crossed low for Adebayo but he showed no conviction and Davies was somehow able to save with his legs.

But the hosts didn't have to wait much longer for the equaliser, with Richards turning a low cross home from 12 yards out on the hour mark.

With Smith tiring, Mellon introduced a fresh pair of legs in the shape of new loan recruit Dylan Mottley-Henry – his second loan spell with the club.

In a rare foray forward, a shot from Jennings was straight at Vigouroux. Moments later Norwood curled the ball around Joe Romanski but Vigouroux pulled off a full stretch save to his left, denying a certain Tranmere third.

But it was the Robins who went 3-2 up with 18 minutes to play then Rovers were caught cold by a quick corner.

The ball was moved briskly to spare man Romanksi on the edge of the box and his poked effort somehow squirmed in at the far post, evading the scrambling Davies.

Swindon almost had a fourth when Richards flicked the ball up on the edge of the box and flashed a volley just past the wrong side of the post.

A free kick was deflected inches wide and a Keshi Anderson shot was saved by Davies as the Robins tried to kill the game off.

Mellon brought on Paul Mullin for Jake Caprice late on but in truth Rovers were chasing lost causes by then.

The result is all the more disappointing given Tranmere’s brilliant start to the match.

Here a rash tackle cost them three points, thank goodness it didn’t at Wembley back in May.

Manager Micky Mellon said aftertwards: "We’re cruising at 2-0 but after that there's a big moment in the game that changes everything.

"Let's get it straight though, after that we defended poorly for all their goals.

"We will not look for excuses because at the times that they score their goals we have to defend better anyway.

"For the last two goals we have our whole team in our 18 yards box and they get two side-footers to score.

"Undoubtedly, the huge turning point is the sending off.

"If you go in reckless like that then you run the risk of leaving us with ten men for a long time.

"Until then we were knocking it around for fun. They were dead. Gone. The crowd was turning on them.

"They'd ran out of ideas and we were pressing them continuously and we looked like we were going to get more.

"Apart from the sending off, the biggest disappointment is the defending. It's poor, it's not good enough.

"The goals we conceded weren't ten men moments."

Match stats:

Tranmere: Davies, Caprice (Mullin 84), McNulty, Ellis, Monthe, Smith (Mottley-Henry 62), Banks, Harris, Jennings, Norwood, Stockton (Gilmour 69).

Subs not used: Tollitt, George, Cole, Spellman.

Bookings: Swindon – McGlashan; Tranmere – Davies, Banks Red cards: Harris.

Man of the match: Connor Jennings (Tranmere midfielder). Referee: Alan Young.

Match rating: 4/5.