Tranmere Rovers 3, Crewe Alexandra 4

TRANMERE blew a second half two-goal lead to lose against Crewe in a crazy Checkatrade Trophy first round match at Prenton Park.

The Alex took the lead through Chris Porter after 20 minutes but a long head injury stoppage allowed Rovers to score twice in first half time added on through Jay Harris and Cole Stockton.

Paul Mullin quickly extended Rovers lead after the break but headers from Alex Nicholls and Porter drew Crewe level before James Jones struck a winner for the visitors four minutes from time.

The lower league competition, which controversially includes invited Premier League under 21 teams, was given the thumbs down by supporters, who stayed away on mass.

Only the main stand and paddock was opened for home supporters, creating more of a reserve match atmosphere.

Micky Mellon made eight changes to the side that drew with Northampton Town at the weekend, affording in-form striker James Norwood a place on the substitutes bench.

Adam Buxton made his first start of the season, recovering from a long-term injury.

Rovers had the first chance in the sixth minute when a cross from Buxton was helped along by Stockton, but Mullin couldn't direct it on goal at the far post.

Stockton tried to curl one in from the edge of the Dee two minutes later but his effort was well wide.

Callum Ainley attempted a similar effort at the other end for the Railwaymen, but he could only produce the same result.

But Crewe took the lead on 20 minutes when a long ball forward was flicked into the path of Porter who calmly lobbed it over Shamal George into the net.

Moments later a Zoumana Bakayogo clearance was latched onto by Shaun Miller, who tried to catch George off his line, but his audacious long-range effort fell wide.

Mullin should have equalised for Tranmere just past the 25-minute mark when he put a side-footed volley wide from Bakayogo's brilliant left wing cross. A diving header would have been the better option.

Ten minutes before the break a clash of heads between Dylan Mottley-Henry and Kevin O'Connor saw both players floored and requiring immediate attention.

Rovers winger Mottley-Henry was able to recover but O'Connor came off much worse and after extensive medical treatment was stretchered off whilst receiving oxygen.

Mullin wanted a penalty when he skipped past two players before going to ground in the box, but the referee waved it away.

George easily saved a shot from Tom Lowery and then a header from Michael Raynes as the visitors responded.

The latter really should have done better.

But as the first half moved into the ten minutes of time added on, Rovers restored parity, when Harris burst through the middle and unleashed a ferocious rising drive that rocketed into the top corner.

And just before the break Rovers went in front when a curling effort from Mullin was kept out by Ben Garratt but Stockton was on hand to blast home the rebound.

Galvanised by their comeback, Tranmere raced out of the blocks after the break and scored immediately before Crewe could even get out of neutral.

Mullin knocked a ball into the box that not a single defender reacted to, allowing the Rovers striker to run onto his own pass and stick the ball past Garratt into the net.

It was his first goal for Tranmere and he probably won't score an easier one.

Rovers now looked a totally different proposition, attacking with energy and confidence.

But Crewe should have pulled one back when Porter headed a free kick just wide of the post with George well beaten.

A shot on the turn from Mullin went just over, after good work from Harvey Gilmour.

Substitute Ben Tollitt half-volleyed one over from the edge of the box as rampant Rovers looked to increase their advantage.

But with 18 minutes remaining the Railwaymen pulled one back when Nicholls headed a free kick home at the front post.

Mullin then stuck a half-volley just wide for Tranmere before Charlie Kirk wasted the chance to equalise at the other end, shooting straight at George.

Crewe weren't finished however and late on turned the tables on their hosts.

When George failed to deal with a ball into the box he allowed Porter to head home an equaliser and on the visitors' very next attack they took the lead when Jones side footed home a pull back from the bi-line in front of the ecstatic travelling supporters.

Quite how Rovers managed to lose this encounter is a mystery but lose it they did.

Rovers manager Micky Mellon said afterwards: "I'm obviously disappointed. You get to the 70th minute and you think you're cruising but never in a game of football should you think that.

"The disappointing thing is there were some really good performances there for the first 70 minutes, but the last 20 minutes is what you remember.

"It's something we will look over in the coming hours.

"There were a lot of changes but still, to get yourself into a situation where you're 3-1 up and cruising – there was nothing happening – you're happy.

"But to give away individual error goals like that is massively frustrating and shows how it can change games.

"Maybe getting towards that stage in the game there were a few people getting a wee bit tired, but it's two set plays, they were really poor.

"They have to learn their lessons from that. You can't defend like that and that stage of the game."

Match stats:

Tranmere Rovers 3 (Harris 45+2, Stockton 45+10, Mullin 46)

Crewe Alexandra 4 (Porter 20, 85 Nicholls 72, Jones 86)

Referee: Graham Salisbury

Man of the match: Jay Harris Match rating: 4/5 Tranmere: George, Buxton (Caprice 77), Monthe, Ellis, Bakayogo, Mottley-Henry (Tollitt 63), Harris, Gilmour, Cole, Mullin (Jennings 80), Stockton Subs not used: Passant, Norwood, Smith, Banks

Crewe: Garratt, Ng, Ray, Porter, Jones, Miller (Kirk 50), Ainley, Nicholls, Lowery (59 Wintle), Hunt, O’Connor (Raynes 41)