Tranmere Rovers 1, Swindon Town 2

JAMES Norwood's 18th league goal of the season wasn’t enough for Tranmere, as they were beaten 2-1 by Swindon Town at Prenton Park, missing the chance to move back into the play-off positions.

Goals from Marc Richards and Michael Doughty gave the Robins a deserved two-goal first-half lead.

Rovers improved massively after the break and pulled one back through Norwood just before the hour mark, but despite spells of high pressure the hosts couldn't carve out an equaliser.

Micky Mellon named an unchanged starting XI as he looked to build on the previous weekend's excellent victory at Cheltenham Town.

In doing so, he handed home debuts to David Perkins and Ishmael Miller.

Kaiyne Woolery had an early chance for the Robins when the ball broke on the edge of the box for him, but he could only slice it over the bar.

Scott Davies then had to dive low to his right to deny Marc Richards from 12 yards out, as the visitors sliced their way through Rovers’ defence too easily.

Swindon deservedly took the lead 20 minutes in when Rovers failed to cut out a cross from Ali Koiki and Richards was allowed to dart in between Steve McNulty and Manny Monthe to poke home from close range.

Moments later, unmarked Keshi Anderson failed to turn in a deep cross that would have put the visitors two-up.

Tranmere eventually responded when Miller bulldozed his way through the Town rear guard and despite taking a hack to the leg, stayed on his feet before shooting wide off balance.

The big centre forward received treatment and lasted only a few minutes longer before being replaced by Connor Jennings just prior to the half hour mark.

Ten minutes before the break, the visitors doubled their lead when Luke McCullough gifted the ball to Doughty on the edge of his own box and with the aid of a Manny Monthe deflection, he passed the ball beyond Davies into the net.

Mellon made an immediate change, bringing on Adam Buxton for Mark Ellis and pushing Jake Caprice into midfield.

Swindon continued to look the better side, with Davies holding a low drive from James Dunne.

Rovers finally fashioned another chance when Jennings headed Caprice's right hand side cross over the bar.

The hosts came out with more purpose after the break and pulled one back in the 59th minute when a low drilled cross from Ollie Banks was clinically converted on the turn, first time, by Norwood.

Tranmere's players were now running through brick walls – playing with pace and aggression – forcing Swindon ever deeper.

The energetic Caprice beat his man and pulled the ball back for Jennings, but he could only lift it over the bar.

Jennings went closer moments later when he met another measured Banks delivery with a deft header that was inches off target.

Caprice then stuck an ambitious half-volley wide as Rovers continued to make all the running in the second half.

The Robins responded with Jak McCourt sticking a 35-yard free kick into the Cowsheds.

A terrific drive from Liam Ridehalgh ended with the left-back pulling a fierce low shot just wide, with Lawrence Vigoroux beaten.

Scott Davies had to be at his very best to brilliantly deny Canice Carroll on the goal line, keeping Rovers in the match.

But try as they might, Tranmere just couldn’t muster an equaliser, as their opponents made canny late substitutions to keep their hosts at bay and hold on for all three points.

Micky Mellon said afterwards: "I'm disappointed with the first-half performance, I have to be honest.

"We just didn't get anything going and to then lose big Ish (Ishmael Miller) was a big blow as well.

"But in terms of the second-half performance it was definitely more like us but you leave yourself and awful lot to do when you're 2-0 down at half-time.

"They gave us everything that they had in the second half but we left ourselves with too much to do.

"It was just poor goals (conceded) and probably passed it too poorly when we had opportunities to keep control of the game.

"The movement ahead of the ball wasn't really aggressive enough in the first half, but the second half we were miles better.

"It's a disappointing first-half. We weren't quite at it for some reason.

"I don't know why that was, but we just weren't on the front foot."

Match stats:

Tranmere Rovers: 1 (Norwood 59)

Swindon Town: 2 (Richards 20, Doughty 36)

Half-time: 0-2

Referee: Ross Joyce

Attendance: 5,847

Star man: Jake Caprice (Tranmere right wing-back)

Match rating: 3/5

Tranmere team (3-5-2): Davies, Ellis (Buxton 37), McNulty, Monthe, Caprice, Perkins, McCullough (Smith 80), Banks, Ridehalgh, Miller (Jennings 29), Norwood. 

Tranmere subs: Pilling, Harris, Mullin, Gilmour

Swindon team (4-3-3): Vigoroux, Doughty (Rose 62), McCourt, Dunne, Richards (Knoyle 69), Anderson, Carroll, Woolery, Koiki (Taylor 83), Woolfenden, Broadbent.

Swindon subs: McCormick, House, Twine, Conroy.