Tranmere Rovers 0, Forest Green Rovers 1

TRANMERE'S automatic promotion hopes were dealt a serious blow on Good Friday as they were beaten 1-0 by play-off rivals Forest Green Rovers at Prenton Park.

An early second half strike from Junior Mondal proved to be the difference as Mark Cooper’s side survived an avalanche of late pressure to move to within a point of their hosts in the playoff pack.

Micky Mellon made two enforced changes to the side that beat MK Dons last time out, but the expected withdrawal of James Norwood did not materialise.

In his pre-match press conference Mellon had suggested that the League's top goal scorer was out of the Easter fixtures programme with a groin problem, but he started regardless.

Jay Harris deputised for David Perkins, who came off against Milton Keynes with a hamstring problem, while Zoumana Bakayogo came in at left back for Liam Ridehalgh, who was injured on Thursday in training.

The hosts started brightly, with a quick one-two between Ben Pringle and Connor Jennings resulting in the latter side-footing just wide.

Sloppy play at the back from the visitors then presented an opportunity to Norwood but his attempted lob from 25 yards sailed well over the bar.

When James Montgomery spilt Pringle’s cross at the feet of Jennings, Nathan McGinley had to react quickly to clear the danger, before Pringle volleyed another ball in over.

Forest Green finally responded in the 14th minute when George Williams found space to shoot from 20 yards out, forcing a full stretch save out of Scott Davies.

Mid-way into the first half, Tranmere centre back Mark Ellis hobbled off and was replaced by Sid Nelson, after receiving a long period of treatment for a serious looking knee injury.

After a lengthy stoppage the hosts got back to work.

Bakayogo embarked on a lung-busting 60-yard run up the pitch that saw him leave three Forest Green players for dead before pulling a disappointing shot wide.

But the Cotswolds side settled after that and largely controlled the rest of the half.

Two minutes after the break, they went one better and took the lead.

Good work down the left saw Joseph Mills pull the ball back across the edge of the Rovers penalty area where Mondal arrived to brilliantly side foot the ball into the top corner.

Half time substitute Dayle Grubb then had a glorious chance to make it 2-0 but Davies brilliantly saved at his feet to force a corner.

The Whites responded when a cheeky effort with the outside of his foot from Jennings made Montgomery scramble to his right to prevent an equaliser.

The Forest Green keeper then made a routine save from Harris before brilliantly denying substitute Paul Mullin, whose overhead kick looked destined for the bottom corner.

A clever back heel from Keiron Morris set up Jennings on the edge of the box but his fierce shot rised over the cross bar. Harris went closer, as his 25-yard cannoned effort faded inches off target.

As the game lurched into the final 20 minutes Rovers laid siege on the Forest Green goal in front of a partisan Bebington Kop.

The crowd where on their feet when Mullin rattled the post with a sublime 25-yard free kick that had beaten Montgomery.

But despite a relentless press on Montgomery's goal late on, Tranmere could not make the breakthrough and when Mullin pulled another effort wide deep in injury time, the hosts were all out of luck.

They now go to league-leaders Lincoln on Easter Monday where they will look to delay the Imps' coronation as League Two champions for another week and get their promotion charge back on track, even if that now looks more likely to be via the playoffs.

Micky Mellon: "The ‘keeper has made a couple of good saves at crucial times for them when it maybe might have changed the course of the game.

"All of the momentum was with us, for probably the last half an hour. We obviously disappointed with the goal.

"The boy's finished it well but we would be having a look at where we were when the ball comes across on the edge of the box like that.

"It was two teams going at it, trying to get a valuable three points.

"We just weren’t able to get that wee bit of fine margins that you need in games like this to go our way and then we did get in, we just didn’t get the rub of the green."

Match stats:

Tranmere Rovers 0

Forest Green 1 (Mondal 47) 

Half-time: 0-0

Referee: Dean Whitestone

Attendance: 9,468

Star man: Paul Mullin (Tranmere striker)

Match rating: 3/5

Tranmere team (4-4-1-1): Davies, Caprice, Ellis (Nelson 27), Monthe, Bakayogo, Morris, Harris (Dagnall 85), Banks, Pringle (Mullin 55), Jennings, Norwood

Tranmere subs: Pilling, Buxton, Smith, Gilmour

Forest Green (4-2-3-1): Montgomery, Shepherd, Rawson, McGinley, Mills, Collins (Gunning 70), Winchester, Mondal (Digby 75), Brown, Williams (Grubb 46), Doidge

Forest Green subs: Ward, James, McClousky, Reid