Tranmere Rovers 1, Bury 1

TRANMERE will compete in promotion play-offs for the third consecutive season after a 1-1 draw with Bury saw the visitors go up automatically instead.

James Norwood headed home his 30th goal of the season to give Rovers a half-time lead, but Danny Mayor's deflected equaliser 10 minutes after the break was enough to secure the point the Shakers needed.

The result means Tranmere's own automatic promotion hopes are ended but they will instead have the opportunity to repeat their Wembley heroics of last season, this time to get into League One.

Micky Mellon made two changes to the side that got a good point at Lincoln on Bank Holiday Monday, bringing in Liam Ridehalgh and Ben Pringle for Zoumana Bakayogo and Paul Mullin respectively.

Influential midfielder David Perkins and captain Steve McNulty both made the bench.

With Bury selling out their full allocation of 2000 tickets, there was a riotous atmosphere in the ground pre-match.

The Shakers had a chance as early as the third minute when a corner skimmed off the head of Jay Harris and was nodded just wide by Scott Wharton.

Bury had another chance when Scott Davies failed to hold a fierce shot from Jay O'Shea, but Nicky Adams could only blaze the rebound over.

It was Rovers who took the lead in the eleventh minute however, when Norwood’s header from a Keiron Morris corner made its way through a ruck of bodies to creep over the goal line, sending Prenton Park wild with delight.

The visitors responded, with Davies gathering Danny Mayor’s low drilled effort at the second attempt.

Rovers should have doubled their lead in the 24th minute when Morris threaded a superb through ball to Norwood, but the prolific striker was denied by the legs of Joe Murphy.

Immediately, Bury counter-attacked and when Dominic Telford collected the ball unmarked in a seemingly offside position, he could only poke wide, with the linesmen keeping his flag down, much to the outrage of Tranmere's defenders.

When Ollie Banks sent a measured ball over the Bury defence, Connor Jennings only had the 'keeper to beat but his effort from an acute angle was wide.

Norwood tested Murphy six minutes from the interval before Jennings bent a curling effort high over the bar, as Tranmere remained on the front foot.

As half-time approached, the tricky Telford dodged the attention of two defenders before firing a left-footed effort into the Kop.

Bury came out all guns blazing in the second half, with O'Shea forcing a corner out of Davies, who had to make a full stretch save early doors.

Rovers had already made two last ditch blocks before Nicky Maynard's header bounced back off the post, with Davies getting the faintest of touches.

Davies wasn't done.

Next producing a brilliant reflex save to deny Telford from six yards out after clever work from Danny Mayor.

But the Tranmere stopper's luck ran out 10 minutes into the second half when Mayor brilliantly turned Harris to open up a shooting chance for himself.

His first effort was going well wide but when the ball was inexplicably diverted back into his path, his second shot was deflected in off the unlucky Jake Caprice.

Rovers had a chance to retake the lead moments later when a shot from Ben Pringle ricocheted into the path of Norwood, but his shot on the turn was brilliantly tipped over by Joe Murphy.

The Shakers stopper – formerly of Rovers – made more routine save from a Norwood header as Tranmere fought to retake the lead.

Jay O'Shea had a dead ball opportunity to put Bury in front but cannoned his 35-yard free kick just wide.

Jay Harris had a glorious chance to put Tranmere back in front with quarter of an hour to play, but fired just over the crossbar.

That was as close as Rovers came from thereon in, with Bury carefully managing the final 10 minutes to secure the point they need to clinch promotion.

It was a bridge too far for Micky Mellon's men but with their experience of a play-off triumph last year still fresh in the memory, they will have the chance to rise again.

Micky Mellon said afterwards: "I'm delighted to be in the play-offs. It’s a long season. To have cemented that now is fantastic.

"Sorry we couldn't take it to last day (automatic promotion) it wasn’t for the want of trying.

"Maybe in the 10-15-minute spell after half-time Bury got a wee bit more control and we made a couple of marginal errors in the build-up to the goal.

"We came again, we had opportunities again but it was a real tough end of season game played by two teams at the right end of the division.”

Match stats:

Tranmere Rovers 1 (Norwood 11)

Bury 1 (Mayor 56)

Half time: 1-0

Referee: David Webb

Attendance: 9,415

Star man: Scott Davies (Tranmere goal keeper)

Match rating: 4/5

Tranmere team (4-4-1-1): Davies, Caprice (Buxton 74), Nelson, Monthe, Ridehalgh, Morris, Harris, Banks, Pringle (Mullin 82), Jennings, Norwood

Tranmere subs: Pilling, McNulty, Perkins, Gilmour, Dagnall

Bury (3-5-2): Murphy, Stokes, Aimson (O’Connell 39), Thompson, Adams, Mayor, Rossiter (Danns 86), Telford (Lavery 74), Wharton, O’Shea, Maynard

Bury subs: Moloney, Moore, McFadzean, Omotayo