Tranmere Rovers 0

Stoke City 2 (Smith 54, Batth 84)

TRANMERE gave a good account of themselves as they continued their League One pre-season preparations with a 2-0 defeat against Stoke City at Prenton Park.

A second-half thunderbolt from Tommy Smith and a late header from Danny Batth was enough earn the visitors an away win, but Rovers defended well throughout with goalkeeper Scott Davies producing a string of excellent saves.

This was the second pre-season match Tranmere had played against higher opposition, and whereas the game against Liverpool was more of a shadow-chasing exercise, Rovers were able to compete much more purposefully here.

Stoke went close early on when a low cross from Nick Powell was side-footed just past the wrong side of the post by Sam Clucas.

Against Championship opposition, Rovers were struggling to make any headway, but Liam Ridehalgh swung in a beautiful free kick on the quarter of an hour mark that was just beyond the reach of Manny Monthe.

Until Paul Mullin saw his 23rd minute shot blocked by Ryan Shawcross for a corner, Tranmere's strikers had been virtual spectators.

James McClean pulled a low drive wide for City five minutes later in what was a fairly uneventful opening half hour.

Rovers' 'keeper Scott Davies had to get down to his right to save a low effort from Benik Afobe before Mullin chased a lost cause at the other end to tee up Ishmael Miller, whose right foot striker was deflected over.

Miller went closer still moments later when his acrobatic half volley hit beat Jack Butland but hit the side netting.

Five minutes before the break, Stoke shifted through the gears and Davies had to be at his best to make a full stretch save from Afobe’s curling effort.

Ollie Banks picked up a yellow card just before half time, but Rovers had grown into the match when referee Jarred Gillett blew for the interval.

Centre back Sid Nelson needed some luck to keep City off the scoresheet straight after the break, when he sliced a low cross from Joe Allen over his own crossbar.

Had Nelson performed the same trick when he cut another ball out in the 53rd minute he would have been satisfied, but this time it broke loose for Smith, who riffled into the top corner, giving Davies no chance.

Just past the hour mark, Potters boss Nathan Jones caused a moment of amusement for supporters and bemusement for reporters, by substituting all of his outfield players on one emphatic transaction.

Micky Mellon made changes of his own, bringing on Callum Woods, Stefan Payne, Harvey Gilmour, Connor Jennings and Jordan Ponticelli.

Davies made another good stop to deny Danny Jarvis' 25-yard palm-stinger, as the new-look Stoke side tried to make an impression.

Clever build up from City presented an easier chance for Jarvis with 18 minutes to go but he could only pull his shot harmlessly wide.

Rare hesitation in the box from the Tranmere defence created an opportunity for Thibaud Verlinden but he was denied once again by the excellent Davies.

Lee Gregory was the next to be foiled by the Rovers captain, who produced a fingertip save the keep the deficit to one goal.

But with five minutes remaining, City grabbed a second when Batth headed home a corner from six yards out.

2-0 was a fair score line in the end, but Tranmere can take solace from knowing they won’t be playing teams this good next season.

Their forthcoming friendlies against Carlisle and Walsall will be more accurate gauge of their progress.

Rovers boss Micky Mellon said: "We were playing against real quality. You know it's going to be very difficult, but you've just got try and get what you can out of it and that's hard work and try and keep moving things forward.

"We need to find out what it is that we need to get better at and there’s no better place to do that than out here against quality opposition.

"At times you'll come up short because you're playing against some incredible quality, but that's the reason why there's levels in football.

"It's difficult to try and create the same match as you're going to face when you play in the league. You just want to try and get them as fit as you can and as organised as you can for that first game of the season.

"We'll look at it with a clear and realistic mind but the main thing is the first game of the season."

Tranmere starting XI: Davies, Caprice, Nelson, Monthe, Ridehalgh, Potter, Banks, Perkins, Morris, Mullin, Miller

Tranmere subs: Pilling, Woods, Ray, Jennings, Spellman, Thompson, Walker-Rice, Ponticelli, Gilmour, Payne