Spirited Tranmere fought back from two goals down at half time to rescue a point in a thrilling 2-2 draw against Gillingham at Prenton Park.

Alex Jakubiak and Alfie Jones gave the Gills a comfortable lead at the interval but Rovers returned a different animal after the break, restoring parity with strikes from Connor Jennings and Paul Mullin, who also missed a penalty.

And Jennings almost won it injury time with a result that leaves the Birkenhead club 17thin League One after six matches.

Micky Mellon named an unchanged side from the one that clinched a dramatic point at Rotherham United last weekend, but there was space on the bench for new Manchester United loanee Cameron Borthwick-Jackson.

The hosts first opportunity arrived in the sixth minute, when Mullin turned his man in the box and struck the post with a curling effort that had beaten Jack Bonham.

Mullin wanted a penalty four minutes later, when he went to ground under pressure from Max Ehmer, but the referee wasn’t interested.

But it was the Gills who took the lead on 16 minutes, when an Ollie Lee corner wasn’t dealt with by Rovers and despite Scott Davies heroically keeping out Ehmer’s header, Jakubiak was on hand to slam home the rebound. 

A suicide pass from Kieron Morris then put Gillingham’s Mikael Mandron in on goal, but Davies was alert and forced the ball behind at the second attempt.

Tranmere were guilty of sloppy marking from the resultant corner when Connor Ogilvie arrived unmarked at the far post and hacked a chance wide when he really should have scored.

Rovers responded and went close, as a smart one-two between Stefan Payne and Mullin ended with the latter side-footing just wide of the goal.

The defensive line that had performed so robustly at Rotherham was looking more powder puff here. Another ball into the back post reached Lee in the box and Rovers were lucky to see him screw a decent chance wide.

The hosts were punished for their aerial ineptness 10 minutes before the break, when Davies could only palm a looping cross into the path of the unmarked Jones, who gleefully made it 2-0. 

No doubt unimpressed with what he had witnessed in the first half, Mellon made a double substitution at half time and reverted to a flat back four.

On came fullback Calum Woods for Sid Nelson and Ollie Banks replaced Morris, producing a less dynamic but more robust midfield quartet. 

Banks quickly got involved, with a driven effort deflected wide off the back of Ogilvie. 

Tranmere missed a golden opportunity to pull a goal back when Mullin played Jennings in on goal with a cute reverse pass, but with just the ‘keeper to beat Bonham made a crucial save.

Refreshed Rovers started to move the ball more fluidly, forcing the visitors towards their own goal. A shot from Mullin went wide before Bonham just about gathered another ball into the box at the second attempt.

The Gills’ stopper held onto yet another Mullin effort from further out, after substitute Woods had charged forward down the right.

When Mullin did eventually flick the ball over Bonham and nod it into the net, it was pulled back for offside.

Tranmere were awarded a penalty in the 65thminute when Mullin was brought down in the box before stepping up to take the penalty himself.

The Tranmere striker was all out of luck however, as he was brilliantly denied by Bonham, diving full stretch to his right.

Nevertheless, Rovers pulled one back moments later when Jennings collected a loose ball inside the box and toe-poked it into the net.

Rejuvenated, the hosts pushed for an equaliser and it arrived three minutes later as Mullin got a return on his never-say-die spirit, cutting inside before blasting the ball left-footed beyond Bonham into the net.

Incredibly, Rovers nearly led a minute later with another ball hurled into the box rebounding wide off Mullin from just three yards out.

As the match moved into injury time, Jenning saw a curling effort kept out by the impressive Bonham, who leapt to his left, ensuring that the spoils were shared.

Tranmere supporters we were left to ponder what might have been, with early defensive errors preventing a home win here. But it’s another point on the board as newly-promoted Rovers continued to feel their way into League One.

Micky Mellon said: “The goals that we lost are poor but there wasn’t an awful lot between the two teams and I thought in the balance of play we didn’t deserve to be two goals down.

“We spoke at half time about what we needed to do, but we’re experienced and we know that with this crowd behind us here that the next goal is very important because that gets you momentum. 

“Two-nil away can be a dangerous lead, because you hand that momentum to the home side and that’s probably what happened.

“We won’t say we’re delighted, but to fight back and get a draw shows a lot of character in the group.”


Tranmere Rovers 2

Jennings 67, Mullin 70

Gillingham 2

Jakubiak 16, Jones 36

Half time: 0-2

Referee: Michael Salisbury

Attendance: 6,687

Star man: Paul Mullin (Tranmere striker)

Match rating: 4/5

Tranmere team (3-4-3): Davies, Nelson (Woods 46), Ray, Monthe, Morris (Banks 46), Perkins, Potter, Ridehalgh, Jennings, Payne, Mullin (Hepburn-Murphy 83)

Tranmere subs: Pilling, Hepburn-Murphy, Ponticelli, Gilmour, Borthwick-Jackson

Gillingham team (4-4-2): Bonham, Ehmer, Ogilvie, Mandron (Hanlan 78), Fuller, Jones, Pringle (O’Keefe 76), Byrne, Lee (Ndjoli 81), Jakubiak, O’Connor

Gillingham subs: Walsh, Cisse, Marshall, Tucker