Troubled Tranmere remain six points adrift of League One safety after Sunderland beat them by the odd goal in a scrappy match at Prenton Park.

Rovers had been the better side for an hour until Charlie Wyke headed home a freekick to put the Black Cats ahead.

Rovers – who had Manny Monthe sent off late on – simply couldn’t get going after that and with MK Dons winning on Tuesday evening, the Whites remain six points adrift of relegation safety.

Micky Mellon made three changes to the side that turned out against Manchester United on Sunday.

With Peter Clarke injured, Rovers reverted to a back three, bringing in Callum Woods while loan acquisition Kane Wilson came in on the left side of midfield for Corey Blackett-Taylor.

Having been cup tied for Sunday, Alex Woodyard returned in midfield with Neil Danns dropping out completely with a knock.

The Black Cats had an early opportunity to take the lead when Bailey Wright head a well worked free kick move over the bar from close range.

A measured through ball from Wilson put Kieron Morris in on goal at the other end but his touch was heavy and the chance was wasted.

Wirral Globe: Tranmere's Kieron Morris gets the ball under control against Sunderland. Photo: Tony CoombesTranmere's Kieron Morris gets the ball under control against Sunderland. Photo: Tony Coombes

There were few moments of excitement in the opening half hour but on 27 minutes Sunderland stopper Jon McLaughlin had to get down well to keep out a low curling free kick from the lively Wilson.

Despite a distinct lack of goal scoring opportunities at either end, Rovers were by far the better side in the first half with Wilson – on loan from West Brom – the driving force behind most of the good passages of play.

The second half started in much the same vein as the first – with chances few and far between. 

The visitors were not shy about deploying the dark arts where necessary, conceding fouls wherever possible to prevent Rovers from gaining an advantage.

But on the hour mark it was Phil Parkinson’s team who took the lead when Wyke headed home a Chris Maguire free kick at the front post. 

With Liam Ridehalgh hobbling off the pitch soon after, Mellon changed his shape, bringing on Paul Mullin to partner Morgan Ferrier up front.

But soon after, Ferrier’s legs gave up on him and he had to be replaced by Stefan Payne.

Manny Monthe was dismissed for what looked like an innocuous second yellow card, leaving Rovers to play the final five minutes with 10 men.

But despite a few hopefully balls pumped up top, there was never any danger of Sunderland relinquishing their lead and Tranmere must now lick their wounds and strap themselves in for a relegation dog fight that is sure to rumble on right through until May.

Match stats

Tranmere Rovers 0

Sunderland 1

Wyke 60

Half time: 0-0

Referee: Antony Coggins

Attendance: 6,850

Star man: Kane Wilson (Tranmere defender)

Match rating: 1/5

Tranmere team (3-4-3): Davies, Woods, Monthe, Ridehalgh (Mullin 69), Carpice, Perkins (Gilmour 81), Woodyard, Wilson, Jennings, Ferrier (Payne 78), Morris

Tranmere subs: Pilling, Nelson, Potter, Spellman

Sunderland team (4-3-3): McLaughlin, Lynch, Willis, Power, Maguire (Scowen 89), Wyke, Gooch, O’Nien, Dobson, Wright, Hume

Sunderland subs: Burge, McLaughlin, Lafferty, McNulty, Flanagan, Leadbitter