Tranmere Rovers 3, Eastleigh 1

TRANMERE got their promotion push back on track with victory over Eastleigh at Prenton Park in a match that only came to life late on.

Centre back Ritchie Sutton gave Rovers a first half lead with his fifth goal of the season, before Andy Cook appeared to have secured all three points 12 minutes from time.

Chris Zebroski pulled one back for the Spitfires however and the contest was only settled when Cook scored his 20th goal of the current campaign with an outrageous injury-time strike.

Unimpressed by last week's defeat at Boreham Wood, Micky Mellon made four changes to his side for the lunchtime kick off in front of the BT Sport cameras.

Ritchie Sutton, Ben Tollitt, Jeff Hughes and Ollie Norburn were all recalled to the starting XI.

New signings Manny Monthe and Drissa Traore had to make do with a place on the bench while Jay Harris and Josh Ginnelly weren't even afforded that luxury.

Rovers made a bright start and a deep hanging cross from James Norwood was volley back over the bar by Ben Tollitt from an acute angle.

But when Tranmere were found guilty of slack marking from a corner in the fifth minute, Scott Davies was forced into an outstanding double save.

First he repelled a rasping edge-of-the-box drive from Ayo Obileye before denying Ryan Cresswell's fiercely-struck rebound.

Rovers were in front four minutes later however when Hughes' in-swinging corner found Sutton, who was able to tap it in on the line at the second attempt.

Mark Yeates floated a curling free kick over the wall just past the quarter of an hour mark but it was an easy take for Davies.

Eastleigh continued to try and pull themselves level. A fizzing low drive from Sam Wood was only inches off target.

Sam Matthews then directed a close range header straight into the clutches of Davies after the hosts had struggled to clear their lines.

A slick back heel from Andy Cook almost put Norwood in on goal but Graham Stack was quick off his line to avert the danger.

Cook wanted a penalty when Gavin Hoyte grabbed him round the neck in the Eastleigh penalty area but referee Joe Hull incredibly gave a foul the other way.

Just before the break, an improvised cross from Ollie Norburn was powerfully headed at goal by Norwood but Stack managed to get his fists to it.

Ten minutes after the break, Norburn slipped Norwood in on goal, but his attempted dink was palmed away one-handed by the on-rushing Stack.

Rovers pushed for a second. Norwood should have done better with a pull back from Liam Ridehalgh but he could only shank an effort wide.

Tollitt looked to capitalise on a quick free kick – getting around the back of Ayo Obileye – but the defender pulled him back, taking a booking for the cause.

Adam Buxton whipped in the resultant free kick but Cook could only head it over the bar.

Davies – diving low to his left – denied Obileye at the other end, as the Spitfires sent out a warning to their hosts.

With 20 minutes to go Tollitt fed Norwood down the channel with Stack rushing out of his goal.

With alternative options to his left, Norwood went for the lob but it was caught by the Spitfires' 'keeper without too much trouble.

Mellon brought Andy Mangan on for Tollit with quarter of an hour to go and his introduction proved pivotal.

The ex-Shrewsbury striker picked out Cook on 78 minutes and after over hitting his first touch, he recovered to fire the ball high into the roof of the net with his 19th goal of the season.

Eastleigh pulled a goal back three minutes from time when substitute Zebroski capalisised on some chaotic defending to drill one past Davies from close range.

The Tranmere keeper then had to be on red alert to deny Eastleigh again in a goalmouth scramble.

But as the game ticked into injury time Cook finally put the contest to bed, shrugging off a defender before hammering a quite superb strike into the top corner from fully 30 yards.

Victory was deserved for Rovers, who keep up the pressure on Macclesfield and Sutton United, but it was far from a perfect performance defensively and they were indebted to the heroics of goalkeeper Davies behind them.

Manager Micky Mellon said afterwards: "If you'd interviewed me before the game I would have told you what type of game it would have been.

"When you play against teams with the situation Eastleigh are in who are given the opportunity to throw the kitchen sink at you then you've just got to stand your ground, because we've got an awful lot to play for.

"The players did that and scored some terrific goals. We're disappointed with certain points in the game, but we'll comb over it.

"We're a hungry group that wants to keep improving. We'll never believe that we can't do any better

Match stats:

Tranmere Rovers 3 (Sutton 9, Cook 78, 90), Eastleigh 1 (Zebroski 87)

Half-time: 1-0

Star man: Scott Davies (Tranmere goalkeeper)

Attendance: 4,619

Entertainment: 3/5

Ref rating: Joe Hull (6/10)

Tranmere (4-4-2): Davies 9; Buxton 7, McNulty 5, Sutton 7, Ridehalgh 6; Tollitt 6 (Mangan 76, 8), Norburn 7, Hughes 7, Jennings 6; Cook 7, Norwood 5

Subs not used: Taylor, Monthe, Traore, Wallace

Eastleigh (3-4-3): Stack 8; Boyce 6, Cresswell 6, Obileye 6 (Broom 69, 5); Hoyte 6, Miley 6, Togwell 5, Wood 6; Matthews 6, McCallum 6, Yeates 5 (Zebroski 60, 7)

Subs not used: Flitney, Hollands, Williamson