Tranmere Rovers 5, Crawley Town 1

TERRIFIC Tranmere put midweek defeat to Forest Green firmly behind them as they thrashed Crawley 5-1 at Prenton Park, keeping them well in the playoff pack.

Connor Jennings gave Rovers a 25-minute lead before James Norwood notched his ninth and tenth goals of the season either side of half-time.

Adam Buxton's penalty and a thunderbolt from Paul Mullin took the tally to five before the visitors pulled back a consolation through Olly Palmer.

Micky Mellon made four changes to the side that lost to Forest Green Rovers midweek.

Buxton returned at left back, with Manny Monthe moving into the centre of defence at the expense of Ritchie Sutton.

Mullin’s late goal at the New Lawn was enough to earn him a starting birth up front alongside Norwood, while Larnell Cole was also given a place ahead of wide midfield counterpart Johnny Smith.

Having served a one-match suspension, Ollie Banks was back in the centre of the park with youngster Harvey Gilmour the man to make way.

Early shots from Jennings and Norwood signalled Tranmere's intent, as the new-look side adopted a 4-2-3-1 formation.

A header from Buxton put Cole in on goal in the 22nd minute, but the ball moved too quickly and Crawley 'keeper Glenn Morris was sharp off his line to smother it.

Three minutes later Rovers were ahead. A short corner was eventually swung in by Banks with Monthe nodding the ball back across goal.

Crawley couldn't deal with it and Jennings arrived at the right time to smash the ball home from 10 yards.

Tranmere were up for it and pushing for a second but Scott Davies had to be at his best to tip a curling Filipe Morais freekick over the bar for a corner.

A quick free kick allowed Jake Caprice to cross low for Norwood six minutes before the break, but the ball bobbled just as Tranmere's leading marksman was about to pull the trigger.

Neat footwork from Mullin put Banks in behind the Crawley defence but his cross was cut out and from the resultant corner Norwood's side-footed effort was deflected wide.

But three minutes before the break the hosts doubled their lead when Jennings flicked a cross into the path of Norwood who drilled the ball home in front of a delighted Kop.

In first half injury time Davies had to be alert to repel a fierce strike from Morais but Rovers were good value for their half-time lead.

When Cole intercepted a pass on the halfway line and played a perfectly weighted through-ball, Norwood had the chance to score his second of the afternoon, but after just about taking the ball around Morris, his shot was blocked on the line and spun over the bar.

But from the resultant corner, Norwood did find the net however, this time nodding Banks' cross downwards into the net.

By now Tranmere smelt blood and cranked up another gear.

They were somewhat fortuitously awarded a penalty when Norwood went to ground after beating Morris to the ball in the penalty area.

Buxton made no mistake, blasting home from 12 yards.

Soon after they had a fifth when Mullin collected the ball on the edge of the box and unleashed a thunderbolt that was still rising when it hit the back of the net.

With Tranmere 5-0 up and half an hour still to play, the hosts were hungry for more but Crawley pulled on back on 65 minutes when Palmer thumped home a cross from Lewis Young.

The pair almost repeated the feat three minutes later but this time Palmer could only shank his effort wide.

Buxton nearly got his second of the afternoon, when he curled a freekick just wide with nine minutes remaining.

Norwood missed a clutch of late opportunities to seal his hat-trick but by then the game was well won and with league-leaders Lincoln losing at Colchester, Rovers are now six points off the top of the table.

Micky Mellon said afterwards: "The boys have done fantastic, especially after Tuesday night.

"To bounce back and get a result the way that we did, we’ve got to say well done to them.

"Crawley are not at the right end of the table for any other reason than they are a decent side. We were clinical at times and took the chances when they came.

"We're disappointed that we didn't keep a clean sheet and I really mean that.

"But we're happy to get the three points and get a load of people on the scoresheet.

"The most important thing was to get a result after Tuesday. We were very disappointed and took our medicine.

"We really worked hard Thursday and Friday to try and make sure we got back on track today.

"I think Larnell Cole is a fantastic talent.

"I had no hesitation in giving him a shot. He’s a real talent and it’s no real surprise to me that he's played that way when the opportunity has come."

Match stats:

Tranmere Rovers 5 (Jennings 25, Norwood 43, 54, Buxton 58 (pen), Mullin 60) 

Crawley Town 1 (Palmer 65) 

Half time: 2-0

Referee: Tom Neild 7/5

Attendance: 5,445

Star man: Larnell Cole (Tranmere midfielder)

Match rating: 5/5

Tranmere: Davies, Caprice, McNulty, Monthe, Buxton, Cole (Smith 83), McCullough, Banks, Jennings, Norwood, Mullin (Gilmour 75)

Subs not used: George, Sutton, Harris, Mottley-Henry, Williams

Crawley: Morris, Young, Connolly, Palmer, Gambin, Francombe (Doherty 62), Maguire, Vincelot, Bulman (Nathaniel-George 59), Morais, Camara (Allarakhia 78)

Subs not used: McNerney, Poleon, Mersin