Tranmere Rovers 2, Exeter City 0

SWAGGERING Tranmere leapfrogged their opponents Exeter City with an impressive 2-0 victory that moves them up to fourth in League Two.

Lethal marksman James Norwood scored either side of half time to collect all three points against their south coasts rivals, who finished the match with 10 men.

Micky Mellon kept faith with the starting XI that pulverised Crawley Town here last Saturday.

Fit-again left back Zoumana Bakayogo had to settle for a place on the bench.

Prior to kick off, a minute's silence to mark the Leicester City helicopter tragedy was impeccably observed.

The visitors came close to opening the scoring in the fourth minute when Matt Jay met a low cross from Dean Moxey in the six-yard box, but Scott Davies was able to get a palm on it before it was hacked clear.

When City stretched the Rovers rear guard, Lee Martin found himself put in on goal from the right-hand side of the box, but Davies anticipated the danger and rushed from his line to produce a superb save.

When Paul Mullin fed the overlapping Jake Caprice down the right wing, his testing cross was met by the head of Connor Jennings, but James Hamon got down well to deny him on the goal line.

When Mullin cut inside on 25 minutes, he could only fire well over from the edge of the box, as the contest's early action petered out.

But just past the half hour mark Tranmere took the lead.

Neat interchange between Mullin and Caprice saw the latter cross for Norwood who headed home despite Hamon getting a hand on it.

A sublime through ball from Larnell Cole sent Mullin in pursuit of a second, but his first touch was too loose and when he eventually got a shot off it was blocked for a corner.

When City's Martin picked up a yellow card for leaving one on Jennings just before half-time it demonstrated the visitors' frustration at not being able to get the ball off a technically superior Tranmere.

Realising that they had a game on their hands, the Grecians came out for the second half in more positive fashion.

A Nicky Law shot was blocked by Steve McNulty for a corner before Jay saw a looping header comfortably held by Davies.

Rovers looked set to double their lead when a swift counter attack saw Caprice supply Jennings in the middle of the box, but the former Wrexham captain’s driven shot was brilliantly pushed away by Hamon.

But 10 minutes into the second half they did score a second and it was created by the quality of livewire Cole.

The former Manchester United youth prospect unleashed a brilliant 25-yard half volley that beat Hamon but struck the base of post, leaving Norwood with the simplest of tasks to knock the ball into an unguarded net.

City came close in the 65th minute when Davies' fingertips kept Stockley out before the Rovers' stopper denied Law moments later.

But 17 minutes from time Exeter were reduced to 10 men when Moxey collected a second yellow card for hand ball and was dismissed as a result.

The sending off knocked the stuffing out of City, with Rovers now able to control the ball almost exclusively.

A shot from substitute Johnny Smith was saved by Hamon before being desperately turned behind for a corner.

Martin went close again for Exeter late on but was denied by the brilliant Davies, who kept him out with a superb one-handed save.

Victory puts Rovers only a point outside the automatic promotion places but the manner of this victory should send a clear message to the rest of League Two that Tranmere are a force to be reckoned with.

Tranmere assistant manager Mike Jackson said: "It was an excellent performance. We knew it would be a tough game.

"Exeter are going well, they've got experienced players.

"We knew we'd have to be at it today, but all credit to the players, the way they've gone about their work after the disappointment of the Forest Green result, I think it's sparked them again.

"Some of the football first half was excellent and then we've managed the game second half as well.

"They've done really well and there’s been some good football played out there today.

"(James Norwood) was excellent today. He's in that vein of form.

"He's causing a lot of problems.

"Straight from the off he was into their centre backs and I think they were worried about him before the game to be honest.

"Once he gets a head of steam up he's really difficult to play against.

"His goals have been excellent for us, it’s been a big plus."

Match stats:

Tranmere Rovers 2 (Norwood 31, 55)

Exeter City 0

Half time: 1-0

Referee: Thomas Bramall 7/10

Attendance: 6,209

Star man: James Norwood (Tranmere striker)

Match rating: 4/5

Tranmere: Davies, Caprice, McNulty, Monthe, Buxton, McCullough, Banks (Harris 82), Cole, Jennings, Norwood, Mullin (Smith 66). Subs not used: George, Mottley-Henry, Gilmour, Bakayogo.

Exeter: Hamon, Sweeney, A Martin, L Martin, Law, Stockley, Jay (Abraham 63), Moxey, Croll, Taylor, Collins. Subs not used: Weale, O'Shea, Woodman, Tillson, Dean, Oates.