Tranmere Rovers 1, Southport 1

TOTTENHAM Hotspur could be on their way to Birkenhead for a sell-out FA Cup 3rd Round clash, but Tranmere will have to overcome Southport in a replay first after they were held to a draw at Prenton Park.

Johnny Smith gave Rovers a first-half lead but they were pegged back 20 minutes from time when Bradley Bauress produced a stunning long-range strike worthy of earning the Sandgrounders a replay.

The result means that Micky Mellon's side have won only one of their last six matches – an FA Cup first round replay against Oxford City – and are struggling to regain the momentum that pushed them to within a point of the League Two automatic promotion places a month ago.

The Scot made two changes to the side that got thumped 5-2 at Grimsby Town five days earlier, bringing in Liam Ridehalgh for Zoumana Bakayogo and Jay Harris for Luke McCullough, who does not have permission from his parent club Doncaster Rovers to play for Tranmere in the FA Cup.

The National League North side had a sighter early doors when Dion Charles curled an effort from the edge of the box over the bar at the Kop end.

Dylan Mottley-Henry's afternoon was cut short when the Rovers winger was stretched off with a suspected pulled hamstring, but his replacement Smith didn't waste any time getting on the score sheet.

A searching diagonal ball from Ridehalgh picked out James Norwood on the right-hand side of the penalty area, who squared for Smith before the Bristol City loanee curled the ball left-footed into the corner of the net.

Norwood tried to double Rovers' advantage after the break, but could only nod Ridehalgh's left wing cross wide of the goal.

Tranmere's failure to kill the game off was eventually punished 25 minutes into the second half with a moment of pure quality.

Bauress collected the ball 35 yards out from goal and unleashed an unstoppable pile driver that left Scott Davies clutching thin air.

Former Tranmere player Devarn Green had a chance to win it late on for the visitors, but could only fire a glorious opportunity over the bar from 10 yards out.

Tranmere weren't quite done and went in search of a late winner themselves.

First Smith saw a right-footed shot saved by Dan Hanford, before Connor Jennings tried his look from 20 yards with the last kick of the match, but his fiercely-struck effort faded wide, signalling the referee to blow for full time.

The Super White Army were left unimpressed by the result against a part time team that currently sit 19th in the National League North, two divisions below League Two Tranmere.

But the carrot of hosting eight-time FA Cup winners Tottenham in the third round is surely all the incentive Rovers need to get the job done at Haigh Avenue in the replay next Tuesday (11 December).

Tranmere fans of a certain vintage will fondly remember Spurs’ visit to Prenton Park in the League Cup Fourth Round in 1989.

Johnny King's Rovers held their First Division opponents, who had players such as Paul Gascoigne and Gary Lineker in the side, to a 2-2 draw in front of a crowd of 13,789.

The memorable scenes of Ian Muir swinging off the Cowshed goal crossbar after Jim Steel scored Tranmere's second live long in the memory, but if this current side is to have its own crack at creating history they must rediscover their ruthless streak and dispatch Southport first.

It really is too good an opportunity to miss.

Match stats:

Tranmere team: Davies, Caprice, McNulty, Monthe, Ridehalgh, Mottley-Henry (Smith 9), Harris, Gilmour (Buxton 59), Jennings, Mullin (Tollitt 45), Norwood

Attendance: 4,701

Referee: Anthony Backhouse