Tranmere Rovers 1, Cambridge United 0

BATTLING Tranmere moved back into the League Two play-off positions with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Cambridge United at Prenton Park.

James Norwood ended a three game winless run in the league with his 15th goal of the campaign, moving Rovers up to seventh.

Micky Mellon made four changes to the side that was disappointingly held by Southport in the FA Cup six days earlier – some enforced, some not.

Adam Buxton returned at right back in place of Jake Caprice and Cole Stockton replaced Paul Mullin up top.

Luke McCullough came in for the injured Harvey Gilmour while Johnny Smith took the position of winger Dylan Mottley-Henry, whose loan from Barnsley has now been cut short by injury.

The hosts made a positive start and three times came close to taking the lead in the sixth minute.

First David Forde made a full stretch save from James Norwood before Greg Taylor denied Smith on the rebound with a last-ditch block.

United 'keeper Forde then tipped a Stockton header over the bar for a corner.

But the visitors nearly led themselves five minutes later when Scott Davies made a reflex save from George Maris before Jay Harris hacked the Cambridge midfielder’s rebound off the line.

Maris then tried a more ambitious effort from 35 yards but it was comfortably held by Davies.

Rather more testing was a Paul Lewis' effort from a similar distance that left Davies rooted to his line but hit the base of the post.

Lewis got in behind Ridehalgh shortly before the break, but his early shot from the edge of the box was high over the bar.

The United striker got a diving header all wrong moments later, but it was the U’s who finished the half with the greater attacking intent.

After the break Rovers went more direct in their play, pumping long balls up to Stockton and Norwood.

The latter wanted a penalty just before the hour mark, when he appeared to be held by Brad Halliday but the referee wasn't interested.

Buxton was given a caution when he slammed into Harrison Dunk, who required treatment.

As the rain lashed down on Prenton Park, Rovers started to force the issue, backed by the Kop.

When Ridehalgh swung in a teasing dead ball from the left, Manny Monthe took it down on his chest before firing just over the bar from six yards out.

When Connor Jennings and Smith combined to tee up Norwood, his weak shot was spilled by Forde and it was left to Jake Carroll to clear it off the line.

Lewis tried another long-range effort from a free kick for United but this time it was well wide.

A cross from Smith was deflected high into the air beyond Forde but under pressure, Stockton failed to nod it into the net.

Stockton then pulled another golden opportunity wide and that was his last involvement as he was hooked for Mullin with quarter of an hour to play.

Within a minute Tranmere took the lead.

A fierce shot from Smith was brilliantly tipped away by Forde but substitute Mullin headed the rebound goal wards before Norwood tapped it in on the line.

Cambridge appealed for offside but there was no linesman’s flag and the goal stood.

Late on, the visitors wanted a penalty when Jabo Ibehre went to ground under close guard from Monthe but the referee wasn't interested and Rovers held on for another vital home win.

Rovers' manager Micky Mellon said afterwards: "I think (we got) reward for resilience and just digging in. 

"I thought the fans were mega.

"When we needed them, they raised the atmosphere in the place and you saw the reaction from the players.

"They all seemed to energise from it and the whole togetherness came back again and drove us on.

"We got the goal then you see what a goal does to a team.

"They battle, kept on going. I'm very proud of them.

"I'm glad I've got the opportunity to say it now because 10 or 11 of them played in the conference last year. We'd do well to remember that.

"This is a group of lads who are fighting very hard for the club, leave nothing on the pitch and keep battling.

"That deserves a lot of respect, because we know over 46 games you've got to have those qualities and certainly they don't lack in that."

Match stats:

Tranmere Rovers 1 (Norwood 77)

Cambridge United 0

Half-time: 0-0

Referee: Ollie Yates

Star man: Johnny Smith (Tranmere midfielder)

Match rating: 3/5

Tranmere: Davies, Buxton, McNulty, Monthe, Ridehalgh, Smith (Caprice 86), Harris, McCullough, Jennings, Stockton (Mullin 76), Norwood Subs not used: George, Sutton, Tollitt, Akammadu, Bakayogo

Cambridge: Forde, Halliday, Carroll, Taylor, Deegan, Dunk (Lambe 81), Ibehre, Darling, Maris, Brown, Lewis (Amoo 84).

Subs not used: Mitov, Taft, O'Neil, Azeez, Davies