Tranmere Rovers 1, Notts County 0

TRANMERE'S renewed assault on the playoffs continues to gather pace after a hard-fought narrow victory over rock-bottom Notts County at Prenton Park.

Connor Jennings' second half goal – his ninth of the season – proved to be enough for a win that puts Rovers only two points behind seventh-placed Exeter City, who they face next Saturday.

The victory was the Whites's third in four matches, a run that has also seen them only concede one goal.

Micky Mellon fielded that same starting XI that collected a morale-boosting victory over Port Vale last Tuesday evening.

David Perkins had the first attempt of the match in the fifth minute, curling an effort from the edge of the box well over the bar.

A scramble in the County penalty area then saw the ball break to Jennings, but he could only pull it well wide.

Luke McCullough's header from a Kieron Morris corner was held by Ryan Schofield, as Tranmere continued to ask all the early questions.

When James Norwood chested the ball down for Jennings to unleash a delicious volley, Schofield had to be at his best to tip the ball over the bar.

The Magpies' first effort on goal arrived in the 29th minute, when Michael Doyle blazed wide from long range.

The visitors were holding firm in a robust shape with Tranmere guilty of not moving the ball quick enough to pull them out of position.

But a minute before the break Rovers almost led, when County centre back Ben Barclay diverted a low Jake Caprice cross towards his own goal, forcing a fingertip save out of Notts 'keeper Schofield.

County came close after the break when a cross from Jon Stead was met by Enzio Boldewijn, but his effort was weak and Scott Davies could make a comfortable save.

As Rovers looked to quicken their play they earned themselves a corner and Ben Pringles' delivery was met by the head of Norwood, forcing a routine save out of Schofield.

Tranmere were getting little change out of the visitors' dogged rear guard and just past the hour mark Mellon replaced McCullough with the more attack-minded midfielder Ollie Banks.

Nine minutes later the Magpies resistance was finally broken.

A loose header from Jim O'Brien fell nicely for Ben Pringle in the centre circle, who drove forward and played Jennings in down the right.

The former Wrexham captain made no mistake, firing the ball home.

Rovers came close to doubling their lead minutes later when a fierce cross from Pringle found Norwood, but he couldn't get any purchase on the ball and it drifted just wide.

Late on Norwood had two opportunities to put the game to bed – first firing inches off-target, before lobbing the ball over Schofield only to see it cleared off the line.

But those moments proved to be immaterial as Mellon's men hung on for a hard-fought triumph that puts them back in touching distance of a playoff birth, renewing interest in Tranmere's season once again.

Micky Mellon said afterwards: "Every credit to the players for fighting and getting us another clean sheet.

"Quite rightly we've said that we've got to start getting them.

"On a difficult pitch, we've tried to get it down and play as much as we could, but it’s a massive three points and at this stage of the season you know that games are going to be like that, so we're just delighted that we came out at the end and got the victory.

"From minute one we played with a good intensity that gave us a great opportunity to pick up a really valuable three points.

"They've got a good manager who organises them very well. We knew it was going to be tough.

"We wanted to make sure at the very minimum that we remained in this division because we were unknown and didn’t know how we were going to perform so credit to the players.

"Now we can have a right good go at trying to get into that little cup competition they call the playoffs and make an impact hopefully."

Match stats:

Tranmere Rovers 1 (Jennings 69)

Notts County 0

Half time: 0-0

Referee: Scott Oldham

Attendance: 6,559

Star man: David Perkins (Tranmere midfielder)

Match rating: 1/5

Tranmere team (4-4-1-1): Davies, Caprice, Ellis (Nelson 85), Monthe, Bakayogo, Morris, Perkins, McCullough (Banks 61), Pringle (Smith 80), Jennings, Norwood

Tranmere subs: Pilling, Buxton, Mullin, Dagnall

Notts County team (4-4-2): Schofield, Barclay, Boldewijn (Gomis 78), Hemmings (Alessandra 65), Stubbs, O’Brien, Milsom, Rose, Mackail-Smith, Stead, Doyle

Notts County subs: Fitzsimmons, Tootle, Bird, Hewitt, Vaughan