Tranmere Rovers 3, Carlisle United 0

TRANMERE Rovers' rapid pursuit of automatic promotion continues to gather pace after they overpowered Carlisle United at Prenton Park to notch a seventh straight league win.

Ollie Banks headed Rovers in front just before the break, before James Norwood's 27th league goal of the season doubled their advantage in the second half and Manny Monthe added the gloss with a late third.

Victory keeps Tranmere hot on the heels of their promotion rivals and a trip to Oldham with an expected away following in excess of 2,000 on Tuesday night could move them up to fourth in the table.

Micky Mellon made one change to the side that won at Colchester, bringing in Keiron Morris for Ben Pringle, who didn't even make the bench.

Looking not dissimilar to Liverpool wheelie bins clad in all purple, Carlisle had the first chance of the match two minutes in, when a low drive from Callum O’Hare was comfortably held by Scott Davies.

Rovers' reliable defensive midfielder Luke McCullough only lasted 10 minutes before withdrawing with a knee injury, replaced by Jay Harris.

Goal machine Norwood stooped low to get on the end of a Jake Caprice cross, but could only direct his confident header just wide.

When Monthe stepped out of defence to try and win the ball and was beaten to it, Rovers were left exposed at the back, drawing a deep breath as Tom Parkes fired a low shot wide from an acute angle.

Indecision in the Tranmere rear guard presented a further opportunity to United but Nathan Thomas also faded a low effort wide, somewhat letting the hosts off the hook.

Norwood then tried his luck at the other end with a 35-yard free kick but Adam Collin dived to his left, holding it without much issue.

The United stopper had rather more to do to prevent Banks from scoring, pushing his bouncing low drive behind for a corner.

In the ensuing spell of pressure, Connor Jennings found Morris in the box but his weak shot was dealt with easily.

United should have led just before the half hour mark, when Thomas' low cross was smashed against the underside of Scott Davies' crossbar by O'Hare.

The visitors continued to look the more likely to score, with Jamie Devitt forcing a smart save out of Davies with a cannoned long-range effort.

Tranmere had struggled to create many chances, but four minutes before the break a good exchange of passes between Banks and Norwood teed up Jennings and his first-time half-volley fizzed just off target.

But on the stroke of half-time, the Whites made the breakthrough when David Perkins came to life, making space for himself on the left side of the box before slamming over a cross that was head home by Banks from close range.

United had the first chance of the second half, with Devitt curling a free kick over the bar.

Perkins then attempted a difficult half-volley from 20 yards – pulling a save out of Collin – before Devitt smashed one at the other end high into the Cowsheds.

The hosts – and their supporters – had returned for the second period with far more purpose and looked to double their lead.

A clever flick from Banks allowed Caprice to whip in a low cross that was just beyond the stretch of Jennings, who wanted a penalty for pushing.

With 25 minutes to play Rovers got a return on their endeavour and doubled their advantage.

Another cross from Caprice was this time met by the head of Norwood and although his effort was brilliantly saved by Collin, the red-hot striker bundled home the rebound.

Norwood then saw another shot deflected inches wide of the post, before Banks attempted the chip the keeper from inside the centre circle, demonstrating the hosts' renewed swagger.

With eight minutes remaining, a corner from Banks was met at the far post by the booming head of Monthe who wrapped up a convincing win with a bullet header.

A crowd in excess of 8,000 watched Rovers extended their winning sequence to seven matches.

Win their next seven and they'll be playing League One football next season.

Rovers manager Micky Mellon said: "We were made to work very hard for it.

"I'm not getting carried away thinking it was anything other than pure hard work.

"We will of course enjoy the result, but we'll very quickly get back to getting our minds around what’s a massive week.

"They made it very tough for us and we had to stick to what we believe will get us results.

"But we kept our patience and we kept working away and we got the goal at a good time.

"It's important when you're playing against that kind of system and tactics that you get the first goal.

"We were able to rejig a bit at half time and change roles a bit and we got momentum very early on, right on the front foot."

Match stats:

Tranmere Rovers 3 (Banks 45+1, Norwood 64, Monthe 82)

Carlisle United 0

Half time: 1-0

Referee: Scott Duncan

Attendance: 8,095

Star man: Ollie Banks (Tranmere midfielder)

Match rating: 2/5

Tranmere team (4-4-1-1): Davies, Caprice, Ellis, Monthe, Ridehalgh, Morris (Gilmour 75), Perkins, McCullough (Harris 10), Banks (Smith 85), Jennings, Norwood

Tranmere subs: Pilling, Buxton, Mullin, Dagnall

Carlisle team (3-5-2): Collin, Grant, Gerrard, Liddle, Miller (Hope 58), O'Hare, Slater, Jones, Parkes, Devitt (Etuhu 73), Thomas

Carlisle subs: Gray, Kennedy, Simpson, Scougall, Branthwaite.