TRANMERE Rovers began life in Sky Bet League One with a 3-2 defeat at home against Rochdale despite a spirited fightback from 3-0 down by the home side.

Ian Henderson's double and Rhys Norrington-Davies' strike had Dale 3-0 up before Stephen Dooley's own goal and Connor Jennings' strike gave Rovers a lifeline.

Rushian Hepburn-Murphy was then sent off for TRFC deep into added time on his debut for the club.

Manager Micky Mellon handed competitive debuts to George Ray, Stefan Payne and Jordan Ponticelli for Rovers' return to the third-tier.

David Perkins had the first sight of goal for Tranmere against his old side after seven minutes, playing a neat one-two with Stefan Payne but curled straight into the grasp of goalkeeper Robert Sanchez.

Rochdale were in front through a penalty on 12 minutes when Callum Camps was brought down in the box by Sid Nelson as referee Anthony Backhouse pointed to the spot.

Up-stepped skipper Henderson who struck right-footed from 12-yards into the bottom right-corner, sending Scott Davies the wrong way.

Searching to draw level in the contest, Stefan Payne found space after turning his marker to strike low and forced Sanchez to drop down to his right to save well.

Rovers pressed again and forward Jordan Ponticelli saw his volley from Perkins' floated cross go over the crossbar.

Payne tested Sanchez again in the closing minutes of the first-half, latching onto a pass to beat his man in the right-side of the area but his firm low drive was saved by Sanchez' feet.

TRFC were two down with two minutes of the second-half played as Henderson notched his double, lofting an unstoppable shot past Davies from the left side of the area which found the top right corner after a corner wasn't fully cleared.

Half-time substitute Morgan Ferrier came close to pulling Rovers back into the contest but having got the better of the defender, his powerful effort cannoned back off the post while he also headed Kieron Morris' teasing cross just wide of Sanchez' far post.

Rochdale scored their third goal in the 68th minute of the contest of the Wirral through Norrington-Davies, who profited from Camps' pass inside the box to slide the ball with the outside of his left foot past Davies.

Late drama unfolded when Stephen Dooley scored a late own goal before Jennings' strike created a exciting finish, while Hepburn-Murphy was dismissed deep into the game for TRFC.

Next up for Rovers is a trip to Fratton Park where Portsmouth await this Saturday.

Rovers manager Micky Mellon said afterwards: "Before the game this week I said to everybody that it is a step up, a step up in quality and there is absolutely no doubt about that so what we have to go and no now is make that step up and close that gap in quality, learn the lessons and improve on that.

"I thought we started well, I thought we came out of the traps well then we gave away a cheap penalty from probably Rochdale’s first break but we will learn.

"We had a lot of players out there playing at this level for the first time or were coming back into it after a long time and we will be there for them to help them improve."

Match stats

TRFC: Davies, Nelson (Mullin 90+6) Monthe, Ray, Ridehalgh, Banks, Perkins, Morris, Jennings, Payne (Ferrier 45) Ponticelli (Hepburn-Murphy 45)

Subs not used: Woods, Potter, Gilmour, Pilling

Attendance: 8,032 (938 away).