Tranmere Rovers 4 Maidstone United 0

TRANMERE moved into the top half of the table as they brushed off recent disappointments to blow away promotion rivals Maidstone United at Prenton Park.

Andy Cook and Ollie Norburn supplemented a brace from James Norwood to earn all three points for Rovers in a fluid performance that warmed up an otherwise frozen congregation in Birkenhead.

As injuries and suspensions continue to cause Tranmere problems, Micky Mellon was forced to make a further two changes to side that drew with Macclesfield on Tuesday night.

Promising youngster Evan Gumbs – who was recalled from a loan spell at Warrington Town earlier this month – deputised in defence for the banned Steve McNulty.

Having served a one match suspension himself, Connor Jennings returned to midfield, replacing injured Larnel Cole.

Teenager Eddie Clarke continued at left back in place of Liam Ridehalgh, who could be out for up to six weeks.

Attacking the Kop end, Tranmere had the first real chance in the third minute when Norburn curled a 25-yard free kick over the bar.

Adam Buxton then fed Norwood in through the right hand channel but Lee Worgan held his shot.

A Zavon Hines free kick wasn't dealt with by Rovers and when the ball reached a surprised Reece Prestedge he was unlucky to see his sidefoot effort go wide.

But Tranmere took the lead in the seventh minute when Clarke breezed down the left wing and crossed for Norwood who turned it home with a smart finish at the front post.

That lead was almost doubled when Cook set Norwood free on a counter attack before a return pass saw Worgan save the number nine’s initial shot – the side netting took care of the rebound.

But Cook didn't have to wait much longer for a goal. Another free-flowing attack saw Jennings feed the burley centre forward, who turned his man and expertly prodded home.

The Stones responded with Delano Sam-Yorke jinking past two defenders before crossing for Joe Piggott, but he could only stick his snap-shot wide.

Cook was pulling the strings magnificently. A clever flick allowed Buxton to cross as Jennings headed narrowly over the bar.

Despite the score line, the visitors were more than playing their part.

A through ball from Piggott picked out Hines in acres of space in the penalty area, but with just the goalkeeper to beat, Davies saved heroically with his legs.

As the rain lashed down, Tranmere fought through it for a third. A header from Cook was repelled before Ollie Banks’ long-range strike yielded a similar outcome.

A slack ball out of the back from Gumbs presented a chance straight to Piggott but Davies was equal to it again.

In first half time added on, Jennings tested Worgan with a curling effort, but with Norwood ready to pounce the Maidstone 'keeper managed to hang on to the ball.

Rovers continued to ask all the questions after the break, with Dylan Mottley-Henry feeding Cook, who saw his shot on the turn deflected wide for a corner.

The Stones responded with a free kick from Piggott, but it was curled well wide of Davies' goal.

The visitors continued to try and find a way back into the match but Jai Reason’s pulled shot 15 minutes from time was well wide.

Ollie Banks then side-footed one over – when perhaps he should’ve done better – as Rovers tried to put the game to bed.

But with 13 minutes remaining the match was finally settled.

Another cross from Clarke was only half-cleared allowing Norburn to take a touch before blasting the ball into the top corner from the edge of the box.

Buxton tried a similar pile driver moments later, which Worgan pushed away for a corner.

Tranmere added a fourth when Worgan could only parry another shot from Buxton and Norwood was on hand to sweep home his second of the afternoon.

The striker could have even grabbed a hat-trick at the death, only to see his dinked effort thwarted by Worgan.

It was academic however, as Tranmere took the points in what was probably their best performance of the season.

Manager Micky Mellon said afterwards: "We've just got to keep going and keep working hard. Play like that today.

"It's not tactics. Forget tactics. Think about running and working hard and when the jobs come along, do them.

"Wherever you are on the pitch, do your job – both with and without the ball.

"Graft hard, fight hard and have that desire to win and you'll get results like we did today.

"Football is not as complicated as people make it out to be. You've got to create opportunities but when they come along you've got to take them.

"In the past we haven't taken them and made life very difficult for ourselves but today we did and played very well."

Match stats

Tranmere Rovers 4 (Norwood 7, 84, Cook 17, Norburn 77) 

Maidstone United 0

Half time: 2-0

Star man: Andy Cook (Tranmere striker)

Attendance: 4,126

Entertainment: 4/5

Ref rating: Simon Barrow (6/10) Tranmere (4-4-2): Davies 8; Buxton 6, Gumbs 6, Sutton 7, Clarke 8; Mottley-Henry 7 (Green 85, NA), Banks 7, Norburn 7 (Kay 87, NA), Jennings 7; Cook 9, Norwood 8

Subs not used: Pilling, McEverley, Rokka Maidstone (4-5-1): Worgan 7; Nana Twumasi 5, Finney 6, Okuonghae 6, Anderson 7; Sam-Yorke 7, Lewis 5, Prestedge 5 (Loza 54, 5), Reason 6, Hines 7 (Wraight 81, 6); Piggott 6 Subs not used: Phipps, Ter Host, Richards