|Jason Gilchrist scored his 19th goal of the season|
Notwithstanding the penalty loss in the cup away at Notts County it’s now four months since we tasted defeat over a 90 minute match. At the start of the season it was suggested by the club that the small squad was due to a push for quality over quantity and this is certainly proving a sound strategy.
On Saturday we saw Ben Woodhead return in goal after being forced to sit out cup exploits through age restrictions. Jack Errington lined up in the heart of defence alongside captain Alex Coleman, with regular skipper Tom Anderson benched following his 90 minute show in the reserves. Alex Mullin returned following illness and Shay McCartan shook off a knock to retain his place up front.
We started strongly and it was only a matter of minutes before we took the lead. McCartan was out wide on the right and flicked the ball past the winger, skipped past the full back and charged to the byline. He then cut back and into the box seeing a shot blocked by a centre half. The ball came back to him and he reacted well to clip the ball goalwards from a seemingly impossible angle. Jason Gilchrist was on hand at the back post to make sure but the ball was over the line before he forced it into the back of the net. Gilchrist himself then came close with a header flashing just over the bar.
Tranmere then regrouped and settled down, tightening at the back and forcing us to be patient. Around 20 minutes in Steven Hewitt caught the defence square and slipped the ball through to McCartan in the box. He rounded the keeper but took it just a touch too wide forcing him to cut back rather than shoot and the ball was cleared.
It was just delaying our second goal though as minutes later we doubled our lead. Cameron Howieson in midfield picked up the ball and looked up, spied the advancing Luke Conlan on the left and found him with a delicious pass. Conlan broke into the box and crossed for Gilchrist to sweep home his 19th of the season.
We had opportunities to increase our lead before the break and both of our best chances fell to Aussie full-back Aryn Williams. Firstly he ghosted in to send a header towards the top corner but the keeper got fingertips to it and saw it behind. From the corner the ball broke to Williams once more but the keeper reacted smartly to save with his feet.
The 2nd half started with a half chance for the visitors as a Conlan clearance hit Errington in the midriff and could have easily trickled into the back of the net. Fortunately it rolled past the correct side of the post for us. From the corner Woodhead was on top form to palm a fierce drive over the bar.
We then went through a scrappy period of the game. A bit of niggle entered the contest and snappy tackles and expletives were being thrown around at will. The referee had run out of fingers to illustrate to the Tranmere players how many times they had been warned for fouls. However, the first booking came for Williams apparently for dissent. Apparently, foul and abusive language from Tranmere is acceptable to the ref, but criticism from a Claret wasn’t.
Tranmere were becoming more ragged as the game progressed and we really should have enforced our superiority with further goals. Howieson picked up the ball and ran through the visitors backline. He tried to slip it past the keeper but a touch diverted it wide. Gilchrist was onto the rebound but could only hit the post. Tranmere should probably have pulled a goal back but were wasteful when given a free header in the box on the break.
We made some substitutions around 70 minutes in and Archie Love, sporting a light cast on his broken hand, replaced Adam Evans and Gilchrist made way for Lewis Nuttall. It looked like the Tranmere players were happy to give Loves cast a cheeky squeeze now and again, so he was having to play through an uncomfortable 20 minutes.
The final stages of the match saw very few chances but we could have put the icing on the cake in the final minute. McCartan jinked through on another solo run but his shot hit the same post that Gilchrist had struck earlier.
All around it was a good performance in tough conditions. Far from spectacular but it now sees us on a 9 game winning run in the league.
Team:- Ben Woodhead, Aryn Williams, Luke Conlan, Alex Coleman, Jack Errington, Steven Hewitt, Cameron Howieson, Adam Evans (Archie Love), Alex Mullin, Shay McCartan, Jason Gilchrist (Lewis Nuttall).
Subs not used:- Josh Cook, Tom Anderson