Written By: Mark Armstrong
Result: Tranmere Rovers 4-1 Southport
Date: Saturday April 22 2017
Competition: National League
Venue: Prenton Park, Tranmere
Tranmere Rovers officially confirmed a second-place finish, giving them an advantage heading into the Play-Offs, as they defeated local rivals Southport 4-1.
Lincoln City had confirmed their title win earlier in the day with a 2-1 win over Macclesfield Town, but it was still imperative for Tranmere to head into the forthcoming Play-Offs on the front foot by securing the highest possible position in the meantime.
Tranmere had previously drawn 1-1 with Southport, and claimed a 1-0 win last season from a James Norwood penalty, and it would be Norwood who shone again here on a day where sunshine met a cold breeze at Prenton Park.
After a fairly slow start, and a near-miss when Andrai Jones almost capitalised on a defensive mix-up, Rovers took the lead on 25 minutes, when Norwood slotted home a hard drive from inside the penalty area. He went down in the aftermath with a slight knock, cutting short his celebrations, but he ploughed on as Tranmere looked more buoyant after taking the lead.
Southport, who were already relegated yet had held their own for the most part, began to struggle to cope with the more vibrant home side, and one became two on 46 minutes as Norwood came up with a superb, if somewhat cheeky, lob over goalkeeper Chris Cheetam. If the first goal was important, the second goal was crucial, as it gave Tranmere a cushion and a chance to sit back a bit. Tranmere looked much more comfortable from that point on, and Connor Jennings added a third with a fine curling effort on 50 minutes.
As good as Tranmere looked, they suffered a big set-back on 54 minutes when Spencer Myers, who only joined Southport on loan from Fleetwood Town a few weeks ago, came flying in with a hard challenge on Lee Vaughan. The Tranmere defender went off on a stretcher after several minutes of treatment, and the news that both he and fans feared has since come out that he suffered a broken leg. Well-wishes to Vaughan, as Tranmere now have to find an alternate defensive strategy for the Play-Offs.
Myers was lucky not to see red for his rash challenge and home fans were not pleased that he remained on the pitch, so they were incensed when Myers stepped up to slot past Tranmere keeper Scott Davies on 61 minutes, although it was merely a consolation at that point for the 160 travelling supporters. That was underlined when Tranmere wrapped it up by making it 4-1 on 71 minutes, with James Wallace setting up Jennings nicely to put it in, albeit with a slight deflection to guide the ball home.
So, Tranmere will head into the Play-Offs in the strongest position possible, aside from the injury to Vaughan. Given their perseverance and sheer effort this season, it’s a shame that they weren’t able to catch Lincoln for the title, but if the Super White Army still have a promotion to celebrate on May 14, nobody will be complaining, and this victory was another big step towards Tranmere’s biggest couple of weeks in a long time.
Man Of The Match: James Norwood. Another strong display from Tranmere’s number ten, who never gives up in tracking the ball down and trying to create chances, and he came up with two big goals to add to the dozen he’d already scored this season.