Tranmere Rovers made certain of their place in the League Two Play-Offs after a 1-1 draw against newly promoted Bury at Prenton Park.
In the Club’s first season back in the EFL, Micky Mellon’s men have now secured their place in the top seven of the division, a fantastic achievement with a game to spare. It is also the third consecutive season the Club will compete in the Play-Offs, after the last two seasons in the National League.
Tranmere boss Mellon started with Ben Pringle and Liam Ridehalgh for Rovers, coming in for Paul Mullin and Zoumana Bakayogo. David Perkins and Steve McNulty also returned to the TRFC matchday squad after injury.
Bury, knowing a point could take them to League One, nearly took the lead in the most fortunate circumstances. TRFC were temporarily down to ten men as Jay Harris needed his shirt changing and Bury capitalised with Nicky Adams finding space in the box to drive the ball over the cross bar.
However, in the 10th minute, Rovers raced into the lead as Norwood scored his 28th of the league campaign and 30th in all competitions. The Sky Bet League Two Player of the Year connected with an in-swinging corner from the right, and the ball trickled just over the line.
Prenton Park was bouncing and rightly so and Tranmere looked to add a second in the 22nd minute, Ollie Banks trying his luck from 25-yards, but the goalkeeper was equal to the effort.
A couple of minutes later, two massive opportunities came for both sides. The first, started by a perfectly timed tackle by Harris, resulted in Norwood going one on one with the Shakers goalkeeper, Joe Murphy, but the shot stopper made himself big to deny a second for TRFC’s number 10.
At the other end, Bury attacker, Dominic Telford, who looked to be in an offside position, was left in a glorious position bang in front of goal, but he struck wide of the post.
A wonderful lofted through ball from Ollie Banks on the half hour mark picked out Connor Jennings on the right wing to cut inside, but the former Macclesfield man missed the mark.
Norwood and Jennings both had two half opportunities before the interval, Murphy equal to the league top scorer’s chance, whilst Jennings put too much on his right foot to cause concern.
Bury flew out of the traps at the start of the second half, as Jay O’Shea was denied from the off by a great save by Scott Davies. A minute later, a dangerous cross from the left by former TRFC loanee Mayor, was headed against the post by experienced striker Nicky Maynard.
Davies was ensuring Rovers kept hold of their lead with another fabulous save, beating a Maynard strike from inside the box away as the Shakers were looking really dangerous.
The visitors pressure paid off in the 56th minute as Mayor’s strong run from just inside the Tranmere half was deflected past a helpless Davies, with the keeper wrong footed.
Tranmere had a fabulous chance to regain the lead on the hour mark, as a goal mouth scramble in the Bury box landed at Norwood’s feet, but the keeper got an arm on the ball to push away for a corner.
In terms of chances, the game quietened down as both teams looked for the all-important goal, but Bury knew what they had was enough to secure an immediate return to the third tier of English football and the game finished 1-1.
Before Tranmere’s Play-Off opponents are confirmed, they will face Crawley Town away from home on Saturday, 3pm kick-off.
Rovers Line Up:
Davies, Caprice (Buxton 74), Nelson, Monthe, Ridehalgh, Pringle (Mullin 82), Harris, Banks, Morris, Jennings, Norwood.
Pilling, Gilmour, Perkins, McNulty, Dagnall.