Tranmere Rovers’ final Sky Bet League Two fixture of the regular season ended in a 3-1 defeat away at Crawley Town. Rovers trailed at the half-time break on a sun-kissed afternoon in Sussex, courtesy of two quick-fire strikes towards the end of the opening period from Ashley Nathaniel-George and Filipe Morais.
Top-scorer James Norwood halved the deficit for TRFC from a penalty early in the second-half at the Broadfield Stadium. Crawley added a third goal in stoppage time at the end of the game when Panutche Camara rounded goalkeeper Scott Davies to wrap up the scoring. Tranmere Rovers boss Micky Mellon made eight changes for the game against Crawley with captain Steve McNulty, winger Ben Tollitt and David Perkins all coming into the starting line-up for the SWA. Rovers, backed by a vocal away following from the Wirral, had a couple of sights on goal in the opening 20 minutes, with top league scorer James Norwood finding himself in good positions in the final third, but couldn’t find a team mate to have an effort on goal.
Crawley’s David Sesay then saw two efforts from distance, but neither tested Davies. The hosts led with 35 minutes played after Davies could only parry Matthew Willock’s drive as Nathaniel-George was on hand to react quickest to the rebound and convert in to the net. Gabriele Cioffi’s side doubled their advantage on 42 minutes when Morais turned in from close-range right-footed beyond Davies after Joe McNerney’s ball found its way across the box. Mellon’s men were back in the contest four minutes after the interval through Norwood’s spot-kick from 12-yards. Jonny Smith threaded full-back Adam Buxton through on the right-side of the penalty box before bursting in to the area before being brought down by Nathaniel-George. Up-stepped forward Norwood, who rolled the ball right-footed in to the bottom left-corner, sending Red Devils goalkeeper Glenn Morris the wrong way to score his 31st goal of the campaign in all competitions.
Aiming to restore their two-goal advantage, Crawley midfielder George Francomb sent an effort from distance narrowly wide of Davies’ post.Industrious winger Morais later forced Davies in to a smart stop as Crawley pushed for a third. Ollie Banks came off the bench and was immediately involved in the action, finding Norwood with a 40-yard lofted pass, who could only scuff his attempt from the right-side of the area which was pushed behind by Morris. From the resulting corner, play dropped out to Banks on the right-edge of the box, who could only drill his attempt over the crossbar. Davies then thwarted substitute Ollie Palmer after the forward had gone one on one with the stopper.
Camara ensured Rovers would taste defeat on the road in the 92nd minute after beating Steve McNulty for pace to take the ball around Davies to net left-footed following a swift breakaway. Tranmere conclude their first campaign back in Sky Bet League Two in sixth position and will now take on Forest Green Rovers over two-legs in the Play-Offs. The first-leg will be a Friday night football clash under the Prenton Park floodlights on Friday 10th May (7:45pm kick-off) with the second-leg at the New Lawn on Monday 13th May (7:45pm kick-off).
Tranmere Line Up:
Davies, Buxton, Monthe, McNulty, Bakayogo, Smith (Banks 59) Perkins (Morris 70) Gilmour, Tollitt (Jennings 59) Dagnall, Norwood.
Pilling, Ridehalgh, Pringle