Brilliant Port get second crack at Rovers
THERE were feelings of déjà vu within Prenton Park as referee Anthony Blackhouse blew the full-time whistle on Sunday.
In a similar vein to the previous round, Tranmere were held at home to lower-league opposition, meaning they will have to do things the hard way once more to progress to the next stage of the FA Cup.
Dylan Mottley-Henry engineered the first opportunity as he delivered an early cross into the box, which was met by Connor Jennings, who saw his shot deflect out for a corner.
Moments later, though, and Mottley-Henry’s afternoon was brought to an abrupt end, as he left the field on a stretcher. The tricky forward, who was enjoying a third successive start, appeared to pull his hamstring, prompting the substitution of Jonny Smith, who came on in his place.
There was then a chance for either side to take the lead. Firstly, Jay Harris made an interception on the edge of the box and passed to James Norwood, who unleashed a left-footed effort over the bar. Then for the visitors, Jack Sampson laid off for Dion Charles, who also could not keep his effort on target.
It had been a relatively quiet opening to the match; both teams were struggling to create meaningful chances, but a well-worked move saw Mellon’s side find the breakthrough 17 minutes in. Liam Ridehalgh sent a long crossfield ball forward, which was beautifully controlled by Norwood. The Tranmere talisman then teed-up Smith, who cut in on his left foot and curled home. Indeed, he wasted little time to make his mark after coming on from off the bench.
Harris, who earlier won back the ball for his side, was dispossessed himself, as Marcus Wood caught him off guard on the edge of the box and picked out Charles. Steve McNulty, though, was quick to spot the danger and threw himself in front of the ball to deny the forward.
Micky Mellon’s side were beginning to pay the price for sloppy play, as 10 minutes later it was Harvey Gilmour who lost possession. This time Sampson was the man to win the ball back as he set up Wood, whose dipping effort drifted off target.
As the first half drew to a close, tempers began to flare.
An initial altercation between McNulty and Dean Winnard – who both received yellow cards – sparked a mass brawl in the Rovers’ box, which later saw Jennings also issued a caution. Pushing and shoving, players being restrained and arguments boiling over momentarily took centre stage in the game, as referee Blackhouse failed to diffuse the situation.
Matters were then made worse when Jordan Richards brought down Norwood at the other end of the field, who too found himself booked.
At the start of the second half, Charles raced through on goal for Liam Watson’s side as he continued to cause problems for the Rovers rearguard, though Ridehalgh was on hand to thwart his goalbound effort.
The Sandgrounders then began to stamp their authority on proceedings, as they bombarded the Tranmere penalty box with a flurry of flag-kicks.
A rare clear-cut chance for the Whites came about when Jennings raced through on goal, but he could only hit the side-netting.
Then, out of nowhere, Southport found an equaliser.
Unchallenged in midfield, Bradley Bauress let fly from 30 yards out to find the top right corner of the goal 20 minutes from time. Scott Davies could do nothing about this strike.
While the Tranmere shot-stopper failed to keep this particular effort out, he brilliantly clawed Sampson’s headed effort off the line moments later to prevent the away side from taking the lead.
With 10 minutes to play, Southport had another chance to snatch a late win when they won a free-kick right on the edge of the area, as Manny Monthe brought down Morgan. Richards let fire, though this was well blocked by the Tranmere wall.
One glorious chance was then followed up by another, as substitute Devarn Green blazed over the bar with the goal gaping at his mercy.
Mellon’s side hit back late on when Tollitt picked out Smith, who shot on his weaker right foot and drew a fine save from Dan Hanford who tipped behind for a corner. From this, Monthe saw his headed effort dramatically cleared off the line to keep the scores level.
In stoppage time, Tollitt burst into the box, skipped past two men, but took one touch too far and saw the chance go to waste. Jennings scuppered the final opportunity when he unleashed a shot into The Kop.
The sides will go again in a replay next week, with the date and time to be confirmed in due course.
Action from Southport’s well deserved draw against Tranmere on Sunday