Ollie Banks’ wonder strike inspired Tranmere to a 1-0 victory against Forest Green in the play-off semi-final first leg as Friday night football returned to Prenton Park.
Forest Green’s Gavin Gunning was shown a straight red for a reckless challenge on Jay Harris early in the first half. Banks then smashed home with his right foot in the 25th minute; a goal which proved to be the winner for TRFC.
Despite the jubilant Super White Army support, the opening stages of the match yielded few opportunities for either side.
However, the Whites were handed a major boost on the 15th minute mark when Gunning was sent off for a petulant kick out at Harris – referee John Busby had no hesitations brandishing the red card.
Ten minutes later, Rovers took advantage as Banks thundered an effort off the underside of the bar and the ball just crossed the goal line. The lead was almost doubled when James Norwood controlled expertly with his chest in the area, but he fired over the bar.
FGR manager, Mark Cooper, opted to make a tactical substitution before the break, with attacker Junior Mondal being replaced by Lee Collins as the TRFC dominance was looking a difficult task to withstand.
There was a scare for Rovers after the restart. Christian Doidge found himself bearing down on goal before he tumbled in the box – appeals for a penalty were swiftly waved away.
Forest Green were then fortunate not to be down to nine just short of the hour. Doidge appeared to swing an elbow at Banks off the ball, but it went unpunished.
Micky Mellon’s troops maintained their control of possession and looked dangerous in the final third. Jake Caprice stung the palms of goalkeeper Lewis Ward with 20 minutes remaining and Manny Monthe then attempted a speculative effort from range, but Tranmere had to settle for a one-goal lead ahead of the return leg on Monday.
Goal Line Technology
This was the first time goal line technology has been used at Prenton Park and it certainly worked in Tranmere’s favour. Without the system in place, it is conceivable that Rovers could have been heading to the New Lawn on Monday evening with the tie all square.
Red Mist Descends
In a feisty encounter, the dismissal of Gunning swung the game Tranmere’s way. Penning the visitors into their own half and dominating the ball were features of Rovers’ play throughout the night. Mellon might also be aggrieved the Gloucestershire outfit were not forced to play the last half hour with nine men after Doidge’s flailing elbow.
Wembley One Step Away
Rovers are now in pole position to clinch another trip to Wembley, although they may be disappointed they couldn’t add to their tally in the first leg. The team will have to be at their best in the away leg, particularly after the 3-1 loss away at Forest Green in October.