Tranmere 1-0 FC Halifax Town

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FC Halifax Town remain without a point so far this season but can take encouragement from a battling display as they lost 1-0 at Tranmere.

Rovers were the better side and threatened to take the lead long before Andy Mangan’s goal with 15 minutes remaining.

But Halifax can reflect on a resilient performance full of endeavour that was just beginning to look as if it might get their season up and running until Mangan’s first of the season.

Neil Aspin said a win at Prenton Park would kick start his side’s season, but even in defeat, their display offered enough to build on when Bromley visit The Shay on Saturday, when The Shaymen will finally hope to register some points.

Town made three changes from Saturday’s defeat against Torquay, with Matt Brown, Elliott Whitehouse and Kevin Roberts coming in for Josh Macdonald, Andy Bishop and Graham Hutchison, who dropped out of the 16 altogether.

A further alteration saw captain Hamza Bencherif shifted to central midfield, with James Bolton partnering Brown at the heart of a new-look back-four.

All that suggested a safety-first approach from Town, and who could blame them after the generosity of their defending last time out?

Tranmere didn’t take long to emphasise their quality on the ball, with Jonny Margetts turning on a sixpence inside the box before drilling the ball across goal and wide.

That was after Lois Maynard, still effective albeit in the unusual role on left-winger, had a shot saved by Matt Glennon and had just failed to connect to a dangerous cross from the right flank at the far post.

Rovers were fluid in attack and didn’t waste much time in testing the rigidity of Town’s reassembled defence.

Sean Tuton had started in a similar vein to his other three appearances, full of drive and intent, and created a chance out of nothing with a turn and shot 25 yards out that whistled over the angle of post and bar.

For all their confidence going forward, there was a touch of nerves about the hosts at the back, not helped when Martin Riley’s attempted clearance hit Ritchie Sutton and almost looped over Scott Davies.

But Rovers were cranking up the pressure by the half-hour mark, with Mangan bringing a good save out of Glennon and right-back Michael Ihiekwe twice heading off target inside the area.

The impressive Margetts was then twice denied in quick succession by Glennon, first after linking-up well with Mangan, then his header was tipped over from a corner.

Neil Aspin had insisted his side must defend properly to get a result, and it was backs to the wall at times for Town as half-time approached, but that re-jigged defence refused to buckle.

Tuton was again the stand-out performer for Town, working hard to provide cover for Roberts down the right, but also a threat going forward.

He went close to handing Town a half-time lead with a 30-yard screamer which Davies did well to tip away at full-stretch.

Had that gone in though, Tranmere would have felt hard done by after racking up 10 efforts at goal compared to Town’s, and Tuton’s, two by the interval.

Maynard’s height advantage over Roberts was consistently targeted by hosts all evening, and from his knock-down, Mangan tested Glennon from 20 yards in what was a quieter, more even start to the second-half.

Tranmere continued to apply nearly all the pressure, with Liam Ridehalgh next to force Glennon into action.

Brown was an increasingly reassuring presence and came to the fore in the Town defence as the visitors were pressed back with some excellent headed clearances, but a hard-working Halifax side mainly restricted Rovers to long-range efforts despite their dominance of possession.

By the mid-way point of the second-half, Tranmere were 14-2 ahead in the shots stakes, the latest coming from Mangan, who dragged his shot wide after a delightful piece of skill earned him half-a-yard of space.

Tuton led a superb counter-attack from a Tranmere corner, with Town briefly outnumbering Rovers as they broke forward, but it petered out and Halifax were eventually caught offside.

Moments later, the breakthrough finally came at the other end when Mangan latched onto a delightful lay-off by Ridehalgh before charging into the box and calmly slipping the ball past Glennon.

Town switched to 4-4-2 in response, and came mightily close to levelling through a Jake Hibbs free-kick from 30 yards.

Tranmere: Davies, Sutton, Ihiekwe, Riley, Hill, Ridehalgh, Maynard, Harris, Jennings, Margetts, Mangan. Subs not used: Turner, Holness, Mekki, Stockton, Kirby.

Scorer: Mangan (74)

Shots on target: 13

Shots off target: 8

Corners: 7

Halifax: Glennon, Bolton, Brown, Bencherif (Hughes 77), McManus, K Roberts, Tuton, Whitehouse (Macdonald 82), James, Hibbs, Burrow. Subs not used: Porter, Walker, Bishop.

Shots on target: 3

Shots off target: 2

Corners: 3

Attendance: 5,235