Two goals from Kemar Roofe and a strike from Danny Rose
earned United all three points at Prenton Park as they left Tranmere Rovers with two massive games to ensure their Football League survival. Two quick goals early in the second half paved the way for the U's who have ended the season six games unbeaten and enjoying their most consistent run of the campaign.
You could feel the tension around Prenton Park even before kick-off but the home fans did all they could to lift their side and they responded with two decent efforts in the first two minutes, one from Max Power, the second from George Green, patted confidently down by the well-placed Jamie Ashdown.
With Ashdown in goal, Sam Long
and Chey Dunkley
joined Jake Wright
and Joe Skarz in a new-look back line that looked strong against the experienced Kayode Odejayi and Iain Hume for the home side and were well worth a clean sheet that laid the foundations for the win. Their stubborn determination left Tranmere with few options other than long-range efforts and set-pieces, as shown when centre half Rob Taylor blasted a good effort just over the top half way through the first half.
At the other end the Yellows saw Dunkley head over when well placed and Taylor make a vital block when Long joined the attack and powered in a shot on 26, but the longer they held it at 0-0 the more the home crowd started to become edgy. That was palpable on 36 as Roofe picked up the ball level with his own penalty box and sprinted away down the left. Fans screamed for a challenge but Roofe continued his run, cut in and then flashed a low right-footed shot perhaps a yard the wrong side of the post with keeper Owain Fon Williams beaten.
Fon Williams then had to make a smart save down to his right as the excellent Danny Rose
ended a spell of intricate passing from the U’s with a shot from the corner of the six yard box. Danny Hylton
, the centre of that passing move, then had a far-post header well blocked by Michael Ihiekwe as United ended the half on top, despite a late free-kick causing them concern until Ashdown mopped up a Hume touch.
Rovers started the second half as though they had been given a rocket by boss Micky Adams, pumping the ball into the United box and looking positive, but two goals in two minutes left their survival hopes in tatters as United tore them apart.
The first was brilliantly worked as United passed the ball swiftly and accurately on the right to create the space for the once-again impressive Long to cross. Roofe rose highest and his header looped beyond the flat-footed Fon Williams to make it 1-0 and give Tranmere a major hill to climb, one that was to grow into a mountain 95 seconds later.
Rose has been an inspiration since coming back into the side and scored a beauty as MacDonald slipped in Hylton who pulled the ball back as far as Rose who side-footed home for another fine goal and a 2-0 lead.
Tranmere rallied and tried all they knew, but in truth they didn’t look as though they were going to beat Ashdown despite Odejayi steering a header just wide of the mark from another set piece. Indeed, one move half way through the second half which ended with four different players passing the ball/buck on the edge of the area rather than having a shot rather summed up the problems that have led to their current plight.
On 69 minutes their race was run on this particular day as United made it three. Wright launched the ball to the far post, Hylton, such an important player for assists as well as goals, nodded down and Roofe twisted to volley past Fon Williams and make it 3-0 and game over.
Most of the attention will inevitably focus on Tranmere's problems but take nothing away from the U's. This was a difficult game against a side who were guaranteed to come at them and give it everything. United may be safe now but they matched that commitment and then took their chances before killing the game off completely. Highly encouraging, as was a late debut for Aidan Hawtin
, the latest in a crop of very promising youngsters.
The U's now welcome Cambridge United to the Kassam Stadium next Saturday for their final home game of the season. See you there.
Report by Chris Williams, Pictures Darrell Fisher, Stats by OPTA
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