TRANMERE ROVERS 2, ALDERSHOT TN 2
ALDERSHOT’S growing stature received national prominence on Good Friday as an armchair audience enjoyed a thrilling televised encounter with Tranmere Rovers in Prenton Park.
Even though they temporarily slipped out of the top five of the National League, due to a Dover Athletic victory which also relegated Southport, this was undoubtedly a valuable and deserved point as the Shots continued to show that they warrant their place amongst such exalted and fancied company.
Extending their run to just one defeat in 18 matches since early December, Aldershot may even have been disappointed at not taking all three points.
Manager Gary Waddock said: “This is a good achievement. We wanted to win it, but we caused them problems and not many teams will come here and play like that.”
The visitors’ ambition was rewarded in just four minutes. Jim Kellermann lifted a pass into the penalty area and, even though apparently covered by three defenders, Matt McClure bustled between them to beat goalkeeper Scott Davies at point-blank range.
The best two defences in the division were far from dominant in the opening 45 minutes. Kundai Benyu’s low free-kick, squirming underneath the wall, was haphazardly parried by Davies. Then Rovers drew level on 13 minutes with a little help from Jake Cole who could only palm James Norwood’s angled shot into the path of Cole Stockton who lashed in the rebound.
Bernard Mensah and Benyu opened up the home defence with a rapid exchange, but the ensuing shot, from an inviting angle, was straight at Davies.
Tranmere were gifted the lead on 24 minutes. A throw-in on the halfway line was flicked on and Connor Jennings stole in between a flat-footed Will Evans and Callum Reynolds to stroke the ball past Cole.
Idris Kanu was unlucky not to win a penalty, after having his foot taken from under him as the Shots worked a quick free-kick, but Mensah found his range in superb style on 41 minutes.
Nick Arnold aimed a high ball towards McClure who won a towering flick-on and Mensah made light of an acute angle to rifle a 15-yard shot into the far corner.
Defences re-asserted their authority after the break and the match lost much of its cutting-edge. Twice, Norwood found space for headers at goal, while Lois Maynard directed his header wide from a free-kick as second-placed Tranmere were briefly buoyed by news of leaders Lincoln City falling behind.
But it was Aldershot who looked most likely to snatch a late winner. Manny Oyeleke’s introduction highlighted the increasing depth in Waddock’s squad and his 25-yard drive fizzed perilously close to Davies’ left-hand post.
A Jake Gallagher shot seemed to hit Michael Ihiekwe’s arm, but the final image was of Evans sliding inside his six-yard box to clear a dangerous cross.
Aldershot have now taken four points from Tranmere this season, and the sides may yet meet again in the play-offs.
Tranmere: Davies; Buxton (Sousa 68), McNulty, Ihiekwe; Vaughan, Maynard, Hughes, Ridehalgh; Norwood, Jennings, Stockton (Cook 76). Subs (not used): Turner, Wallace, Collins. Booked: Ihiekwe, Jennings.
Aldershot: Cole; Arnold, Evans, Reynolds, Straker; Gallagher, Kellermann (Oyeleke 80); Kanu (Fenelon 74), Benyu, Mensah; McClure. Subs (not used): Smith, Hyam, Rendell. Booked: Benyu, Kellermann.
Referee: Peter Wright.
Attendance: 6,324 (271).