By Peter Tscherewik
Two goals apiece for Ritchie Sutton and Connor Jennings gave Tranmere Rovers the best possible Boxing Day gift as they beat AFC Fylde 4-1 at Prenton Park.
Both sides started the game in relatively scrappy fashion but it was Tranmere who struck the first blow, opening the scoring through unlikely personnel in Ritchie Sutton after half an hour.
The visitors struggled to settle into the match and Rovers took full advantage of their dominance before half-time, as Sutton found the back of the net for a second time from a yard out.
Connor Jennings made it 3-0 shortly after the restart, though AFC Fylde did pull one back through Jonny Smith after an hour. Jennings then put Tranmere back out of sight with this second goal of the afternoon with a stunning effort from 25-yards out.
The result moves Micky Mellon’s side up to sixth place in the Vanarama National League table, only eight points from the top with a game in hand on the five teams ahead of them.
Rovers came into this match on the back of a well-deserved 3-1 away win at high-flying Sutton United, and the side didn’t half put on a show for the near seven-thousand in attendance for this fixture. The Super White Army watched on as both sides struggled to get a grip on the game in the early stages, but it was Micky Mellon’s side who looked the more threatening of the two teams.
After the opening half-hour the game looked to be in the balance, but for the most unlikeliest of personnel to go on and score his first goal of the season on 36 minutes. James Norwood managed to flick on a header which deflected into the path of Sutton, who volleyed well past Alex Lynch inside the six-yard-box.
The visitors struggled to come back with a response of any real threat after the opening goal and Tranmere looked to take advantage of AFC Fylde’s fragility before half-time. Rovers’ efforts were awarded with Sutton’s second goal of the afternoon, as he scrambled home the ball from a yard out following on from Adam Buxton’s cross into the penalty area.
Smith had the first real chance of the second-half for the visitors, but his effort sailed well over the bar in an afternoon where Rovers goalkeeper Scott Davies had very little to do.
Tranmere quickly responded to a brief spell of AFC Fylde pressure in the best possible fashion as Jennings continued his purple patch of form, scoring his third goal in four games to make it 3-0 to the home side. The goal came from a couple of great passing exchanges between Norwood and Ollie Norburn, with Jennings finishing the move off from 25-yards out.
AFC Fylde struggled to create chances and put the Super Whites’ defenders under any real pressure for much of the match, but did manage to pull back a consolation goal through Smith on the hour mark. Micky Mellon’s men rectified that lapse in concentration quickly as the goal cushion was put back to three on 69 minutes.
It was Jennings who was on hand to score his second goal of the afternoon, again from 25-yards. The effort capped off a superb piece of play from the Super Whites as the 26-year old registered his fourth goal of this domestic campaign.
Sutton was voted as the Tranmere Talk Man of the Match via our Twitter poll, and with good reason. Despite the obvious two goals, the 31-year old was relentless in his efforts all afternoon. A real turning point in the match came after his second goal, as he cleared effectively off the line to deny AFC Fylde a certain goal to make it 2-1.
— Tranmere Talk (@TranmereTalk) December 26, 2017
As the game drew towards it’s climax the visitors made a couple of attacking substitutions in a last-gasp attempt to get back into the game, but Rovers stood firm and kept it at 4-1. The best chance of the final 20 minutes fell to Danny Rowe who saw his effort rattle against the crossbar.
Tranmere now turn their attention to this weekend where they face-off against a struggling Guiseley side who currently sit 21st in the league table. Rovers will be hoping to extend their impressive home form to a run of five straight victories, with tickets for the game available to buy online here.