Tranmere 2 Dagenham 0: Rovers fire warning to National League rivals

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Tranmere fired another warning to their National League rivals that they mean business in the promotion race with a dominant 2-0 win over Dagenham.

Micky Mellon’s side may have given the teams above them a head start after a slow start to the season, but they showed their true form at Prenton Park on Saturday afternoon.

Goals before the break from James Norwood and Ollie Norburn wrapped up the victory for Rovers, who have now lost just one of their last nine matches in all competitions.

And whilst this result may have done little to elevate their position in the table, or close the gap up to top spot, they now lurk ominously just below the top seven.

Andy Cook’s reward for rescuing a draw against Peterborough in the FA Cup last week was a return to the starting line up in one of two changes made by Micky Mellon.

Mitch Duggan was the other, replacing Jay McEveley as Rovers returned to a 4-4-2 formation.

Tranmere knew the importance of this game as they looked to claw back some of the gap on the teams in the top seven.

It did not take long for them to find their feet, as after Dylan Mottley-Henry booted a clearance up field, a terrific one-two between Cook and Norwood allowed the latter to charge forward.

He cleverly twisted and turned his way into the 18-yard box, leaving one defender on his backside before sliding a shot expertly across goal and in at the far post.

Celebrations after the goal were cut short when Duggan limped off injured, whilst Jeff Hughes also had to be withdrawn before half-time after picking up a knock.

Mitch Duggan (centre) in action for Tranmere at Barrow earlier this season

Tranmere continued to plough forward though, with Cook having a chance of his own minutes later only to head off target from Liam Ridehalgh’s swinging free-kick.

Steve McNulty was the next to be picked out, only to nod off target as he met a corner near the penalty spot.

Cook then had another go, and this time he found the target with a low drive after good work by Mottley-Henry, only to fire straight at Mark Cousins.

Dagenham finally started to get a foothold on the game around the half-hour mark, but in truth they failed to worry their opponents.

Despite seeing more of the ball and passing it around nicely in midfield, as soon as they got anywhere near the 18-yard box the Rovers defenders stepped up and cleared any danger.

Indeed, they failed to register a shot in the opening 45-minutes, but the hosts showed their clinical edge by doubling the lead just before half-time thanks to a superb strike from Ollie Norburn.

The midfielder was lurking at the back post as Ridehalgh fired in a deep corner from the right, and he watched the ball all the way on to his foot before brilliantly volleying into the far corner.

Dagenham’s start to the second period was much better than the first, with Michael Cheek finally registering a shot, although his header sailed well wide.

At the other end, Norwood could have made it 3-0, driving forwards after a brilliant turn and pass from Cook, but he slid his 18-yard effort just past the post.

Charlie Adams then forced Scott Davies into his first save with a half-volley from 22-yards that went straight at the ‘keeper, whilst Norwood slammed into the side netting.

Cook was the next to come close, wriggling free of his marker before seeing a low shot on the turn saved as it headed for the bottom corner.

Tranmere's Andy Cook somehow missed an open goal

Larnell Cole then flicked just over the bar from a corner, before Davies was called into action for a second time to stop a woefully tame effort from Luke Howell.

Tranmere’s final chance fell to Cook, but he again failed to find the target with a header from a Ridehalgh delivery as he was not quite able to climb high enough and nodded off target.

Dagenham had their moments in the closing exchanges, but they simply could not get close enough to the Rovers goal to get their shots away.

Their last effort was a long range free-kick from Elliot Romain that had Davies back-pedalling, but he was able to tip over the bar.

It was an efficient performance from Tranmere, who were nowhere near as fluent after the break as before it, but they did not need to be.

You could argue that this was their most effective and impressive performance of the campaign, especially given the changes Mellon needed to make because of injury.

And they are now truly looking up the table, with eyes firmly trained on the promotion places.

Tranmere (4-4-2): Davies; Duggan (Harris 6), McNulty, Sutton, Ridehalgh; Mottley-Henry, Hughes (Cole 35), Norburn, Jennings; Cook (McDonagh 87), Norwood. Unused subs: Wharton, Green

Goals: Norwood 4, Norburn 42

Dagenham (4-3-3): Cousins; Nunn (Ling 80), Doe, Robson, Howells; Howell, Adams, Boucaud; Okenabirhie (Romain 56), Cheek, Whiteley (Sparkes 66). Unused subs: Moore, Sparkes, N’Gala

Referee: Thomas Bramall

Attendance: 5,227 (131)

Man of the Match

Jay Harris – Playing in a foreign position at right-back, but was truly terrific and did not put a foot wrong

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