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Rovers Return Empty-Handed
By: Ian Townsend
ALAN Buckley chose to start with the same XI as opened the season on Saturday for the visit of League One Tranmere Rovers in the first round of the Carling Cup.
Stockdale, Heywood, Hope, Newey
Till, Hunt, Heslop, Llewellyn
Subs: Montgomery, Bore, North, Clarke and Bennett.
The game opened with Town showing more going forward than on Saturday and perhaps, benefiting from a bit of extra space, played some neat football early on. The pattern of the game was set in the first minute as Till picked up the ball, beat his man and was brought down clumsily. Barnes then found Llewellyn who as on Saturday slipped allowing the defender to get back at him.
Tranmere came back and forced Barnes into a save low down to his right.
The first real attacking action for Town saw a good flick on by Butler for Taylor who in turn found Till. His speculative shot caused the keeper some trouble and he was forced to concede a corner, from which a good delivery gave Hope a chance at the back post but the big defender was unable to keep his header down.
It was all Town and Till again beat his man, feeding Newey who unfortunately was unable to beat the first defender with his cross.
Tranmere realised they were in a match and stepped up a gear. Town were somewhat fortunate as first Hope threw himself in the way of a shot and then a ball to the back post beat Stockdale but the attacker was unable to direct his header.
Taylor who had not enjoyed the best of service on Saturday was seeing far more of the ball and his speed was causing Tranmere’s defence some concern. A mazy run saw his eventual cross cum shot skid across the six yard box with no Town player able to capitalise.
Back came Tranmere and in a flurry of action in Town’s box a slight Barnes misjudgement saw a shot cannon back off his far post and then Heywood had to put his head in to put off his opponent. It looked "odds on" a goal for the away side but the deadlock was broken by Town on 17 minutes. More good work by Till found Butler whose effort was saved low down by Achterberg but the keeper was unable to hold the ball and James Hunt stooped low to send a looping header over the stranded keeper for Town’s first of the season.
Town were galvanised by the goal and both Taylor and Till using speed, and the width of the pitch, caused Tranmere loads of problems.
However on 26 minutes it could easily have been 1-1. First Barnes, shepherding the ball behind allowed an attacker to get hold of the ball. It bobbled around the box before a tremendous effort came in from the edge which came back full off the bar.
The midfield were going "about their business" and a feature of the half was some biting tackles particularly from Hunt and Heslop who seemed more at home than he had on Saturday.
Taylor’s speed continued to cause problems and it took three defenders to crowd him out as he bore down on goal.
As the half moved to a closure Barnes showed why many Town fans consider him to be amongst the best keepers in Division 2. Stockdale seemed to be pushed by his attacker and the loose ball fell to Curran who’s shot, heading for the top corner was brilliantly turned over by the Town stopper to rapturous applause from the Pontoon.
The last action of the first half produced another amazing let off for Town as a cross in from the right found Sonko in acres of space in the six yard box. In truth he had time to trap the ball and side foot into the net. He decided differently and managed to blaze the ball high over the bar from no more than six yards.
Half Time: Town 1 Tranmere 0
The report continues in the Second Half
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