Ben Whitfield's second-half strike wasn't enough to prevent Port Vale from falling to a home defeat on Tuesday night as a James Norwood brace secured a victory for play-off chasing Tranmere Rovers, meaning John Askey is still searching for his first win as Valiants boss.
The Vale manager made two changes to the side that fell to defeat against Morecambe on Saturday afternoon, with Tom Conlon and Whitfield coming in at the expense of Luke Joyce and Mark Harris, but they couldn’t prevent Vale falling behind after 10 minutes.
Despite both teams enjoying a share of possession in the opening exchanges, it was Rovers who struck first with their first meaningful attack of the game. Kieron Morris’ initial strike was well saved by Scott Brown, but Norwood reacted first to tuck home his 21stleague goal of the season.
After taking the lead, Tranmere looked the more composed on the ball as they tried to double their advantage. Ben Pringle attempted to slot a pass through to Connor Jennings on 14 minutes, but it was slightly over hit, and Jake Caprice drilled a dangerous cross across the face six minutes later, only to see it flash beyond several blue shirts.
Vale did begin to look more of a threat going forward and Whitfield saw a penalty appeal turned away on 36 minutes following a tussle with two defenders, but Scott Davies remained a spectator in the away goal as the Valiants struggled to create any chances of note.
With 41 minutes played, it was the visitors who almost found the net again as Norwood raced in behind the Vale defence. He then cut inside before hitting a low ball towards the near post, but a combination of Brown and Nathan Smith managed to clear it away from goal.
Following the restart, the hosts dictated proceedings for a spell as they searched for an equaliser, but they were unable to find a way through a resolute Tranmere defence. The visitors then broke away on 56 minutes through Norwood, and the in-form striker made no mistake as he found the bottom corner to widen the margin to two.
It didn’t take long for Vale to pull one back, however, as they carved their way through the opposition back line before taking full advantage on 59 minutes. Tom Pope and Whitfield combined expertly on the edge of the area, and the latter then finished the move by thrashing a strike beyond the desperate reach of Davies.
Whitfield almost turned provider nine minutes later as he got on the end of a long kick from Brown before crossing to Pope who found space inside the area, but the striker’s header was hooked off the line by Zoumana Bakayogo. The clearance only went as far as David Worrall who turned the ball back on target, but Davies was alert to make a save.
Vale did put the ball in the back of the net with eight minutes left on the clock, but as Whitfield prodded the ball beyond the goalkeeper at the far post, the linesman raised his flag to rule it out for offside. Despite the introduction of Ricky Miller late on, it wasn't to be for the home side and Tranmere left Burslem with all three points.
Port Vale: Scott Brown, James Gibbons, Antony Kay, Tom Pope ©, Luke Hannant (David Worrall 58’), Connell Rawlinson, Adam Crookes, Nathan Smith, Tom Conlon, Mitch Clark (Cristian Montano 53’), Ben Whitfield (Ricky Miller 84’).
Unused Substitutes: Sam Hornby, Leon Legge, Mark Harris, Toby Edser.
Tranmere Rovers: Scott Davies, Manny Monthe, James Norwood, Connor Jennings, Luke McCullough, Jake Caprice, Mark Ellis, David Perkins, Kieron Morris (Jonathan Smith 77’), Zoumana Bakayogo, Ben Pringle (Harvey Gilmour 61’).
Unused Substitutes: Luke Pilling, Adam Buxton, Paul Mullin, Oliver Banks, Chris Dagnall.
Attendance: 3,835 (812 away).