REPORT: Tranmere Rovers 3 Stevenage 1
- Credit: Archant
Bakayogo brace helps to sink Boro
Tranmere Rovers 3
npower League 1
Stevenage fell to defeat at Prenton Park in the club’s first game since the sacking of manager Gary Smith last Wednesday.
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Captain Mark Roberts took charge of this encounter, assisted by injured centre-back Jon Ashton and head of youth Darren Sarll in the dugout, but Tranmere attacked Boro from the off and scored three first-half goals to move into the play-off places.
Rovers had drafted fans in to help clear the pitch on Saturday afternoon for Sunday’s tea-time kick-off, and they will be glad that they did.
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From the off they attacked Boro with Zoumana Bakayogo opening the scoring for the hosts on 10 minutes.
A cross from the right had seen Stevenage goalkeeper Steve Arnold come to collect, but he collided with a Tranmere player and when the initial shot had been blocked Bakayogo pounced on the rebound to make it 1-0.
Yet Stevenage’s heads did not drop and they equalised within two minutes when Luke Freeman, brought back into the side by Roberts, stepped up to take a free-kick from 25 yards and curled it past Owain fon Williams in the home goal.
It was a thrilling start to the match, but it did not stop there as once more the hosts pushed forward and Stevenage had Arnold to thank to keep out an effort from Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro.
It was obvious that Ronnie Moore had given his Tranmere side instructions to get at Stevenage from the off, and when a corner was swung in 16 minutes into the match Roberts blocked an initial shot before Ben Gibson converted from 14 yards, courtesy of a hefty David Gray deflection.
Two most certainly should have been three when Mamady Sidibe was put through on goal by a long ball over the top, but the Mali striker struck his effort wide with Arnold closing him down.
Boro began to settle into the game and they were enjoying more possession when they were stunned by a Tranmere third.
Another ball over the top found Bakayogo who had got the better of Gray, and although Arnold had started to come off his line he stopped after realising the ball would not carry through to him and Bakayogo picked out his spot for 3-1.
There was also time for Ash Taylor to force a fine save from Arnold before the break, with Tranmere heading into half-time with a two-goal cushion.
The hosts had the better of the early exchanges in the second-half and went close to adding a fourth only for Darius Charles to block a shot on the line.
Roberts had been beaten to a header outside the box, and when the initial Rovers shot was blocked by Bondz N’Gala, the second effort was palmed away by Arnold with the third being stopped by Charles.
Boro looked more composed in the second period and Robin Shroot had a glorious chance to pull a goal back only to stroke his effort the wrong side of the post from seven yards after the ball had deflected into his path.
There was a flurry of chances late in the half with Sam Hoskins, on for Dani Lopez, dragging an effort wide before Greg Tansey, another substitute, fired over.
For Roberts, who deserves a word for taking charge for what is his second spell in charge, this was a first defeat as a player-manager, but in very different circumstances from when he last took the reins.
As for Boro, it is 15 defeats in 19 but with other results going for them at the foot of the table it is very likely that they have secured their League 1 status for another season.
Tranmere: fon Williams 6, Holmes 6, Black 7, Taylor 6, Palmer 6, Gibson 6, Power 7, Bell-Baggie 6 (O’Halloran 80), Akpa Akpro 7, Bakayogo 8 (Amoo 84), Sidibe 7. Subs not used: Mooney, Goodison, Kay, Harrison, Stockton.
Stevenage: Arnold 5, Gray 4, Charles 5, Roberts 5, N’Gala 5, Grant 5 (Tansey 81), Dunne 7, Freeman 6, Akins 5, Shroot 6, Lopez 5 (Hoskins 73). Subs not used: Day, Iro, Comminges, Jeffrey, Beleck.