Report: Tranmere 0-0 MansfieldInjury-hit Mansfield Town produced a resolute defensive display to record a valuable point in a goalless draw with Tranmere Rovers at Prenton Park.
The Stags restricted their opponents to just three shots on target as they battled hard against a wave of pressure from Micky Adams’ team.
Despite the result, it was still a concerning night for visiting boss Paul Cox, who lost Kieron Freeman to injury on the half-hour mark, before Alex Fisher hobbled off with what appeared to be a dislocated shoulder with 10 minutes remaining.
The Stags named an unchanged starting xi, whilst new Tranmere chief Micky Adams made five changes to the side which lost 2-0 at Oxford United at the weekend, for his first game in the Prenton Park dugout.
On a bitterly cold night, strong and swirling winds, which were consistent throughout the course of the 90 minutes, made conditions extremely tough for both sides.
Tranmere got proceedings underway, and during some very scrappy early exchanges, they created the first opening on nine minutes, when Max Power whistled a powerful free-kick from close to the by-line, all the way through the six-yard box, but nobody could make a connection and Sascha Studer was untroubled.
The hosts enjoyed another chance on 12 minutes, when loanee Armand Gnanduillet, who joined the club on loan only yesterday, drifted forward and saw a powerful shot ricochet off Jamie Sendles-White, and run out of play for the game’s first corner.
Power delivered the subsequent set-piece and despite Studer having to punch the ball clear, the Stags were quickly awarded a free-kick as Gnanduillet tangled with Martin Riley – pulling his marker to the ground on the edge of the six-yard box.
At this stage, Rovers were starting to enjoy more possession, but in their next foray into their opponents’ half, Gnanduillet was shown a yellow card for a needless deliberate handball just inside the Stags’ penalty area.
Around the quarter-hour mark, the heavens opened and the resulting torrential rain left players of both teams absolutely soaked to the bone.
The Stags were unable to create any danger with their first corner on 16 minutes, as Rovers defended the danger well – and then tried to launch a counter-attack, which subsequently broke down just over the halfway line.
Rovers continued to shade proceedings, with Gnanduillet posing a constant threat, but the big, bustling frontman was flagged offside, as a move, which at one stage looked very promising, came to an abrupt end.
Tranmere’s Marc Laird curled a shot over from 20 yards on the half-hour mark, but the Stags’ concerns at this very second were largely focussed on wing-back Freeman, who had gone to ground in evident agony during a 50/50 challenge in the build-up to Laird’s shot.
The youngster, on loan from Derby County, received lengthy treatment from physio Chris Bowman, but was unable to continue and had to be replaced by Rob Taylor, who slotted straight in at left wing-back.
Tranmere then squandered the best opportunity of the first 45 minutes, as Danny Holmes carried the ball down the left flank and played a teasing ball through the area which reached Jake Kirby, but the striker scuffed a shot hopelessly wide of the target when he should have done much better.
Kirby was in the thick of the action two minutes later, when he won a free-kick in a great position – right on the edge of the Stags’ penalty area, having drawn a challenge from Riley.
Several home players stood over the ball, before Danny Johnson took responsibility with the set-piece and unleashed a sweet shot which narrowly drifted over the woodwork, with a full-stretch Studer having to watch nervously.
The Stags managed two chances either side of this set-piece, but neither Simon Heslop nor Jamie McGuire could find the target with speculative long-range attempts as the teams went in goalless at half-time.
Tranmere were much-improved after the re-start as they sought to get a victory which would lift them off the bottom of the Sky Bet League Two table, and were backed by a noisy contingent in the Kop Stand – the end they were attacking towards.
The hosts had no fewer than seven corners during a blistering four-minute period prior to the hour mark, but the Stags defended doggedly as George Barker, Laird, Kirby, Gnanduillet and Johnson all had efforts blocked.
The best chance of the bunch came on 57 minutes, when Gnanduillet held the ball up well around the penalty spot and threaded a low pass towards the feet of Kirby, who chipped a shot over the woodwork.
Rovers had begun to territorially dominate, and, as a result, Mansfield appeared to change their shape slightly following the substitution of Fergus Bell for Carr, who was making his debut, on 62 minutes.
After 72 minutes without either team having an attempt on target, Kirby went close to an opener when he unleashed a shot from around 18 yards, which bounced up and had to be punched clear by Studer at his near-post.
Tranmere continued to press forward with intent, but they lacked the cutting-edge to unlock a resolute Mansfield defence, which admirably held firm against many crosses and high balls.
Despite this, the Stags’ injury woes became even greater in the closing stages as Alex Fisher went to ground with what appeared to be a shoulder injury - spookily in almost exactly the same spot that Freeman had done earlier in the match.
After approximately four minutes of medical attention, Fisher got to his feet with his shoulder in a sling and was replaced by Reggie Lambe.
Fisher’s injury and a combination of other small stoppages meant that there were a massive seven minutes of stoppage-time, during which Rovers continued to lurk dangerously and press forward in search of a winner.
In the fourth of those seven minutes, they almost found one as Power’s dangerous free-kick towards the back-post looked as if it was going to beat Studer, until the Swiss custodian pulled off a magnificent fingertip save to keep the visitors on level terms.
The hosts had their third, and final, shot on target with 35 seconds remaining when Laird let fly with an audacious 35-yard strike. Studer parried the initial effort, but recovered just in time to put both hands on the ball, with substitute Kayode Odejayi lurking just inches away.