Dany N’Guessan’s first half penalty was enough to seal the three points for Swindon against Tranmere in a match dominated by Mark Cooper’s team, writes Adrian Smith.
Swindon Town kicked off towards the Town End having lost the toss with Nile Ranger returning from injury replacing Louis Thompson.
Tranmere started the game in 22nd place in League One and had the first attempt on goal through Ryan Lowe who floated in a gentle shot which was easily caught by Wes Foderingham.
Town had a corner in the 6th minute when Danny Holmes headed a cross behind but Pritchard’s cross was easily headed clear by a defender.
The visitors were content to sit back in defence before there was a flurry of attacking from Tranmere who had two appeals for handball turned down by referee Mr Breakspear as the ball pinged around the penalty area.
Town were knocking the ball around well in midfield as they pushed the visitors back in defence and a sustained period of possession ended when Pritchard curled a shot narrowly over the bar with keeper Fon Williams close by.
Immediately the visitors showed more ambition and Chris Atkinson tried his luck from distance but Foderingham gathered easily.
Nathan Byrne did well to trick his way past a defender on the right wing before firing in a cross to the backpost where Nile Ranger headed into the side netting in the 19th minute. Jay McEveley then latched onto a hanging cross from Pritchard at the far post but his effort went straight at the Tranmere keeper Owain Fon Williams.
Yaser Kasim almost added to his growing status as one the fans’ favourites when he latched onto a ball from Pritchard before sidestepping a defender to fire in a shot which just evaded the dive of Fon Williams but also the post for a goalkick to the visitors.
There was a break for an injury to Tranmere number 14 Atkinson but he was able to rejoin play after some treatment.
Town were awarded a penalty in the 29th minute when Pritchard darted into the penalty area to latch onto a cross from Byrne and the referee immediately pointed to the spot. Up stepped Dany N’Guessan to send a low shot to the right of the keeper who dived the opposite way.
Nathan Byrne was tormenting the Tranmere defence with his pace and gained a corner but sadly that was easily cleared in the 36th minute. A minute later the Tranmere keeper was almost embarrassed when he flapped at a corner but N’Guessan was just unable to poke the ball home under pressure from a defender.
Finally Tranmere managed to get near the Town goal and Chris Atkinson fired in a rising shot while appealing for a corner but the referee awarded a goalkick. Tranmere were struggling to get any possession but eventually they threatened briefly in the 42nd minute but Max Power was flagged offside to end their attack. Former Town loanee Liam Ridehalgh somehow managed to find himself with masses of space at the near post and he outstepped Thompson before firing in a shot from close range which was well saved by Foderingham with his foot to send the ball around the post for a corner which was headed clear by Ranger. Ridehalgh then had another chance from distance but his powerful effort was always going high over the bar.
Nathan Byrne was just outpaced by the Rovers keeper in a chase to a long pass forward by Pritchard just as two minutes of play were displayed on the 4th official’s board. Swindon finished the half strongly attacking the visitors goal before the whistle was blown to end a half pretty much dominated by the Robins.
Tranmere started the second half with extra zip in their step and Ridehalgh again tested Foderingham with a cross which was dipping under the crossbar until the Town keeper fisted the ball over the crossbar for a corner which was cleared by Ranger.
The visitors had a freekick from 30 yards or so but there was a comedy moment when the ball was passed straight to Pritchard who launched a counterattack. Tranmere were showing more ambition in this half by pushing more players forward in contrast with the lone striker employed for much of the first half and for their part, Mark Cooper’s team were content to continue playing their neat passing game.
Massimo Luongo carved out a chance with a superb 40 yard sprint into the Rovers half before trying to set up Byrne but his pass was intercepted by the Rovers defence.
Nathan Thompson did well to retrieve the ball when it bounced over him in defence under pressure from a Tranmere forward but the Town defender cleared for a throw in.
The match was being played in bright sunshine as Dany N’Guessan tricked his way down the wing in the 65th minute but he was denied by a last ditch tackle on the edge of the penalty area.
A series of passes by Swindon led to Pritchard firing over from 18 yards as the home side cranked up the pressure midway through the half and N’Guessan also tried his luck from distance with a weak shot from outside the penalty area.
Tranmere made the first substitution of the match in the 73rd minute when Cole Stockton replaced Akpo Sodje.
Tranmere had a rare corner in the 74th minute taken by Atkinson which led to Ryan Lowe firing in a powerful shot on the turn but his effort went into the side netting.
Rovers captain Ian Goodison was poleaxed by a powerful shot from N’Guessan but he soon recovered in time for the resulting Town corner.
Jay McEveley made a smart tackle on Ryan Lowe as he shaped up to shoot on the edge of the area. Nathan Byrne was eventually awarded a free kick after a series of fouls on him as he tried to break down the wing but the resulting cross was cleared. Goalscorer N’Guessan was replaced in the 80th minute by Elgabas and the Town number 12 left to superb applause from the appreciative home crowd.
James Rowe replaced Tom Hateley in the 81st minute as Rovers manager Ronnie Moore looked to try and retrieve at least a point from the match.
McEveley did well for the Robins in the 83rdminute to send in a high cross to the backpost but Pritchard’s first time effort lacked direction and went out for a throw in. Nathan Byrne left the field in the 84th minute to be replaced by Nicky Ajose.
There was a brief scare in the Town penalty area when Ryan Lowe tumbled as he challenged Foderingham who had just flicked the ball away but the Tranmere forward saw a yellow card for simulation.
Sponsors Man of the Match Luongo tested the keeper’s reflexes with a vicious shot from 35 yards but the Rovers stopper tipped the ball over for a corner.
Tranmere’s final substitution saw Ridehalgh replaced by Abdulai Bell-Baggie in the 88th minute
Nathan Thompson saw his 5th yellow card of the season for a late challenge on a Rovers forward as the match entered the 90th minute and there was a brief scramble in the Robins penalty area before Hall cleared long downfield.
The 4th official indicated that three minutes of added time would be played and there was one final attack with just 5 seconds on the clock as the visitors were awarded a free kick but the danger was cleared by a long ball downfield just as the final whistle was blown.
The Town players left the field to great applause from the home supporters as Mark Cooper’s side now move onto 14 points from 10 games.
Town side to face Tranmere: Foderingham; Thompson N, Hall, Ward (C), McEveley; Kasim, Luongo, Pritchard; Byrne, Ranger, N'Guessan
Subs: Belford, Barthram, Thompson L, Elgabas, Ajose, Branco, Cox