Tranmere Rovers remain in the League One drop-zone after falling to a 1-0 defeat against Sunderland.

Charlie Wyke’s sole second-half strike gave the Black Cats all three points in Birkenhead, with centre-back Manny Monthe being sent off in the final stages for the hosts.

Micky Mellon led his side into tonight’s clash after suffering the highs and lows of the FA Cup. However, it was back to reality and a mouth-watering clash with promotion-chasing Sunderland beckoned.

It was the away side who nearly made an early breakthrough. A fifth-minute Black Cats free-kick was not dealt with and the ball was headed back across goal to Bailey Wright, but the defender was unable to direct his effort on target from close range.

Both teams struggled to find any sort of rhythm early on, but it was the hosts who looked the more threatening.

Morgan Ferrier did well to entice a free-kick just outside of the 18-yard area. Kane Wilson tried his luck but was unable curl his effort past Jon McLaughlin before Connor Jennings’ half-volley drifted wide.

An exceptional piece of defensive work by Wilson in the dying stages of the first period kept the game goalless. Luke O’Nien looked to get onto the end of a low cross from the left, but Wilson instinctively nicked the ball away from the on-rushing midfielder.

Just like much of the first 45, the game remained scrappy after the interval. Sunderland roaring for a penalty as Lynden Gooch went over in the area, but their far-fetched claim was waved away by officials.

Moments later, Ferrier spun his man and burst down the left-hand side, but Max Power was able to harrow the ball away from the forward inside the 18-yard area.

Phil Parkinson’s side haven’t been on the wrong end of a league match since they fell to a 1-0 defeat in Kent on the 7th December and looked likely to continue that exceptional run of form.

Pandemonium ensued as Charlie Wyke nodded home at the front post after Chris Maguire’s 60th-minute free-kick.

In the hope of securing that elusive equaliser, the hosts pressed. However, there was a spanner thrown into the works when Monthe was shown a second yellow card for his foul on George Dobson down the left-hand side.

Despite looking the stronger in the dying embers of the game, Tranmere were unable to find a route back into the contest and remain 21st, six points from safety.

Image – Tranmere Rovers