Tranmere put their promotion challenge back on track last night as League Two’s best defence returned to impenetrable ways.
Prenton Park welcomed a Stevenage side who were unbeaten in five as Tranmere looked to respond to their 4-0 loss to league leaders Forest Green Rovers on Saturday.
Stevenage’s top scorer Elliott List was a notable absentee in their squad, while Charlie Jolley could only make the Tranmere bench despite scoring three goals in the club’s last five matches.
The home side started on the front foot with a succession of early corners.
In the fifth minute, Rovers captain Peter Clarke delivered a header across goal following Kieron Morris’ corner.
Clarke’s header was met by Lee O’Connor, who forced a save at point blank range from Stevenage stopper Christy Pym.
Tranmere created another chance almost instantly.
Pym saved again from Liverpool loanee Paul Glatzel’s glancing header in the seventh minute.
Stevenage’s Terence Vancooten earned himself an early booking after a nasty challenge on lively winger Josh McPake on 14 minutes.
The ball spent a lot of time in the air for the remainder of the first half, with both Pym and his Rovers counterpart Ross Doohan making a series of comfortable saves when called upon.
One moment of real threat came in injury time as Luke Norris’ driven cross created a momentary goalmouth scramble.
Doohan pounced at Stevenage captain Jake Reeves’ feet to relieve any danger.
The match remained goalless at half-time. Sustained pressure from Tranmere was the theme of the half, but Stevenage maintained a counterattacking threat on the few occasions that Norris wasn’t cutting an isolated figure up top.
Sam Foley replaced Jay Spearing for Tranmere during the break and he made an immediate impact.
Foley’s work in midfield opened Stevenage up and he found Luke Hemmings in the penalty area.
Hemmings laid it back to Morris who drove a left-footed shot into the bottom right corner to give Tranmere the lead in the 48th minute.
McPake was an unfortunate casualty in the 51st minute. Josh Hawkes came on to replace him.
Reeves then met a bouncing ball in the 57th minute to direct a dangerous strike goalward, but Nathaniel Knight-Percival made a superb block with his head.
Stevenage’s most clear-cut chance of the night came in the 62nd minute.
Everything seemed to open up for substitute Luke O’Neill in the Tranmere box, but he shanked his shot out for a throw-in.
Tranmere’s lead remained comfortable for the majority of the second half, but as the rain began to pour Stevenage started to create a flurry of late chances.
In the 77th minute, the ball broke to substitute Charlie Carter following good football from the away side, but he could only direct his shot straight at Doohan.
One minute later, Norris’ acrobatic effort narrowly missed the target.
There seemed to be a sense within the Super White Army that an equaliser was coming.
Nevertheless, Tranmere were the side to muster up the best chance in the latter stages, as Hemmings rose to head a cross from the left-wing onto Pym’s post in the 87th minute.
Hemmings’ effort was followed by consecutive Stevenage corners, but Tranmere stood firm to maintain their clean sheet.
Post-match, Rovers boss Micky Mellon spoke of his side’s “really important win” and praised their ability to respond to Saturday’s setback: “That could have been a big body blow to a team with a weaker mentality.”
Tranmere have now taken 28 points from the last 33 available and look good for an automatic promotion spot.