Tranmere Rovers 1-0 Brackley Town: Tranmere record seventh consecutive victory over the Saints
Above: James Vaughan and Ethan Coleman battle for the ball (Source: Getty Images)

Tranmere Rovers have been in fantastic form, being victorious in their last six games since the departure of Mike Jackson on Halloween. Caretaker boss Ian Dawes had been in charge of five of those six games, recording a 5-0 drilling over Grimsby Town and an action-packed 4-3 victory over Port Vale.

Since then, former Bolton Wanderers and Rochdale manager Keith Hill has taken control of the helm, and picked up three points in his first game against Carlisle United.

Meanwhile with the away side, Brackley Town were 56 places beneath Tranmere in the footballing pyramid, and had won just one game in the league all season.

The Saints had scraped their way through to the second round, having narrowly defeated Bishop Stortford on penalties.

Tranmere Rovers: Davies; Ridehalgh, Clarke, Monthe, MacDonald, Spearing, Morris, Khan, Feeney, Vaughan, Blackett-Taylor

Brackley Town: Lewis; McNally, Coleman, Dean, Franklin, Lowe, Byrne, Murombedzi, Armson, Mitford, Ndlovu

  • Story of the match

Rovers gaffer Hill was no stranger to the FA Cup, having guided an underdog Rochdale team to a fifth round replay at Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur.

However, it would be Brackley who had the first opportunity of the game, as six minutes in Lee Ndlovu found some space but his shot was deflected out for a corner by Peter Clarke.

Tranmere didn't look like they were two leagues above Brackley in the early stages, but an intimidating run by Liam Feeney ended with a whipped cross towards James Vaughan, however the experienced forward's attempted overhead kick ended in a foul.

Tre Mitford teased the Tranmere defence, as he wrestled Manny Monthe and Jay Spearing before unleashing a powerful strike which was too high to test Scott Davies.

Rovers had their first shot of the game, as Kieron Morris spotted Calum MacDonald on the edge of the box, but his strike was denatured by the awkward angle. 

Vaughan once again tried the spectacular, but this time his acrobatic effort was over the bar.

A counter-attack lead by Ndlovu ended at the feet of Shepherd Murombedzi, who latched onto the end of a poor Clarke clearance but his curling effort didn't trouble Davies.

Dan Lewis was tested for the first time as a cross was met by Feeney, but his volley lacked the venom to worry the goalkeeper.

Approaching half-time and Corey Blackett-Taylor looked to thread something for the home side, attacking at Ethan Coleman but the former Reading youngster did well to soak up the attack. 

Brackley were defending intrepidly, as Reiss McNally dauntlessly blocked an Otis Khan strike and Shane Byrne put in an inch perfect tackle on Blackett-Taylor.

Following an additional minute of stoppage time, referee Tom Nield brought the opening half to a close- with non-league Brackley very much still in this.

Tranmere had the first chance of the second half, as Morris found Blackett-Taylor on the wing but Coleman blocked his dangerous low cross.

Town weren't shy though, as Matt Lowe sent in a free-kick from the right wing and Coleman lost his marker, but his looping header lacked the accuracy to blush the net and instead flailed aimlessly over.

Vaughan picked up the ball from 25 yards out but once again his effort sailed over.

59 minutes in and Hill made the first change of the match, as Khan was brought off for Paul Lewis.

Feeney was next to be substituted, as Kaiyne Woolery entered the frame.

Former Everton strike Vaughan once again squandered an opportunity, as he met a cross on the penalty spot but his header was wide of the target.

The biggest chance of the game so far fell to Brackley, as a cross met Gareth Dean's head, but his effort was intercepted by Ndlovu who did brilliantly to hold up the ball before squaring it to Murombedzi. The Zimbabwean recklessly smashed the ball towards goal, but lacked the accuracy.

However it was Tranmere who found the breakthrough in style, as Vaughan found himself with the ball on the edge of the box, laid it on a plate back to Morris who switched the play to Blackett-Taylor on the edge. The former Aston Villa graduate cleverly dummied the ball, allowing Woolery to find himself with space on the edge of the box and, with a touch of class, the 25 year old curled an unstoppable effort to the far post to give the home side the lead.

An inspired substitution from Hill.

Kevin Wilkin was hoping for a similar effect from Wes York, who he brought on for Mitford.

Into the final fifteen and another change for Brackley, as Connor Franklin was swapped with Ashley Chambers.

Tranmere made their third and final switch, as Blackett-Taylor made way for Danny Lloyd.

There was nearly an immediate effect, as Woolery found space on the right side and sent in a low cross to an unmarked Vaughan in the box, but he flapped at his chance and completely missed the ball.

Woolery once again looked threatening on that wing, as Lewis did a cheeky flick into the path of Woolery who Ronaldo-chopped inside of his man, but his strike was blocked.

Into the final minutes of the game, and Brackley looked to launch a late equaliser, as York sent in a bobbling cross-shot into the six yard box but Clarke bravely put his body on the line to fire the ball to safety.

But Tranmere would hold on, as the League Two side avoided a cup upset to Brackley at Prenton Park, and secured their place in the FA Cup third round.

  • Takeaways

Full credit to the higher opposition Tranmere Rovers, as they put in a thoroughly professional performance to best their non-league opponents for the day- Brackley Town.

Keith Hill will be delighted, a seventh consecutive win and a third consecutive clean sheet. Rovers looked really promising, but the main praise tonight was the quality of substitute available to Hill on the bench. The addition of Woolery to the pitch, who clinched the winner when his side had struggled to breakthrough, was a breath of fresh air. He look energetic and full of ideas on the wing, interchanging with Morris or Blackett-Taylor on which side he'd be controlling and that eventually lead to the winner- the composure of Woolery to switch sides and take advantage of that.

The majority of the praise will be heaped on Brackley, a side two divisions below Tranmere coming to their stadium and taking the game right to the end and consistently keeping the home side on their toes- they should feel very proud. Tranmere brought out a very strong line-up despite Brackley not having a great season so far, but the Saints weren't phased and were unlucky not to get a goal on the night.

It's staggering that Brackley have won just once in the league all this season, but if they can take a performance like that into the National League North against Leamington next Tuesday, then they can feel confident of heading back to Northamptonshire.

  • Stand-out player

Corey Blackett-Taylor looked hungry and zestful all game, constantly finding space on the wing or up front and using the space between the lines in the defence. Alongside Vaughan, who squandered numerous opportunities and wasn't at the races tonight, he consistently created chances and used his blistering pace to create anticipation. 

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