Crawley Town denied Tranmere a chance to go into the automatic places as they won 1-0 in the Sky Bet League Two at Prenton Park.
Story of the game
The first 45 was fairly uneventful, with both teams seemingly feeling the effects of their intense schedule of late.
Rovers registered the first real chance of note on 10 minutes as David Nugent missed from close range after Glenn Morris parried out a low Kaiyne Woolery effort.
Crystal Palace loanee Nya Kirby struck a looping effort from 20-yards out following a Tranmere corner on 25 minutes which very nearly caught the Crawley keeper out, but the 37-year-old veteran was on hand to tip the ball over his bar.
Crawley came out after the break like a team with something to prove and looked the much more organised outfit. Their pressure eventually paid off just shy of the hour mark as ex-Exeter City man Tom Nichols flicked home a superb cross from George Francomb to give the Red Devils the lead.
The visitors came close to doubling their lead 10 minutes but were denied after an outrageous save from Scotty Davies in the Rovers net. The ex-Fleetwood man showed cat-like reflexes to deny Joe McNerney's well hit volley across goal.
Key takeaway from the match
No Vaughan = Problem for Tranmere
The ex-Everton man has been sensational this season and his goals have well and truly spearheaded Rovers into a title challenge. They were without their talisman for their 1-0 win over Cambridge United midweek but today they really missed his presence up top. Keith Hill told the media in his pre-match press conference that the 18-goal man "shouldn't be out for too long".
Man of the Match
Tom Nichols (Crawley Town)
Nichols was a nuisance for the Tranmere back line all afternoon and his tireless running in the channels created all sorts of problems for Peter Clarke.
The 27-year-old now has 15 goal contributions in 30 games this season and with 14 games left, he could well hit he twenty mark before the end of the campaign.
What's next for Tranmere?
Keith Hill’s side travel down to Essex on Tuesday evening to face Mark Molesley’s Southend side. The Shrimpers currently sit third from bottom in of the division but have played two games extra than their relegation rivals. The two sides last met in October with goals from Peter Clarke and James Vaughan earning the Super Whites all three points at Prenton Park.
What's next for Crawley?
The Red Devils host promotion chasing Salford City in their midweek fixture. The last time the two sides met in the league a George Francomb strike 20 minutes from time earned John Yems side a valuable point on the road.