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Tranmere Rovers 0 Dover Athletic 1 - match report

By Alex Hoad

Dover left it late before registering another superb National League away win with a 1-0 victory at Tranmere Rovers on Saturday night.

A superb performance by keeper Mitch Walker kept Whites in the game at Prenton Park before Ryan Bird earned and then dispatched a penalty 10 minutes from time to ensure a first win in four games for Chris Kinnear's side.

It was the second 1-0 win in three seasons on The Wirral for Dover, with the other game a 1-0 defeat last season against a side tipped by many to win the title this season, after losing in the Wembley play-off final last May.

Chris Kinnear. Picture: Andy Payton.
Chris Kinnear. Picture: Andy Payton.

Fit-again Jamie Allen, brought in for Tobi Sho-Silva in boss Kinnear's only change, hooked a chip wide from a Bird knockdown in the opening minutes while Mitch Pinnock lashed high and wide soon after.

Walker held a 20-yard free-kick from Ollie Norburn soon after and Ritchie Sutton flashed a header wide from a corner under pressure from Connor Essam while at the other end Jay McEveley made a vital lunging clearance from a superb curling cross from Femi Ilesamni with Bird waiting to pounce.

Walker denied another deflected drive from Sutton from well outside the box while the prolific Andy Cook - who has 70 goals in the past three National League seasons - blasted just past Walker's post from even further out just before the half-hour.

Walker - who saved a penalty at Prenton Park last season - got behind an angled shot from the lively Jeff Hughes after a ball over the top from Jay Harris caught the visitors' defence all at sea while a mammoth clearance from the Whites keeper fell to Allen on the edge of the Rovers box but his scuffed effort was stopped by Scott Davies.

Dover finished the first-half on top and Pinnock dragged a yard wide from the edge of the box after a Josh Passley cross was only half-cleared by Rovers skipper Steve McNulty just before the interval.

Soon after the break Walker was down well on his line to keep out a towering header from Cook after a short corner while Ilesamni came close to a superb opener as he collected Mitch Brundle's pass and cut in from the left before fizzing a right-footed strike a foot past the angle of post and bar.

McEveley strode forward and dragged a 20-yarder just past Walker's far post just before the hour mark and just after Dover sub Tobi Sho-Silva almost broke the deadlock with a fierce 20-yard strike on the turn which drew a flying save from Davies.

Rovers sub James Norwood should have turned in a fine free-kick from Liam Ridehalgh with Walker in no-man's-land but could only glance the ball off his knee and past the post.

Ilesamni was inches away from the opener with a towering header from a lofted cross from Loui Fazakerley with 20 minutes remaining, only to see the ball come back off the underside of Davies' bar.

Harris flashed an angled shot wide at the other end seconds later before the game swung in the 80th minute when Pinnock lofted a cross to the back post.

Bird's attempted downward header fell to defender Sutton who dawdled over his clearance and then accidentally floored dogged Bird, who had got back infront of the ball, as he attempted to hack clear.

Bird picked himself up to ram home the subsequent spot-kick to the delight of the small band of travelling fans who had made the 600-mile round-trip to the Wirral

Tranmere threw everything forward in search of a leveller and Walker made a fine save to thwart Ridehalgh when clean through with just three minutes to play, his feet taking the sting out of the full-back's low shot before Essam hacked off the line.

Walker also kept out a Norwood volley and a Cook strike in the dying seconds of normal time before Dover navigated five minutes of stoppage-time to pick up a first win in four and jump up to sixth in the table.

Tranmere: Davies, McNulty, Mangan (Norwood 54mins), Duggan (Buxton 71mins), Norburn (Jennings 61mins), Ridehalgh, Hughes, Harris, Cook, Sutton, McEveley. Subs: Wharton, Jennings, Dunn. Dover: Walker, Passley, Ilesamni, Essam, Gallifuoco, Parry, Brundle, Nortey (Fazakerley 66mins), Pinnock, Bird (Daniel 82mins), Allen (Sho-Silva 55mins). Subs: Aziz-Conte, Richards.

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