Division One: Tranmere Rovers 2 Blackburn Rovers 1 - Peter White's match verdict

THE last time Blackburn Rovers visited Prenton Park, the result - a 2-2 draw - turned their campaign around and they went on to claim a place in the promotion play-offs.

How times have changed in a matter of just eight years.

That Rovers side was on the upward path to ultimate championship glory.

The one in action in Saturday's watershed against Tranmere has long since lost a sense of direction, notably in the opposition penalty area.

That was vividly illustrated once again by their alarming waywardness in front of goal, striker Nathan Blake, in particular, proving that barn doors in the immediate vicinity of Prenton Park were safe for the afternoon.

It was compounded, of course, by two blunders at the back which handed Tranmere a victory they could scarcely believe.

So, a significant afternoon all round for Rovers - but for all the wrong reasons - after what was, in reality, a cameo of their entire season.

Caught up in the emotions of the moment, manager Tony Parkes felt obliged to start compiling the season's obituary, feeling the promotion chase was as good as over.

In the cold light of day, after checking the table, however, he realised the situation was not quite so cut and dried, while still confessing there were mountains to climb. But, despite another much-improved display, along with Tuesday's show against Norwich, the failings at either end again proved insurmountable.

And, unless something significant changes, they will remain so. All the permutations have been tried and the goals-for column is still far from good enough to back pretensions to a play-offs spot.

Tranmere were celebrating their first-ever victory over Rovers and they will rarely find opponents so generous.

But has it not been the same story all season?

With Premiership-class strikers - as should have been the case - they would now be sitting pretty.

In turn, that has put extra pressure on the people at the back and an unnecessary penalty allied to a defensive blunder handed Tranmere two goals on a plate.

There wasn't much more Parkes could have done. The side was picked and prepared and the general performance was the best on their travels for quite some time.

But you cannot legislate for individual errors, especially when forwards are unable to take advantage of one glorious chance after another.

Week after week chances have gone begging. Rovers, it seems, have to create six, seven or eight opportunities to score a goal when they should be trebling that output.

Although Gary Jones missed badly with a free header and Steve Yates forced Alan Kelly to a fingertip save, Rovers had the better of the first half until it came to mastering Tranmere's offside trap. They were stronger in midfield but showed a remarkable lack of footballing brain power when it came to beating the offside trap. Ten first-half decisions against them illustrate just how poor their efforts were.

Blake had the ball in the net after a tussle with a defender but was ruled to have committed a foul. He was also close with a well-struck shot.

But the Welsh international, whose nightmare had not yet begun, should have done better when he tried to put Ashley Ward in on goal and there was no-one to get on the end of Simon Grayson's cross.

The second half was very one-sided but Tranmere scored twice.

Blake mis-kicked with a great chance from Ward's flick and, as luck would have it, the home side went straight down the field to win a 48th minute penalty.

Marlon Broomes fouled Wayne Allison and Alan Mahon tucked away the penalty in style.

Rovers responded in style, except for their finishing.

Garry Flitcroft (66 mins) was disappointingly wide after another Ward knock-on, then the striker himself (67) saw man-of-the-match Joe Murphy save as he was clean through from Per Frandsen.

Frandsen's introduction for the injured Jason McAteer saw no change to Rovers' control and they should have been in front.

Blake (68) was put through by Frandsen only to allow Murphy to save at his feet, then Ward and Blake (70) somehow failed to get on the end of Duff's cross after a long-awaited piece of magic. It had to be Blake (76), forcing his way through, who was on the spot again. This time he hit the inside of a post and the ball rolled along the line before being cleared.

"Somehow you get the feeling it's not going to be Blackburn's day," chuckled the man in front of the Press Box.

In the last 10 minutes, Ward headed over, Duff had a shot saved and Blake wasted yet another great chance with a wayward header before the game was wrapped up in stoppage time.

Grayson, inexplicably, knocked a ball inside without looking. Allison picked it up, rounded Kelly and sidefooted home. Somehow, you were thinking Rovers would have contrived to miss even that one. Deeper into stoppage time, Duff played a corner short to Callum Davidson, took the return and his left-wing cross was firmly headed home by Dailly.

But it was a token gesture from a beaten team.

Picture: Nathan Blake beats the keeper but hits the post.

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