Date: 19th July 2009 at 10:52pm
Written by:

A brace from John Parkin grabbed Preston a victory at Prenton Park in John Barnes’ first home game in charge of Tranmere Rovers.

Barnes, who had seen a Tranmere XI lose 3-2 to Cammell Lairds midweek whilst assistant manager Jason McAteer oversaw a 2-0 win against Heswall for another Tranmere XI now had the luxury of a larger pool of players to pick from.

Youngster Joe Collister started in goal with trialist George Abbey given a chance to show what he could do at right back after a poor performance at center half against Lairds. This allowed Gareth Edds and Ash Taylor to prove themselves a quality combination at the heart of the defence. Aaron Cresswell took up his usual position at left back.

With a lot of quality midfielders to choose from, Barnes gave starts to Alan Mahon, Chris Shuker, John Welsh and Paul McLaren. Terry Gornell and Ian Moore were given the nod up front.

The home side started the better and were putting Preston under pressure early on whilst playing some good football, which pleased the home fans. The first chance of the game came from a free-kick which Alan Mahon sent wide after Ian Moore was tripped. Chris Shuker then hit a shot straight at Andy Lonergan in the Preston goal from 25 yards out.

Rovers again went close with a set-piece as young full-back Aaron Cresswell saw his free-kick deflected wide for a corner.

Preston’s first opportunity came through striker Chris Brown, who had recently scored a hat-trick in a previous friendly, but Gareth Edds was on hand to thwart the targetman as the visitors looked to find an opening in the home side’s defence.

Alan Mahon had his second effort of the afternoon comfortably saved by Lonergan after getting the better of a Preston defender.

Against the run of play, Preston took the lead after 20 minutes. A good spell of possession for the visitors resulted in some neat play in and around the Tranmere box which was finished off by John Parkin, who gave Collister no chance of stopping his shot.

Tranmere were not disheartened by this setback and drew themselves later 10 minutes after conceding. A beautiful cross from Alan Mahon was coolly volleyed into the roof of the net by Terry Gornell, justifying John Barnes’ decision to start him ahead of Craig Curran, who was on the bench.

The game was soon becoming an end-to-end contest with both goalkeepers being called into action with Collister and Longergan making saves from Parkin and Ian Moore respectively. Collister was again called upon to save a goal-bound header from Parkin although the marking of the 6 foot 4 frontman was questionable.

With half-time coming, Collister pulled off a brilliant save that will have done his first-team chances no harm at all. The 17 year old somehow managed to divert the header of Neal Trottman around the post for a corner. A save appreciated by home and away fans alike.

Both sides came out unchanged after the break and Parkin doubled his tally for the day and Preston’s lead. Parkin, affectionately referred to as ‘The Beast’ by Preston fans for his size, finished strike partner Brown’s cross with the aid of a slight deflection off Ash Taylor.

There was some controversy on the hour mark as Ian Moore appeared to be fouled in the area by a Preston defender but the penalty appeals were turned down. Moments later, an identical challenge from Paul McLaren resulted in a Preston free-kick, which angered home spectators and management. A foul outside the area is a foul inside the area, ref!

Moore came desperately close to bringing Tranmere level for a second time but he shot just wide on the turn when he might possibly have done better. Substitute Ryan Fraughan also had a chance but his shot also went wide at the far post.

Former Tranmere loanee Danny Mayor came on as a subsitute for goalscorer Parkin and received a raptuous reception from the home fans, who appreciated his efforts in the failed play-off attempt of the previous season.

Craig Curran blasted high and wide when a simple through ball for Ian Moore looked like the better option. Curran was again in on goal after being put through by Mark Allott but his shot went wide of the post when he really should have buried the chance.

Preston had the chance to score a third in the final minute after Ash Taylor’s challenge on Neil Mellor was deemed worthy of a penalty but Collister again boosted his credentials, saving Mellor’s spot kick and then seeing the rebound go over the bar.

That was to be the last action of the game with Preston running out 2-1 victors, somewhat undeservedly from a Tranmere perspective but the home fans could take heart from the performance of the team and in particular Collister.