Tranmere Rovers 5, Crawley Town 1
While Reds have turned the Broadfield into a fortress their away results remain a concern after they suffered a fourth successive away defeat in League 2 on a hugely disappointing afternoon on the Wirral.
Tranmere have only lost once in eight at home since promotion and they took control at Prenton Park thanks to first-half goals from Connor Jennings and Ollie Norwood.
Norwood got his second and Lewis Buxton converted a penalty before Paul Mullin made it 5-0 with 63 minutes gone.
Reds rallied and Ollie Palmer pulled one back with his ninth goal of the season but it was Crawley’s heaviest defeat since they conceded five to Oxford at home in April 2016, when the Reds lost 5-1 despite leading from Joe McNerney.
It left Head Coach Gabriele Cioffi still looking for his first point on the road since taking over the day after Reds won at Lincoln – their last away victory – nearly six weeks ago.
Cioffi made one enforced change with Dannie Bulman replacing the suspended Josh Payne and the visitors had a decent chance in the second minute. Panutche Camara slipped past two opponents before finding Palmer but his shot on the angle from the right was blocked.
Joe Garner was inches away from connecting with Lewis Young’s cross after Young and George Francomb combined down the right. Francomb was booked shortly afterwards for a foul but after a bright opening by Crawley the home side began to get on top.
Glenn Morris was alert enough to deny Larnell Cole when he got through but the keeper had little chance when Jennings struck in the 25th minute. Reds failed to clear Ollie Banks’ cross or the header across goal by Mannie Monthe and Jennings had space to pick his spot past Morris.
Reds were only denied an equaliser eight minutes later by the acrobatics of home keeper Scott Davies, who tipped over Filipe Morais’ free kick from 20 yards out after Luke Gambin was fouled.
Reds would have been pleased to regroup at the break only one down but two minutes before the interval Norwood picked his spot from inside the box to make it 2-0.
Davies made another good save in first-half stoppage time to keep out Francomb’s shot but within 19 minutes of the re-start Reds had conceded three more goals.
And their task was made even harder in the 53rdminute when Norwood grabbed his second. Moments earlier the striker had been denied by a superb one-handed save by Morris as he rounded the keeper and looked certain to score. But moments later Banks picked him out with another good corner and Norwood planted his header past the helpless Crawley keeper.
A bad afternoon for Reds got worse four minutes later. Morris brought down Norwood in the box for a penalty which Lewis Buxton smashed into the top corner to make it 4-0 to the home side.
And on the hour Tranmere had their fifth when midfielder Paul Mullin curled a shot from the edge of the box into the top corner – a fine finish.
An incredible spell of four goals in 11 minutes was completed in the 64th minute but it was Reds on the scoresheet this time when Palmer poked the ball home from close range from Young’s ball in from the right.
It was no more than a consolation on an afternoon to forget but Reds, to their credit, kept going. Palmer wasn’t far away from getting a touch to another good Young cross before heading Morais’s free kick wide. At the other end Buxton went close to a second when he curled a free kick wide from 25 yards while Morris denied Jonny Smith late on.
An afternoon to forget then, but Reds will be looking to bounce back at Fortress Broadfield next Saturday when we face MK Dons.
Reds: Morris; Francomb (Doherty 62), Connolly, Vincelot; Young, Bulman (Nathaniel-George 58), Camara (Alarakhia 76), Morais, Garner; Gambin, Palmer.
Unused Subs: Mersin, McNerney, Poleon.
Attendance: 5445 (74 Crawley)
Pictured: Luke Gambin battles for possession in the first half at Prenton Park. Photo: Richard Parkes