Tranmere 1 PNE 2 full-time

Preston North End's manager Simon Grayson

Preston North End's manager Simon Grayson

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It was Mersey paradise for Preston North End as two goals from Joe Garner gave them their first victory since April 1986 at Tranmere Rovers’ Prenton Park ground.

Garner took his tally for the season to 16 goals with the double strike and helped the Lilywhites close the gap on the top three in the League One promotion race.

He met a Craig Davies cross to head North End in front after 18 minutes, then restored the lead six minutes into the second half after Ash Taylor had equalised for Rovers late in the first period.

Garner, Davies and Scott Laird all had decent chances to add to the scoreline, although it was not all plain sailing for PNE with Tranmere having some decent opportunities too.

Jason Koumas hit a free-kick against the bar for the home side, with Declan Rudd also saving well from Jake Cassidy in a one-on-one situation.

But it was North End who came away with the three points, much to the delight of a travelling support which numbered almost 1,800.

Simon Grayson had made five changes to the North End side.

Laird, Garner, Gallagher, Davies and Jack King came into the starting XI.

An injury suffered by Tom Clarke late in the Nottingham Forest FA Cup tie meant he missed his first league game of the season.

The other four changes made by Lilywhites boss Grayson were more a case of freshening up the side.

King partnered Bailey Wright in the centre of defence, with Laird replacing David Buchanan at left-back.

Davies and Garner formed the strike partnership, Gallagher tucking in behind them.

With four minutes on the clock, Stephen Jennings sent a shot from the edge of the box bouncing wide of the post.

From then on, much of the first half was controlled by North End with them very much on the front foot.

John Welsh went down in the box under a challenge from Matthew Pennington but his penalty appeal fell on deaf ears.

A low drive from Davies after he had been played in by Gallagher’s pass, was palmed past the post by Rovers keeper Owain Fon Williams.

Garner dragged a shot wide of the target, although appealed for a corner after it appeared to clip a defender’s heel on the way through.

North End went ahead in the 18th minute, Laird’s pass on the left-wing finding the feet of Davies.

He checked inside and whipped over a cross into the middle, Garner getting in front of his marker before jumping to plant a downward header under Fon Williams from five yards.

As the visitors looked to build on the lead, Laird met Gallagher’s corner but guided a header over the bar.

With half an hour played, Laird’s centre found Garner 10 yards out, his flicked header looking destined for the far corner until Fon Williams got across to claw it behind.

Gallagher took the resulting corner, Garner meeting it directing his header well over the bar.

A Davies shot was taken wide of the far post by a challenge from Taylor, Gallagher’s pass having played the striker into space down the right side of the box.

Tranmere’s equaliser came after a late spell of pressure as the first period moved into stoppage-time.

Substitute Koumas tried his luck with a 20-yard shot which swerved significantly and forced Rudd into a diving save to glove it behind.

The resulting corner from Koumas was headed out of the goalmouth out towards the right-wing.

Ryan Lowe got to the loose ball first and turned it back into the six-yard where Taylor swept a shot into the roof of the net from close range.

It was the home side who started the second period in lively fashion, Taylor heading over the bar from a Koumas corner.

Koumas rattled the Preston bar with a curling free-kick from 20 yards which beat Rudd all ends up.

But within sixty seconds of that escape, PNE went up the other end and scored their winner.

Scott Wiseman’s pass sent Garner clear of the home defence, the striker calmly stroking a low shot past Fon Williams into the bottom corner,

In the 58th minute, Garner played Davies in on goal but the loanee’s shot was saved well by the keeper.

Rudd saved well with his feet to block a low shot at the near post from Liam Ridegwell which had nicked off Welsh.

The resulting corner found its way through to Taylor beyond the back post who hammered a shot into the side netting.

As PNE looked to make the game safe, Laird’s shot with the outside of his left boot travelled just over the bar.

Then Davies put an effort wide of the near post after powering his way into possession down the side of the box.

Koumas’ through ball sent Cassidy racing clear in the 78th minute, but Rudd stood up well and blocked the striker’s shot with his legs.

Two minutes into stoppage-time, Garner had a chance to net a hat-trick and put the game to bed after being played in by substitute Kevin Davies.

But Fon Williams denied him with a smart diving save.

Tranmere: Fon Williams, Pennington, Taylor, Arthurworrey, Ridehalgh, Jewnnings, Kirkby (Koumas 28), Wallace, Kennedy (Robinson 81), Cassidy, Lowe. Subs not used: Holmes, Goodison, Stockton, Power, Mooney.

PNE: Rudd, Wiseman, King, Wright, Laird, Keane, Kilkenny, Gallagher (K Davies 71), C Davies (Humphrey 82), Garner. Subs not used: Beavon, Holmes, Buchanan, Hume, Stuckmann.

Referee: David Coote (Nottinghamshire)

Attendance: 5,895 (1,797 PNE)