IT was hardly thrills and spills under the Friday night lights at Prenton Park as Wanderers’ attacking problems continued to be painfully evident to the fans who made the trip.
Jay Spearing weighed in with a well-taken opening goal midway through the first half that should have helped Dougie Freedman’s side relax and get into their stride.
But quite unlike at Rochdale in midweek, Wanderers looked devoid of ideas going forward where their lack of options up front are now worryingly thin.
Down the road in Liverpool they were marvelling at giant puppets. Here in the Birkenhead suburbs, Mark Davies came back from injury to pull Wanderers’ strings, featuring for the first time since picking up a toe injury in the 1-0 win over FC Vestsjaelland.
The Whites always look a more potent attacking threat when the little midfielder is at his scampering best, and for a few brief moments at the start of the game, that is exactly what we got.
Davies carries the ball quicker than most pass it – but some of his critics argue he does not take on enough responsibility in the most dangerous areas of the pitch.
In this 4-1-3-2 formation he was given licence to get involved. Effectively freed of his defensive duties with the industrious Jay Spearing, Neil Danns and Darren Pratley around him, Davies started the game like a whirling dervish, skipping past a couple of challenges to create a chance for Jermaine Beckford.
For 15 minutes he threatened to over-run the home side. But those tantalising glimpses of skill diminished as the half wore on, at which point he was replaced by Liam Feeney.
You only hope that Freedman’s decision to substitute him was based on easing his midfielder into action, rather than because of another injury.
Davies had lit up the early proceedings but as his impact reduced, the tempo dropped completely out of the game. That is until Spearing woke the crowd from their slumber 34 minutes in.
After some neat football on the edge of the box from Danns and Craig Davies, the midfielder’s piercing shout of “leave it” echoed round the empty stands even as his right-footed shot nestled into the bottom corner.
Tranmere nearly hit straight back, Jake Kirby crossing for Kayode Odajeyi who looked odds-on to head home from close range. How he managed to clear the bar from such proximity is anyone’s guess – but some Whites fans close to the goal give credit to Matt Mills for a vital touch.
Mills then got involved at the other end, seeing his own header from Spearing’s free-kick tipped brilliantly over the crossbar by Owain Fon Williams.
Conor Wilkinson, who had impressed against Rochdale, was given 45 minutes to show what he could do after replacing Beckford.
He manufactured the second half’s first chance for himself, angling a volley just wide of Williams’ right-hand post.
But without Beckford’s movement, there was a rather static look about the front two for a brief moment, until Freedman called on Chung-Yong Lee for the first time this summer.
The Korean, married in Seoul only a couple of weeks ago and fresh from a disappointing World Cup finals, took up the number 10 position immediately.
So often used as a winger in his time at Wanderers – this is a position he often frequents for his country and with Freedman having already added Liam Feeney to his ranks this summer, and in the market for a similarly direct wide man on the left, perhaps this is where Chung-Yong could be better employed this season?
It was tough to judge him on half an hour of chasing shadows on the Wirral, as the home side finished much the stronger to force their way back into the game.
Tranmere, who had held Everton 2-2 a few nights earlier, were not about to lie down and allow their old foes an easy pre-season outing.
Andy Lonergan’s goal was suddenly under siege.
Danny Holmes blasted a left-footed shot inches wide of the post before Cole Stockton forced the Whites keeper into a decent save with another blockbuster from the edge of the box a few moments later.
Wanderers were creaking and from the resulting corner, Stockton headed back across goal for Eliot Richards to stoop and head home the equaliser.
All of a sudden the Whites were looking rather ragged. Stockton twice came close to getting a telling touch on Holmes’ dangerous crosses from the right.
Bruna also forced Lonergan into another save with a curling free-kick – which had it crept in, would have been no less than the League Two side deserved for their late enterprise.
Wilkinson continued his one-man show up front, working Williams with a decent set piece of his own in the game’s last attack.
Neither side will moan with a draw but after naming such an attacking line-up, Freedman will surely be a little disappointed with just how much his side created.