Tranmere Rovers 0-2 Blackpool: Ewan Bange double helps Seasiders get off to winning start in Central League
An Ewan Bange brace helped Blackpool get off to a winning start in the Central League against Tranmere Rovers.
The tall striker scored two in the space of seven second-half minutes to grab a deserved victory for the Seasiders in rainy conditions in Wallesley.
The goals capped off an impressive display from the youth team star, who led the line in what was an experienced Pool line-up.
Fringe first-teamers Christoffer Mafoumbi, Nick Anderton, Michael Nottingham, Rocky Bushiri, Calum Macdonald, Callum Guy and Sean Scannell were all handed starts.
And that experience and quality soon told as Blackpool dominated from the off, looking confident on the ball and attempting to play out from the back whenever possible.
With respective first-team managers Micky Mellon and Simon Grayson watching on, as well as Jay Spearing and Gary Taylor-Fletcher, the first chance of the game came Pool’s way.
The Seasiders were awarded a free kick on the corner of the Tranmere box but Callum Guy wasted what was a presentable opportunity when he blazed well over the bar.
Pool started the game in a 4-4-2 formation with Rocky Bushiri at right-back, Michael Nottingham and Nick Anderton in the centre with Calum Macdonald over on the left.
After a sluggish start from the hosts, Bailey Thompson produced their first effort on goal in what was a rare venture forward.
The striker looked to pick out the bottom corner of the Blackpool net but Mafoumbi got down to his left to make a comfortable save - one of several he made during the encounter.
While Blackpool continued to dominate for the remainder of the first half with lots of controlled possession, their problems came in the final third where their attacks often broke down - similar to how the first-team have struggled in recent weeks.
But halfway through the opening half, an inventive piece of skill from the impressive Nathan Shaw saw the youngster create an opening for himself having cut inside from the touchline, only to lack control with his effort which went well over.
While Tranmere were on the backfoot for the majority of the opening period, they appeared quite content to sit deep, soak up pressure and defend in numbers while looking for opportunities on the counter attack.
That resulted in two or three presentable opportunities coming their way on the stroke of half-time, Michael Nottingham making an important block before Mafoumbi made another good save to deny a swift Tranmere break.
But the clearest opportunity of the half came in stoppage time, when Mafoumbi was forced into making a reaction stop to deny Tranmere’s midfielder who had hooked the ball towards goal from close range.
The late scares proved a catalyst for Blackpool to spark into life at the start of the second half, which saw them play with a far more noticeable attacking intent.
In fact Pool almost broke the deadlock inside the opening 60 seconds after the restart, Bange seeing his close-range header tipped around the near post.
Guy, who wore the captain’s armband and performed with assertiveness in midfield, then slashed wide with an effort from range.
It was one-way traffic at this point but Mafoumbi again had to be alert to save from Tranmere’s striker after Guy was almost punished for a weak passback, which was quickly pounced upon by the home side.
Shaw, who swapped flanks with Sean Scannell on more than one occasion, fired just wide of the far past after cutting in once again from the right after being fed by Cameron Antwi who had made a surging run through the middle.
After a quiet first half, Scannell began to have more of an impact on the game and fired a shot just over the bar from the edge of the box after making some space for himself thanks to his trickery.
Pool finally edged their noses in front just before the hour-mark when Bange showed calmness and composure to round the keeper and slot home into an empty net after latching onto a clever through-ball from Guy.
One became two just seven minutes later when Bange completed his brace by slamming home at the second attempt after the Tranmere goalkeeper had done well to save his initial shot.
This time it was Shaw with the assist as the youth-teamers continued to have an impressive impact on the game.
At this point Pool looked like scoring every time they came forward, substitute Andy Kanga wasting a chance to make it three when he hooked a shot over on the turn from Bange’s downward header.
As the game entered the final quarter, and first-team coach Ian Dawes making four changes, Pool sat back on their lead and invited some late pressure from the hosts.
The Tranmere left-back whistled one narrowly over the angle from 25 yards before their number seven saw a low shot deflected towards the near post, where Mafoumbi was there to claim.
The shot stopper made yet another fine stop, this one coming via his fingertips, to deny a powerful shot as he made sure of his clean sheet.
That proved to be Tranmere’s final attempt of the game as the Seasiders held on for a comfortable and fully deserved three points.
The Seasiders are in Central League cup action on Wednesday, October 2 when they host Morecambe at Squires Gate FC.
TEAM: Mafoumbi, Bushiri, Nottingham, Anderton, Macdonald, Shaw, Antwi, Guy (Winstanley), Scannell (Kanga), Adarkwa (Apter), Bange (McGladdery)