Fleetwood Town 2 Tranmere Rovers 1: Josh Morris and Paddy Madden fire Joey Barton’s players to three points
A goal in each half proved enough for Fleetwood Town as they had to put in plenty of hard graft on their way to seeing off Tranmere Rovers at Highbury.
Town fired themselves right back into the League One play-off frame thanks to goals from Josh Morris and Paddy Madden.
However, it was backs-to-the-wall stuff at times as Rovers also gave it everything in a pulsating clash.
The main team news ahead of kick-off for Fleetwood surrounded Billy Crellin, who was handed his Football League debut by boss Joey Barton.
After a bright and breezy opening spell, the first clear opportunity didn’t arrive until the 15th minute – but the hosts made it count in some style.
After Jordan Rossiter had been tripped right on the edge of the Rovers box, up stepped Morris to brilliantly curl the free-kick beyond Scott Davies and into the top corner.
The home fans were buoyant and were up off their seats again six minutes later when Kyle Dempsey converted Danny Andrew’s cross, only for the assistant referee’s flag to curtail the celebrations.
Rovers didn’t seriously threaten until the 28th minute when Andrew was forced to bundle Manny Monthe’s looping header off the line.
The visitors grew into the game, and in the 38th minute, Rushian Hepburn-Murphy headed inches wide.
Shortly before the break, and with the hosts now back on top, Dempsey saw a powerful strike blocked by Sid Nelson.
There was renewed impetus from Rovers early in the second period with substitute Corey Blackett-Taylor lashing in a shot which Crellin parried well.
At the other end, Dempsey lashed wildly over the top after being played in smartly by Madden.
Barton made a double change just before the hour mark and one of the replacements – Ashley Hunter – almost made a swift impact as he sent a 20-yard drive a couple of feet past the post.
Fellow sub Ched Evans then volleyed into the side-netting after meeting Morris’ clipped through ball.
Town were plugging away for a second goal but it was Rovers who almost levelled in the 74th minute when Crellin clawed away Cameron Borthwick-Jackson’s deflected cross.
However, the hosts finally grabbed their second goal in the 82nd minute with Madden tucking home neatly from 10 yards after Tranmere failed to clear Lewie Coyle’s cross.
Another Rovers replacement, Paul Mullin, pulled one back late on when he diverted home Borthwick-Jackson’s strike but Barton’s battlers hung on.
Fleetwood Town: Crellin, Coyle, Souttar, Eastham, Andrew, Burns (Hunter 57), Dempsey, Rossiter (Sowerby 75), Coutts (Evans 57), J Morris, Madden. Subs not used: Cairns, McAleny, Dunne, Biggins.
Tranmere Rovers: Davies, Ray (Blackett-Taylor 37), Nelson, Monthe, Caprice, Potter (Perkins 64), Jennings, Borthwick-Jackson, Hepburn-Murphy (Mullin 86), Ferrier, K Morris. Subs not used: Payne, Woods, Maddox, Pilling.
Referee: Josh Smith.