Will Grigg and Jamie Walker on target in pre-season win against Tranmere Rovers.
- Pre-Season Match Report: Tranmere Rovers 1 Latics 2.
- Will Grigg netted from the spot after just two minutes.
- Jamie Walker grabbed Latics' second before James Norwood's header for the hosts.
Will Grigg and Jamie Walker goals gave Latics victory in their pre-season warm up encounter against Tranmere Rovers at Prenton Park, as 21 players featured for Paul Cook's side during their first friendly of the summer.
Latics started the game on the front-foot and opened the scoring inside the first minute at Prenton Park when Darren Bond pointed to the spot after Grigg was adjudged to have been unfairly brought down by Tranmere defender Manny Monthe after just 37 seconds. The forward stepped up to place the penalty past Luke Pilling and give Paul Cook’s men the perfect start, three years to the day since he arrived at the club from Brentford.
The encounter was Latics’ first game ahead of a busy pre-season period before travelling to Spain on Sunday. It was an emotional return for gaffer Paul Cook, who returned to Prenton Park along with midfielder Max Power, who joined Latics from Tranmere in 2015 having made over 100 appearances for his boyhood club.
With the club’s first game back in the Sky Bet Championship being three weeks away, Cook fielded a strong starting eleven which included midfielder Darron Gibson, who is currently training with the club. It was also a non-competitive debut for defender Reece James, following his loan-move from Chelsea.
There were also places on the bench for new summer recruit Leo Da Silva Lopes, youngsters Jenson Weir and Joe Gelhardt from Latics' Under 18s, first year professional Tylor Golden and Ross Wallace and James Perch who have both been training with the club during pre-season having left Sheffield Wednesday and Queens Park Rangers respectively.
Micky Mellon’s side threatened shortly after when Connor Jennings had time to set his sights at goal, but the midfielder’s effort failed to call Latics keeper Jamie Jones into early action.
Latics were enjoying most of the play in the early exchanges, with Massey causing problems as he tested the hosts defence with a curling effort towards goal following good work from Nick Powell.
Power’s return to Prenton Park was cut short after the midfielder picked up a knock to his lower back and was replaced by Shaun MacDonald. The substitute was immediately involved in some goalmouth action, narrowly heading wide from a Michael Jacobs corner.
Latics continued to look dangerous as the half rolled on with debutant James and Byrne causing Tranmere problems as Cook’s men looked to extend their lead..
Jamie Walker replaced Powell at the break for the Latics whilst Mellon opted to make four changes in the hope of getting back into the game with Ellis, McNulty, Tollitt and Banks taking the places of Monthe, Sutton, Cole and Harris.
The tactical reinforcements nearly paid dividends as James Norwood’s breakthrough resulted in his right-footed effort coming off the outside of the post on the 50th minute mark.
In reply, Cook made three changes of his own, bringing on the fresh legs of birthday boy Vaughan alongside Wallace and Perch.
Vaughan’s celebrations were cut short after Latics were denied a second goal courtesy of an offside flag after the forward cleverly touched the ball round the keeper following a lofted ball from Jacobs. It was to be Jacobs’ last involvement in the game as he made way for debutant Leo Da Silva Lopes who would slotted behind Vaughan.
Latics doubled their advantage on the 69th minute mark following a clever passage of play involving Lopes and Wallace with the ball being clipped in behind the defence for Walker to fire across the keeper.
Cook rotated his side once more as the game approached the final 25 minutes with first year pro Golden and U18 duo Weir and Gelhardt all getting some minutes under their belt. Gelhardt had the chance to make it 3-0 and grab his first senior goal for the club but failed to trouble goalkeeper Pilling as the youngster’s effort flew over the cross bar from a central position.
Tranmere had a chance to get a foot hold back into the game when substitute Kai Tonge found space down the right hand-side but his pull-back for Norwood was palmed away by Latics keeper Dan Lavercombe.
Latics had a chance of their own soon after, left-back Golden did well to manufacture some space in the penalty area before firing his effort narrowly over Paddy Wharton’s bar.
Mellon’s side came on strong towards the end of the game and grabbed a consolation goal with two minutes to spare after Norwood rose highest to meet an inviting cross from the left.
Backed by a vociferous away support, Latics saw the game out as their pre-season preparations ahead of life back into the Championship were in full swing.
Latics: Jones (Lavercombe 70), James (Gelhardt 70), Byrne (Golden 70), Dunkley, Bruce (Perch 55), Power (c), Gibson (Weir 70), Jacobs (Lopes 63), Massey (Wallace 55), Powell (Walker 46), Grigg (Vaughan 55)
Tranmere Rovers: Pilling, Bakoyogo, Sutton (c), Monthe, Harris, Norwood, Jennings, Caprice, Norburn, Smith, Cole
Subs: Wharton, Mcnulty, Tollitt, Mullin, Ellis, Spellman, Tonge, Gilmour, Devine, Banks.