Reserve manager Shaun Garnett was forced to field a very young side, with several players playing out of position, due to injury to Ryan Fraughan, Ashton Taylor being out on loan at Colwyn Bay and John Achterberg, Terry Gornell and Paul Henry's involvement in the first team last night, meaning the only players with first team experience on the pitch for Tranmere were Luke Waterfall, Danny Holmes, Aaron Cresswell and Josh MacAuley.
The full Rovers line up was as follows:
Holmes (c) Denson Waterfall Cresswell
MacKreth Corrigan Richardson Wilson
Tranmere started the brighter side and they had the first chance of the match when Waterfall headed over the bar, with MacAuley doing likewise a few moments later.
Rovers first hit the target with a quarter of the game gone, as Ashcroft started collected the ball in midfield and passed to Corrigan who in turn found Wilson. The young winger crossed towards the edge of the penalty area from where MacAuley controlled his shot well but fired just wide straight at the Rochdale goalkeeper.
Minutes later, Tranmere then came lose again as the ball broke to an unmarked Danny Holmes on the edge of the penalty area from a Rovers corner, and Holmes smashed the ball goalwards, only for Rochdale goalkeeper Spencer to make an excellent save, palming the ball away from goal and to safety.
Rovers had several other chances though 'keeper Spencer, sporting an Andy Murray like haircut, was rarely tested as Tranmere failed to hit the target enough.
Cresswell and MacAuley both put efforts over the bar and high into the Cowshed, whilst wingers Wilson and MacKreth struggled to create opening's to have chances themselves.
At the other end, Peter Kennedy had next to no work as the only save he was forced to make was from a weak shot from the edge of the area, that, although the goalkeeper fumbled, he saved the ball comfortably.
It was then a scrappy half of football then, with most of the game played in central midfield. There were few chances whilst MacKreth and Wilson were often quickly closed down when they recieved the ball. The half finished 0-0 then although Tranmere probably shaded the first 45.
The second half though saw Rochdale take the lead with just ten minutes gone, as Tranmere's defence parted like the Red Sea and Rochdale midfielder Blakeley raced through before firing high into the middle of the net over Rovers 'keeper Kennedy, who had no chance of saving the ball.
Other than that though, the half continued in a similar fashion to the first, with very few chances and the game broken up by a number of niggling fouls. Kennedy was again a spectator for much of the game, though Tranmere didn't threaten at the other end.
The game began to change though after substitute Ross Rule replaced James Ashcroft in attack. Ashcroft had worked hard in attack, though little came off for the striker who was given nothing by the referee.
Rule added extra pace to the attack and Tranmere threatened immediately, with Corrigan and MacKreth both coming close with efforts that went just wide.
With four minutes left on the clock, Tranmere got the equaliser. Luke Waterfall was brought down in the area by a wreckless tackle, with the referee immediately pointing to the penalty spot. Josh MacAuley stepped up to take the kick and powerfully hit the ball to the goalkeeper's right, but Spencer guessed correctly and saved the shot.
However, he could only palm the ball back into open play, and MacAuley was quickest to react as he ran on to the re-bound and cooly stabbed the ball under Spencer to level the scores.
For the final few moments after the equaliser, it was all Tranmere, as the Rovers second string came very close to winning the game.
Dave Wilson came closest as he recieved the ball in the penalty area and after twisting and turning in the box, he curled a shot from a tight angle towards the far post, only for the ball to drift just wide of the post, when a lay off to Corrigan on the edge of the area might have been a better option.
Wilson had another chance moments later when a deep cross found it's way to the winger at the far post, but he miss-hit his shot, only just brushing the ball and as such the ball spun away to safety.
The game finished 1-1 then, a good result for a very young Rovers side who had so many important regulars missing, especially in midfield, where Richardson, a defender, and Corrigan, a left-sided player, were forced to fill in, and did a good job in unusual positions.
Josh MacAuley scored another goal, albeit a re-bound from a penalty, as he continues to send out strong messages that he warrents a professional contract, whilst winger Jack MacKreth was heavily involved in most Tranmere attacks, especially in the second half.
The key men for Tranmere though were in defence, where Danny Holmes, the captain, and former Barnsley man Luke Waterfall were excellent, winning plenty in the air and on the floor all evening.