Ten-man Morecambe’s perfect start to the new League 2 season ended with defeat at Tranmere Rovers on Saturday.
Cole Stockton’s late goal, his second of the day, ended some dogged Shrimps resistance after captain Mark Hughes had been sent off on 63 minutes.
Hughes had given the Shrimps the lead with a first half header before Stockton levelled things up for the hosts will a cool finish as a Shaun Beeley slip cost the visitors.
Hughes was then shown a straight red card after referee Mark Haywood adjudged he had used his head in a clash with Kayode Odejayi.
Having won their first four games in a perfect start to the new campaign Jim Bentley’s side were then really up against it and couldn’t hang on with Stockton’s winner from a Matt Hill pass coming in the 90th minute.
It was a cagey opening with the hosts enjoying more possession without ever really threatening.
The Shrimps were content to play on the break as has been their way away from home this season but the opening period was littered with sloppy play by both sides.
The visitors’ willingness to sit in did invite Tranmere forward at times but it was a largely lifeless opening half an hour.
Joe Widdowson, on debut for the Shrimps after arriving on loan from Bury on Friday, did make one promising foray forward and after exchanging passes with Jamie Devitt down the left he went down in the area but referee Haywood wasn’t interested.
At the other end, 10 minutes before the break skipper Hughes was fortunate to see a sliced clearance from a Max Power cross go over Barry Roche’s crossbar.
It was the Shrimps however who go their noses in front in the 39th minute with a well-worked corner.
Devitt played the ball into the back post with Alan Goodall heading the ball back into the mix where Hughes was on hand to guide a fine header beyond Owain Fon Williams.
That was the only effort on target from either side in the opening 45 as the Shrimps underlined their fine recent run by going in at the break ahead despite never really finding any real flow to their game.
It didn’t take the visitors long to have their second shot on target in the second half, Fon Williams comfortably saving Devitt’s effort from distance less than 60 seconds after the break.
Two minutes later the Shrimps came close to making it two. Kevin Ellison’s right wing cross was headed up rather than away and Fon Williams failed to deal with the high ball under pressure from Andy Wright. Andy Fleming closed in with his volley from 12 yards deflected over only for referee Haywood to award a goal kick much to the confusion of the visitors.
It was more open game at both ends of the field with Tranmere also threatening and the hosts were level on 59 minutes as the Shrimps began to lose their heads.
Beeley appeared to slip under pressure from Stockton and with the striker in on goal he rounded Roche before firing past a couple of bodies on the line.
Things got even worse for the Shrimps four minutes later when captain and goal scorer Hughes was sent off as he clashed with substitute Odejayi after appearing to lean his head towards the former Accrington Stanley man.
It was backs to the wall for the Shrimps as the hosts ramped up the pressure, Roche beating away a shot from Power on 68 minutes before repeating the feat from a drilled Stockton effort shortly after.
Abdulai Baggie was next to go close for the hosts with his effort from a narrow angle on the right side of the area whistling narrowly wide of the far post as Rovers pushed for what looked like a certain victory.
And the inevitable came with the 90 minutes almost up with Stockton sweeping home Hill’s chipped ball into the area from 10 yards.
Morecambe did have one chance to snatch a point but Jack Redshaw’s free-kick from 20 yards went harmlessly over in stoppage time as Bentley’s side lost for the first time in League 2 this season.
Tranmere Rovers: Fon Williams, Holmes, Ihiekwe, Donacien, Hill, Rowe, Laird, Power (capt), Baggie, Richards (Odejayi 57), Stockton. Subs not used: Holness, Kirby, Woodards, Ramsbottom, Bruna, Gill.
Booked: Power, Baggie, Odejayi.
Morecambe: Roche, Beeley, Parrish, Hughes (capt), Widdowson, Goodall, Wright, Fleming (Redshaw 78), Devitt (Doyle 68), Mullin (Amond 68), Ellison. Subs not used: Arestidou, Kenyon, Sampson, Williams.
Booked: Goodall. Sent off: Hughes
Referee: Mark Haywood
Attendance: 4,656 (326 away)