Danny Lloyd adds spark to revitalise Rovers’ attack in a successful draw against league leaders Cambridge United

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After some personnel and formation tweaks, Tranmere bounced back from the Good Friday defeat to Cheltenham and more than matched leaders Cambridge to earn a point on Easter Monday.

Rovers have struggled in recent weeks since top scorer James Vaughan suffered a knee injury and was forced to undergo surgery. That, coupled with an unrelenting schedule that included a Papa John’s Trophy run, had seen Keith Hill’s side go on a run of one win in five games going in Easter Monday’s big clash.

Having said that, Rovers still found themselves sitting fourth in the table as very few teams were putting a consistent run of results together. Cambridge were the exception, putting seven points between themselves and the Play-Off positions.

It meant that as a result of Monday’s draw Mark Bonner will have been the happier of the two managers to take a point particularly as Tranmere produced a vastly improved performance.

Hill opted to make a couple of changes, most notably in attack where Danny Lloyd returned to the starting lineup and was paired up front with Kaiyne Woolery as a front two. It was a stark contrast to previous lineups that saw Paul Lewis being utilised as a lone striker.

This was a move that benefited those players individually and Rovers as a whole. Lewis was able to get back into midfield where he is undoubtedly more comfortable while Lloyd brought new energy and dynamism to the attack.

It also helped Woolery who had extra support at the top end of the pitch and was able to share the creative burden with others. It gave the Cambridge defence so much more to think about rather than if Lewis remained in the sole forward role.

Of course, you’ll notice the irony that the goal was scored by Lewis himself. Liam Feeney found Lloyd around 25 yards from goal who did well to take the ball on the turn and feed Lewis, who made a run from midfield and lashed the ball past Callum Burton.

It was just a reward for a brilliant first-half performance where Tranmere could have blown the U’s away. Lloyd in particular was performing as if he was out to prove a point. His link-up play was excellent and he could have doubled the lead, firing wide from inside the area.

The 29-year-old was a menace all afternoon, pressuring the Cambridge defence and forcing them into mistakes. At one point, his pressing caused Paul Digby to pass the ball straight out of play.

His energy didn’t let up in the second-half and he helped win a corner after chasing down what appeared to be a lost cause. When his number came up to be substituted, Lloyd received a great ovation from the staff and directors in attendance. The applause he would have received from a full Prenton Park would have been more than justified.

Keith Hill spoke after the game of a need to find solutions in the aftermath of Vaughan’s injury and how he looked back to when his side were playing well and trying to replicate what worked. Lloyd playing and Lewis in midfield were key components in that and the local lad is sure to be playing a pivotal role in the run-in.

Another change Hill made was bringing Manny Monthe back into the side and the Cameroonian had an excellent game in dealing with the threat of League Two top scorer Paul Mullin. Mullin barely had a sniff all game from open play and only got his goal from a controversial penalty in which he scored the rebound after Joe Murphy’s save.

Monthe looked assured and was strong in one on one battles. It gives Hill another option in his defence for the final seven games. The Tranmere manager stressed that every member of his squad will be needed between now and the end of the campaign.

This was highlighted further after Rovers suffered another injury to a key player when Jay Spearing pulled up with a hamstring injury. It’s a blow to Tranmere’s midfield and it will probably keep the former Liverpool man out for a few matches at the bare minimum.

It turned out to be a good point for the Merseyside club in light of other results as they moved back into the top three for 24 hours at least. The two-pronged attack should remain in place between now and the end of the season. Of course, a returning Vaughan would change that completely but for now Lloyd and Woolery both need to play.

A decent looking run-in now follows as Rovers look to get back to League One. The versatility and depth of the squad will be tested and Hill will be hoping to avoid the three-game lottery of the Play-Offs in pursuit of his side’s aims.

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