Had it not been for Crystal Palace's win yesterday, Rangers would have been modestly rewarded with an albeit tenuous chance of a play-off place, but all of their impressive end-of-season efforts have come to nothing. Nor did Palace's victory over Swindon do anything for Tranmere, who also had mathematical chances of a play-off position.
Six wins in eight matches had brought Rangers tantalisingly close to a play-off place, but for them, and Tranmere, that side-door to the Premiership that had kept swinging this way and that is now closed.
Rangers must hope that they can stretch their belated good form into a new season. After some early misunderstandings yesterday their calm and well-constructed work across a five-man back line allowed them to press forward purposefully, particularly on the right side, where Andrew Impey's speed and strength cut deep channels. John Spencer and Gavin Peacock might have made more of the pressure and for a time began to regret their inadequate finishing as Tranmere absorbed the waves and instigated a few ripples of their own.
John Aldridge froze Rangers when heading a few inches past the post from John McGreal's hopeful long, high ball into the penalty area. The effect was to place some self-doubt into Rangers who suddenly began to find difficulty in breaking out across the half-way line.
The momentum they had built was further slowed when Kenny Irons more or less ran through their entire midfield and defence before Tony Roberts competently held his breathless shot. The game developed into one in which the crowd continually drew breath at chances that came and went and suggested that one person's mistake would sway the outcome.
That mistake was perpetrated by the Tranmere goalkeeper, Roberts, who moved off his line in an attempt to grasp a long through-ball from Steve Morrow but perhaps misjudged the increasingly slippery surface. The ball bounced off his chest directly to Daniele Dichio who had no problem in scoring from the rebound and at the same time saying farewell to Rangers before leaving for Sampdoria.
After that, much of what Tranmere attempted in their efforts to recover had the jaded look of a team that had been striving long and hard all season and gone beyond their sell-by date. Once committed to sending more players forward, the ones at the back became more unsettled, allowing Rangers to add their second goal.
Impey, always Rangers' most influential player on the counter-attack, again moved deep into the Tranmere half and threaded a pass that invited Spencer to run on and beat Eric Nixon at the far post, which he did outstandingly well.Reuse content