Tranmere edged away from the League One drop zone after picking up a vital 1-0 victory over fellow relegation candidates AFC Wimbledon at Prenton Park.

Rushian Hepburn-Murphy scored the only goal of the match mid-way through the first half but Rovers wasted a host of chances to put the game to bed and had to live dangerously until the very end.

With Corey Blackett-Taylor suspended, Micky Mellon was forced to make one change to the side that narrowly lost to Lincoln last weekend, bringing Morgan Ferrier back into the attack.

Tranmere started brightly with Keiron Morris forcing Nathan Trott to tip one over the bar, before Neil Danns skied a long-range effort into the stands.

Aaron Chapman was then forced into action at the other end, getting down well to keep out a low drive from Callum Reilly.

Rovers took the lead when Manny Monthe won a knockdown at the far post, allowing Connor Jennings to swivel and shoot at goal. 

Nathan Trott kept his effort out and also clawed Hepburn-Murphy’s rebound away but the linesman ruled that the ball had already crossed the line.

The Dons’ goalkeeper was quickly back in action, this time diving to his right to keep out a shot from Danns. 

Liam Ridehalgh stuck a curling free kick over the bar before a last-ditch tackle from Luke O’Neil prevented Hepburn-Murphy from going clean through, as the hosts stayed on the front foot.

The on-loan Aston Villa forward was causing the visitors all kinds of problems, first using his pace to send a chip just wide before whistling another effort just the bar.

Just before the break Trott dived to his right to hold onto a driven freekick from Morris, with Tranmere finishing the half much the stronger.

The Dons came out for the second period with a bit more about them. Marcus Forss saw a shot in the box blocked before Chapman held a rebound effort from Mitch Pinnock.

A swift counter attack from Rovers ended with Hepburn-Murphy crashing a shot into the side netting. 

When Hepburn-Murphy put Danns in on goal he was denied by the impressive Trott again when he should have really scored.

Ferrier and Danns were then involved in an on-field spat with each other straight after that chance, which threatened to boil over. 

A pull-back from Jennings was then met in the box by Hepburn-Murphy but he could only blast his snap shot over the bar with the goal at his mercy.

Rovers will still the better side but guilt of missing serious chances. Once again, Jennings slip a ball to Hepburn-Murphy clean through on goal, but indecision allowed Trott to this time save with his feet.

They nearly paid for their profligacy in front of goal when Max Sanders danced through the Tranmere defence and rolled a ball straight across the six-yard box that no one could get on the end of.

Jennings was next to go close, collecting a ball over his shoulder before smacking against the post on the half volley.

Substitute Paul Mullin fired and effort just wide late on, before Jennings belted one into the clutches of Trott, but despite some late nerves Rovers saw it out for a vital win against fellow relegation opposition.

Tranmere now head into a busy Christmas schedule that will end with a blockbuster trip to Premier League Watford on 4th January, knowing that they now have the opportunity to pick up a cluster of points that can put them in a much better footing moving in the second half of the season.

Micky Mellon said: “We’re not going to stand here today and say we never understood the value of the three-point prize today. It was massive to us.

“We feel that we have been performing well recently, so we took that confidence from the previous performances into today and I thought in the first half we were terrific. Some of the football we played was really good.

“Of course, you want to get that second goal, which we had plenty of opportunities to get. We’ve all been in football long enough to know that you kind of get that wee bit nervy at times.

“But on a really tricky pitch, the questions that the players got asked all the way through the second half they answered very well. 

“There’s many different ways to play and win a game of football and sometimes you’ve just to go out there and answer the questions. If we had got the second goal I think that would’ve been fair.”

Match Stats

Tranmere Rovers 1

Hepburn-Murphy 26

AFC Wimbledon 0

Half time: 1-0

Referee: Scott Oldham

Attendance: 6,285

Star man: Rushian Hepburn-Murphy (Tranmere forward)

Tranmere team (3-5-2): Chapman, Nelson, Monthe, Ridehalgh, Caprice, Danns (Potter 84), Perkins, Jennings, Morris (Woods 89), Ferrier (Mullin 68), Hepburn-Murphy

Tranmere subs: Pilling, Ray, Ponticelli, Payne

Wimbledon team (4-4-2): Trott, O’Neil, McDonald, Thomas, Pinnock (Hartigan 76), Forss, Guinness-Walker (Wood 82), McLoughlin, Sanders, Reilly, Pigott

Wimbledon subs: McDonnell, Rudoni, Delaney, Biler, Osew