United put on what was arguably their best and most complete performance of the season so far at Prenton Park on Saturday afternoon, with a goal registered with just 39 seconds on the clock matched by the composed and energetic 90 minutes that followed.
Coming off the back of a disappointing outing in midweek, it made it even more important to see a reaction with the three-game mini-slump brought to a close in the best way possible.
“The performance was everything we’ve asked of them,” manager Paul Simpson said. “We got the basics right, and that was the big thing we talked about all week.
“We had to get that, and the basics involve working, competing, tackling and doing it for each other. These are things we haven’t done particularly well this season in terms of the way we start games, but we were properly on the front foot this time.
“We knew where we could cause them problems and I thought every single player we had out there today was outstanding.”
“We set our team up to try to cause them problems, but that’s obviously what we try to do every week,” he continued. “It happened for us and I think the reason for that is that we had so much energy about us.
“There was real enthusiasm to go and run and work and that’s the base for any good performance. I said to them on Thursday that I’ve gone away from talking about football, and we’ve talked about work rate more than anything else.
“Over the last few weeks I’ve felt I’ve been going on too much about certain things, because we’ve also got real ability in our group.
“This week I made sure the message was that we’ve got to get back to running and chasing, and making what they were doing count. Every single one of them did that.
“We were on the front foot, defensively we locked onto their attackers and stopped them from getting at us. They changed their shape quiet early on and we were still able to deal with it.
“There were just so many good things but all of it starts with energy and enthusiasm, because that means you can then do everything else off the back of that.”
The early goal came from excellent build-up play from the moment Taylor Charters stuck a boot in, which was quickly followed by great play from Moxon and Guy.
“We get players into better positions, it’s something we’ve talked about over the last few weeks, because sometimes the right thing to do is to take an extra pass,” he explained. “It’s about being calm in possession by having control of the ball, which then gives you control of the game.
“Owen delaying the pass gave Strets the opportunity to get into a more advanced position and it allowed Callum to be able to play a more precise ball from where he was.
“There was more intelligence about the way we played from everybody. That was from start to finish. I didn’t realise we’d scored that early but it was a really good goal.
“We had a real desire to try to keep the ball out of our box, and let’s remember that this is a really tough place to come. Their home record is as good as anybody’s in the league over the last few years, they’ve taken more points at home than anybody else.
“This place isn’t easy, but we’ve come here, done a job and got a great result. Now we dust ourselves down to get ready to go again for part two next week.”
And the second, a penalty, was sparked by a clever set-piece routine.
“It’s Gav Skelton on the attacking set plays,” he explained. “It was something we set up yesterday, and I’m so pleased we’ve got that penalty today, we’ve had so many times our players are getting dragged down in the box.
“We got a penalty for the first time for that offence where we’ve been screaming for players getting dragged down. We had a conversation with one of the fourth officials the other week and he said that the reason we’ve not been getting them is because our players are joining in and pulling as well.
“I found that to be embarrassing to be honest. We’ve consciously said to the players that we don’t want to see them getting involved. We told them to keep their arms to themselves, get on the end of crosses, and hopefully a referee would see it for what it was and be brave enough to give us a penalty.
“Thankfully Carl Boyeson made a right decision and I definitely think it was a penalty. I’m delighted to see Kris smash it into the back of the net.
“He has ten goals now, and it would be brilliant if he could double that. It would also be nice if we can get someone else close to the same number.
“If we want to do anything we need goals all round, we need clean sheets and goals. Let’s keep our feet on the ground, keep working them and hopefully they keep a level of performance that gets us results.”
It was dealing with a very good home side that made it such a complete display, along with a clean sheet from a very commanding goalkeeping display.
“Tomas made a really good save in the first half when we allowed them to get a header from a set play,” he commented. “He’s taken crosses, he’s punched and he’s looked really comfortable.
“Keepers, defenders, even wingers who’ve turned managers love clean sheets. To come to a place like this and get one is really good for all of us.
“He got off his line really well and when you’re as tall as he is, he does that really well. That’s why I wanted him in the club, I want that side of it.
“I get there might be downsides to him as a keeper but I’m really pleased with what he’s doing. They put a lot of crosses into the area and him doing what he did kills that threat. Hopefully he continues in this way.”
“I think Tranmere are a real threat, their forwards cause real problems and their wide players do the same,” he agreed. “We’ve dealt with all of that. We knew that a big part of their game was getting crosses in and we knew we’d have to work hard to stop it.
“When they did get them in we had to have a keeper and defenders who wanted to compete. That’s exactly what they did for us.
“The lads who came on carried it on. Tobi battled up front, Corey came in and slotted in perfectly, Jayden did what he does, and that’s great to have.
“I told them before the game that it was going to take everybody, and that’s how it went. This group was the 18 we had, and thankfully they were enough to see it through for us.”
Looking closer at the early goal, he told us: “It was a great assist from Jack Stretton and a striker’s goal from Kris. I’m really pleased with that, and we had other chances in that first half as well.
“We were causing them problems with the way Jack Stretton was working on the right, and I’m delighted for Taylor Charters as well.
“He’s been patient, he’s had to wait for his chance after his injury, and I told him that I wanted to see a performance that makes it hard for Gibbo to get back in. I think that type of performance does exactly that.
“The challenge now is to maintain it. The higher you go the better the level of consistency is with players, that’s why they get paid the big bucks.
“These lads have shown us so far over this season that to be sat in the play-off places with 27 points, that’s a fantastic return. We’ve got to keep it going, I’m not settling for this, but I am really looking forward to my night and getting home. I’ll certainly enjoy a glass of wine and get myself ready for the next one.
“And our fans were magnificent. What a sight when you come out before the game to see that. I’ve got to say, I thought Tranmere’s support was magnificent as well.
“I thought they were really good, but ours were beyond magnificent. When you’re able to take the lads over there at the end of a game and celebrate with them it’s a really big thing. I’m sure their journey home will be a really good one as well.
“The only other thing I’ll say is that these are a really noisy home crowd but we actually silenced them. The performance did that and it’s just our fans we could hear. The support we’ve had today has been absolutely magnificent, long may that continue.”