HAVING spent his formative years as an apprentice shipbuilder, Les Parry was always going to jump at the chance of bullying the aristocrats from Bramall Lane.
Sheffield United were unperturbed about dropping their first points of the season to his side - manager Danny Wilson admitting afterwards that he “would’ve been satisfied with a point beforehand” - but less than impressed about the manner in which Tranmere Rovers’ success was achieved.
Wilson was incandescent with rage about the treatment doled-out to midfielder Stephen Quinn during a fractious encounter which frequently threatened to boil over into all out war.
Nick Montgomery, whose first goal since March last year at one stage appeared destined to secure a fifth straight win for the visitors, also spoke in less than glowing terms about the tactics employed by a team which, despite its sometimes dubious approach, did deserve a share of the spoils.
“I’m not going to name names but there were a few lads out there going down very easily every time they felt contact and in the end it became tedious,” said Montgomery.
“The ref was blowing up whenever they were touched and one of those instances pretty much led to the equaliser so in that sense it’s disappointing.
“But we always knew that this was going to be a really tough place to come.
“I can see a lot of people struggling here and although I felt we should have seen the game out, we’ve got to be positive and regard this as a point that could prove very valuable in the long run.”
United, however, should expect more of the same whenever they venture beyond the boundaries of South Yorkshire throughout the course of what promises to be a gruelling campaign.
Wilson, who having previously worked at Hartlepool, MK Dons and Swindon is well-versed in the darker arts of League One football, has repeatedly warned the visitors’ lofty reputation will bring out the worst in some opponents.
Rovers were far from one dimensional.
Indeed, they demonstrated an endeavour and purpose which suggests a bright future beckons at Prenton Park.
But Parry’s charges had clearly decided that Quinn’s sometimes suspect temperament was worth testing.
A series of over-zealous challenges, most notably from Martin Devaney and Rovers captain John Welsh, saw the Irishman leave the stadium with an ice pack strapped to one ankle and his participation in Wednesday’s Carling Cup tie against Everton shrouded in doubt.
“We are one of the bigger names, with all due respect, in the competition,” Montgomery continued. “But we are in League One because we deserve to be in League One and we know people are going to enjoy beating us.
“No one has been able to do it yet so we can take a lot of encouragement from that. I do feel as if this is a case of two points dropped but we also showed that we are prepared to stand-up for ourselves and fight hard which can only be a good thing.
“We’ve got to try and keep the run going for as long as we possibly can because, if we can do that, then it should stand us in good stead.”
Devaney, who created substitute Joss Labadie’s late equaliser, personified Rovers’ Jeckyll and Hyde approach.
Having forced Steve Simonsen, returning to the ground where he started his professional career, to make a fine save almost straight from kick-off, the winger’s next contribution was a scything tackle on Quinn which saw referee Andy Woolmer brandish the first of six yellow cards.
Quinn, who later followed Devaney into the book, was fortunate to escape a red when he reacted angrily after being shoved to the turf by Andy Robinson during the closing stages.
But, as Wilson later insisted, his annoyance was understandable given the constant buffeting he received.
“I don’t blame the lad for reacting because he wasn’t getting any protection out there whatsoever. So what is he supposed to do other than stick up for himself?”
Having seen Enoch Showunmi and Mark McChrystal go close before Simonsen produced another smart block to deny Lucas Akins, United produced the perfect response when Montgomery blasted home from long-range on the stroke of half-time.
The 29-year-old does not make a habit of hitting the target - netting only 10 times previously in his career - but when he does tends to do so in style and the long-range effort which left Owain Fon Williams, who had earlier scrambled Matthew Lowton’s header clear, rooted to the spot was arguably the pick of a very select bunch.
However, as the whistle beckoned, Labadie pounced following a well-worked Rovers set-piece although there was still time for Richard Cresswell to miscue after being left in acres of space at the death.
“I’ve been asked to stay pretty deep and shield the defence,” said Mongomery. “But the gaffer has encouraged me to get forward and I can do that because I like to think that I’ve got a pretty good engine.
“I was chuffed to bits with the strike and I thought it was going in the moment I hit it. But I’d look back on it more fondly if it had turned out to be the winning goal.”
Away from home we knew they were going to throw everything but the kitchen sink at us and they did. We could have passed the ball better at times and made some better decisions at times but that’s not a criticism of the lads. Far from it. It happens. But, being honest, I’d have taken a point here beforehand if it had have been offered.