GERRY MURPHY admitted Town suffered a derby hangover against Tranmere – but said their victory was a sign of team spirit and an excellent work ethic.
Andy Booth’s 61st-minute goal separated the sides in front of an 8,315 Galpharm turn-out (491 from Birkenhead).
It was Town’s second successive 1-0 win, but the atmosphere was nothing like as frenzied as that against Leeds five days earlier.
And Murphy, who now has two wins and two draws in his four games as caretaker manager this time, accepted: “There looked to be a knock-on effect after last Tuesday.
“We never got into our stride in the first half, but we had a chat in the dressing room at half-time and altered things early in the second half.”
Danny Schofield, who came on for stand-in striker Malvin Kamara in the 52nd minute, helped galvanise Town and Murphy added: “It made a difference.”
It was Schofield’s first appearance in 11 matches and only his second since announcing his intention to leave at the end of the season.
Meanwhile Tom Clarke made his first start since October 2006, when he sustained the knee injury which led to a reconstruction.
He came in at right-back, with Andy Holdsworth switching from there to central midfield in place of the suspended Jon Worthington.
Joe Skarz took over the holding midfield role from James Berrett, who failed to recover after jarring a knee during training on Friday.
“Tom did exceptionally well – he gave a really good account of himself,” said Murphy, whose side remained 12th in League I with two games to go – Walsall at home on Saturday and already-relegated Luton away seven days later.
“It took Joe a little while to settle, but I thought he was doing okay by the end.
“We’ve used him in that defensive midfield position in the youth and reserve teams, but not at first-team level. But Joe’s a good lad and we know what he can do.
“Michael Collins did well for the goal (his shot was parried by Danny Coyne for Booth to apply the finishing touch), and it’s a shame Danny Schofield didn’t put away his chance, because in the circumstances, it would have been nice for him to get a goal.”
Murphy, who has three wins and six draws in 10 games over his two stints as caretaker, added: “I think the players realise they let themselves down earlier in the season.
“But confidence has improved, they have gelled, and the team spirit was evident by the way they all went over to Michael after the goal.
“We were very solid at the back, and it’s the sign of a decent team when you never look like losing, which we didn’t.
“We set that foundation, then it was our task to go and win the game, which we managed.”
Town will be taking on MK Dons and Peterborough next season after both sealed promotion to League I.
MK won 3-2 at Stockport while Posh were 1-0 winners at Hereford, who remain in pole position for the third automatic League II promotion spot.
However Stockport, Rochdale, Darlington and Wycombe, all of whom are guaranteed at least a play-off place, could yet pip Hereford.
In the Championship, Sheffield Wednesday occupy the third relegation spot alongside already-doomed Scunthorpe and Colchester after they lost 2-1 at Blackpool.
Leicester and Southampton are among the clubs who could yet drop.