DEREK Adams keeps telling City fans to “put the league table away” at this stage of the season.

He’s right, it’s certainly not worth looking at after Tranmere came from behind to inflict a painful blow in Birkenhead.

Dress it up how you like with those draws against three of the division’s leading sides. But this stretched the winless run to a fourth game and another chance to gain any ground on the top seven went begging.

City even struck first with a wonderfully-fashioned goal for the recalled Levi Sutton. But you don’t get bonus points for technical skill – and the less-than-perfect defending around both Tranmere efforts proved to be more decisive.

Prenton Park had proved to be a happy hunting ground for the Bantams in recent times.

You had to go back to the early weeks of Paul Jewell’s caretaker audition for their last defeat on the Wirral in March 1998.

Since then, six visits had yielded four wins and two draws – including the Lee Novak-inspired success last time around on Boxing Day.

For 45 minutes that rewarding run looked set to continue. But then it all went wrong in the space of six second-half minutes – and they never threatened to claw anything back.

Lee Angol’s return was one of three changes from Derek Adams as City switched to a 3-5-2 set-up.

Angol was partnered up front by Caolan Lavery and Sutton also came back in after not being used against Northampton as Callum Cooke, Theo Robinson and Alex Gilliead made way.

It was the first time Gilliead hadn’t started in the league but those three were among a bench which looked the strongest Adams had picked all season.

City were wearing black armbands in respect for former kitman and physio Barry Wood, who suddenly died yesterday.

Nobody was expecting a goal feast against a Tranmere side with the best defence in the division – but also the lowest-scoring attack. Their previous 17 games had yielded just 26 goals in total.

Tranmere started quickly and Angol coughed up the first chance of the night with a heavy touch to gift them possession inside City’s half. Josh Hawkes aimed for inside the far post but Richard O’Donnell pushed his low shot behind.

And Angol atoned for his error from Hawkes’ corner as he was well placed to clear a header from Kieron Morris off the line.

The striker was then up the right end to get knocked over by Nathaniel Knight-Percival, Yann Songo’o heading wide from Elliot Watt’s free-kick. It looked a decent chance.

Watt pinged one off target from 25 yards but City were getting a grip on the game after Tranmere’s anticipated fast start.

And they found an extra gear with a superbly-worked opener after 26 minutes.

Finn Cousin-Dawson began the move in his own half and then some slick, one-touch passing involving Sutton, Lavery and Angol carved open the white lines.

Sutton raced through the gap and had room to take a touch in the penalty area before thrashing a shot past Ross Doohan.

It was a moment of high quality to answer the manager’s call for more goals from midfield.

The confidence levels were up and Charles Vernam tested Doohan from the edge of the box as City came forward again.

But they needed a second goalline clearance four minutes before the break to stay in front.

Sutton w towards Richard O’Donnell that left the keeper in a 50/50 with one-time Stuart McCall target Nicky Maynard.

His clearance pinged off the Tranmere frontman who followed it in behind the stranded stopper.

But Songo’o had scrambled back to cover and did enough to block his angled steer on the line with a stretching right leg as Tranmere protested that the ball had gone over.

It was as valuable to City as the goal and preserved their narrow advantage at the halfway stage.

But that lead was soon wiped out – and then completely overturned.

Watt gave the ball away in his own half with a casual pass and Tranmere cashed straight in as Morris fired past O’Donnell from 22 yards out.

Adams replaced Angol, who did not look comfortable, with Gilliead but the hosts were in the ascendancy as the home fans came alive – and a second goal quickly followed.

It was poor defending as City allowed Josh Dacres-Cogley to cross low from the byline and Cousin-Dawson failed to clear at the far post as Paul Glatzel gleefully converted.

O’Donnell smuggled away another Morris snap-shot as Tranmere hunted more joy and City’s problems increased as Lavery appeared to limp off as part of a double substitution. Vernam also looked to have a problem.

Theo Robinson was thrown on along with Abo Eisa but the momentum of the night had shifted. The only attacking menace came from the home side with Morris particularly eager to add to their tally.

There was no real hint of a recovery from the visitors, who were booed by some in the away end at the final whistle.

TRANMERE: Doohan 6, Dacres-Cogley 7, Clarke 7, Knight-Percival 7, MacDonald 6 (McManaman 58min, 7) Morris 8, Foley, O’Connor 6, Hawkes 7 (Watson 90min), Glatzel 7, Maynard 6 (Spearing 86min). Subs (not used): Feeney, Davies, Duffy, Murphy.

CITY: O’Donnell 5, O’Connor 6, Songo’o 7, Canavan 6, Cousin-Dawson 5, Watt 5, Sutton 7, Ridehalgh 6, Vernam 5 (Eisa 65min), Lavery 6 (Robinson 65min), Angol 6 (Gilliead 50min, 6). Subs (not used): Evans, Cooke, Foulds, Hornby.