ZAK Dearnley was at the double for Latics but Tranmere came from behind to stay top of the group in the Papa John’s Trophy.

It was the final Group B game for the sides, whose progress in the competition was all-but guaranteed with third-placed Salford City and fourth-placed Leeds United Under-21s having already completed their fixtures.

Latics needed to avoid a two-goal defeat to stay ahead of Salford on head-to-head and did that despite going down.

Although Tranmere burst out of the blocks to carve out a flurry of early chances, it was Latics who took the lead through Dearnley’s cool finish.

Micky Mellon’s side had been pushing for an equaliser when Dearnley added his and Oldham’s second four minutes before the break. And at that point Latics were on course to topple Tranmere.

But the hosts managed to reduce the deficit in first-half stoppage time and from there they re-asserted their authority as group leaders to win 3-2 and secure a home tie in the next stage of the competition.

Nicky Maynard was at the forefront of Tranmere’s early openings, as Keith Curle’s side were forced onto the back foot from their kick off.

First the forward was afforded too much time and space when he received Mark Duffy’s low pass in the area, but to Latics’ relief he put his shot wide of the left-hand post.

Maynard then sprinted on to a long ball forward and won a corner with a block on the byeline. Jayson Leutwiler punched at Duffy’s delivery but not convincingly enough. It dropped invitingly for Tom Davies just outside the area but he blazed high over the bar.

Maynard then received possession in the Latics box again and Carl Piergianni made a good block tackle to concede another corner.

Eventually, Latics managed to put the brakes on Rovers’ pressure, and bought themselves some time to breathe and regroup.

Even so, it came against the run of play when Dearnley strode on to Davis Keillor-Dunn’s perfectly weighted ball and stroked it past Joe Murphy, who had been chiefly a spectator for the opening 15 minutes.

Tranmere lost their way for a period and Dylan Bahamboula looked to link with Dearnley in the box but he overhit his pass, much to his team-mate’s frustration, before the Congo international stole a high ball off Nathaniel Knight-Percival’s toe midway inside the Tranmere half but his cross was comfortable for the keeper.

Further chances fell to Keillor-Dunn and Piergianni before the half hour, while Benny Couto caused consternation in the Tranmere box with his long throw-in.

But Tranmere found their attacking feet again and Paul Glatzel brought a smart save from Leutwiler from a tight angle, and Joe Maguire went close as Tranmere pushed for an equaliser.

Instead, Dearnley doubled Latics’ advantage when, unmarked, he thumped a header past Murphy from the returning Nicky Adams’ pinpoint right-wing cross.

Frustratingly, Latics could not get to the break with the clean sheet intact and, in stoppage time, Ryan Stratulis sprinted down the right and whipped in a dangerous cross that Glatzel headed home.

Tranmere picked up where they had left off but Dearnley, searching for his hat-trick, had a shot blocked behind.

The hosts were level less than 10 minutes into the second half, though, with Maynard getting the goal his first-half efforts had warranted, finishing clinically when Glatzel turned provider.

It was end-to-end as both sides sought a winner. Kieron Morris brought a decent save from Leutwiler, while at the other end Murphy was called into action twice in quick succession to thwart Bahamboula and Adams, while Piergianni went close with a header after catching the Tranmere defence napping from substitute Dylan Fage’s cross.

But Glatzel completed the comeback with the winner, beating Leutwiler at his near post.

TRANMERE: Murphy; Stratulis, Davies, Knight-Percival, Maguire; Walker (Watson 68), Morris (MacDonald 90), Foley, Duffy; Maynard (Dieseruvwe 90), Glatzel. Subs not used: Doohan, Nevitt, Jones, Dwyer.

LATICS: Leutwiler; Clarke (Whelan 46), Piergianni, McGahey; Adams (Fage 63), Diarra, Bettache, Couto; Keillor-Dunn (Hope 63); Bahamboula, Dearnley. Subs not used: Southerington, Bowden, Da Silva, Modi.