Accrington Stanley: meeting the opposition

Tranmere Rovers’ 2023-24 campaign ends this Saturday afternoon with a trip to Accrington Stanley.

It has not been the easiest of years to be a Tranmere fan. However, two wins in the last two games has provided supporters with reason for optimism as they look towards the future. 

It is set to be a big summer at Prenton Park as manager Nigel Adkins reiterated his need for a trimmer squad, with adaptable and robust players in this week’s pre-match presser.

The trip to 18th-placed Accrington Stanley will provide another chance for players to show their qualities, to either keep their place on The Wirral or for other clubs to take notice of them. Thus, Rovers will be up for the fight. 

Ahead of the game at the Wham Stadium, I spoke to Across The Pitch Podcast co-host Tony Robinson. 

Hi Tony, how long have you been an Accrington Stanley supporter? What was your first experience of the club like?

I was born on Stanley St in Accrington so I was destined to be a supporter, unfortunately when I was eight the team resigned from the Football League and then when I was sixteen I emigrated to Canada. 

Now that I’m retired I travel back for a couple of months to watch a few matches. 

My actual first hands on experience with the club was in Aug 2006 when I travelled over to watch their first home match back in the Football League in 44 years.

What have been some of your best and worst moments as an Accrington fan? 

Other than seeing my first FL match for Stanley the best experience would have to be winning the League Two title in 2018. 

The worst has to be being relegated out of League One last season.

You’re a co-host of the Across The Pitch Podcast and a shareholder of the club. Could you talk to us about your roles at both? When did they start, what do you do and what is it like?

Across the Pitch Podcast was started five years ago by two fellas in Phoenix Arizona and I was on as a guest a year later and after that Phil Kennedy, the host asked me to be a co-host to do player interviews. 

I am based in Toronto now but being from the area helped me build a relationship with the club which in turn helped the podcast. 

We have over 300 episodes and interviewed Andy Holt, John Coleman, Jimmy Bell and John Doolan amongst others. 

We have been downloaded in over 50 countries and six out of seven continents and we have helped spread the global brand of Accrington Stanley. 

As far as being a shareholder back in 2009 when they were in financial trouble I bought a few shares to help out the club, that’s what you do when you are part of the Stanley family.

Accrington play their home games at The Crown Ground and have been doing so since the club’s formation in October 1968. What are your thoughts on the 5,450 capacity venue and where should away fans go, around the ground, to make the most of their day?

The Wham is a proper lower league stadium, with one of the best pitches in the entire Football League, and now has a top notch sports bar and hospitality lounge right at the Stadium. Coley’s Bar (it will remain Coley’s Bar) is a great place to have a pint before and after the match for both home and away fans with several big screen televisions to watch football, you can even sit inside and watch the match from both the bar and hospitality.

The Crown pub is literally less up a few steps from the ground on Whalley Rd, it’s a nice pub as is The Albion on Whalley Rd in Clayton Le Moors a mere 15 minute walk and the landlord is an Ex Commercial Manager at Stanley, all fans are welcome.

Andy Holt is the Owner of Accrington Stanley, the 60-year-old took control of the club in October 2015 when it was on the verge of folding due to debt issues. What are your thoughts on him and the way he runs things? 

Andy is a down to earth bloke that will engage with fans in Coley’s after the match, he has done wonders for the club and has invested heavily in the infrastructure of the club. He’s built a really good community club that now has some of the best facilities in the Hyndburn area for business and social events, and Andy has put Stanley back on the football map. 

The one thing that gets Andy in a spot of trouble is when he gets on Twitter but Stanley wouldn’t be in existence if not for Andy Holt and he’s been a great guest on Across the Pitch.

55-year-old John Doolan, part of former manager John Coleman’s successful coaching staff, was appointed following the dismissal of Coleman in March. What are your thoughts on the Liverpool-born boss, in terms of both his playing style, which seems to consist of a 4-2-3-1 formation, and relationship with fans?

John Doolan was a logical choice as he ticked all the boxes for Andy, Stanley has a long history of appointing a manager that has ties to the club. 

John is a very likeable optimistic person which will be important going forward as he has worked with the next generation players that will be a key part of the team next season. With 95% of the players out of contract he will have the chance to put his own stamp on the team as early as next season. 

He’s kept the same formation and the style of play hasn’t changed that much mainly because of the playing personnel and the fact we are limited with the number of strikers we have. 

Next season will be interesting to see if he changes things around a bit to impose his own style on the club. He’s always been the quiet one of the coaching staff but the fans like him and this is a chance to be more open with the fans and media.

What were your thoughts on Coleman’s dismissal? It seemed to come as a shock to many as he had served the club well, guiding Accrington, across two spells, from the Northern Premier League Division One in 1999 to EFL League One in 2018.

The timing of Coleman’s dismissal is what caught everyone by surprise, the final straw was going down 4-0 in the first half at Wrexham. It started when Jimmy Bell was interviewed on BBC Sports Lancs when he said they were looking for new contracts which didn’t sit well with Andy as he told John & Jimmy that nothing would be sorted until safety was assured. 

Andy wanted a public apology and when nothing was forthcoming the Dynamic Duo’s time was up after the Wrexham match. What upset fans the most was the way it was handled by the club, dismissed by a WhatsApp message with only a two sentence statement to the fans. 

John Coleman is a legend at Stanley and will be remembered as the best manager in the history of the club. 

Accrington were relegated from League One last season, finishing 23rd and are currently placed 17th in League Two (at the time of writing, 10th April – a day on from a 3-1 away victory at Newport County). How has the past year been?

Last season was tough with 19 first team members being injured resulting in relegation, once that happened you knew that the club would be cutting back their budget and going with a smaller squad. Injuries haven’t helped this season but it has given the chance for several academy players to play in the first team, this was always going to be a rebuilding year and realistically a mid table finish was expected. I had them finish 10th to 12th but I think we will fall short of that. 

A few fans are thankful that we avoided back to back relegations but that was never on the cards for me.

The last meeting between Tranmere and Accrington finished in a 2-0 Rovers win as Josh Hawkes struck twice, late last September. Can you remember that game? What were your thoughts on both side’s? 

The 2-0 loss at Tranmere wasn’t a good performance by any stretch from Stanley and going down to 10 men early in the second half sealed our fate. There were five players in that match that won’t start for Stanley and with this being the last home match look for a much better performance by Stanley, more in the line of the win at Newport.

Accrington’s top goalscorer is 22-year-old Jack Nolan who signed from Walsall in 2021. The Portsmouth-born winger has netted 14 goals in 44 games this campaign, providing his teammates with eight assists. How special is he?

Jack Nolan has really blossomed this season with more playing time, one of the better signings by John Coleman. The thing is that he really should have more goals this season with the number of chances he has created. He has a good left foot and his crosses into the box create havoc for defenders, when we do win you can bet Jack had a hand in it. 

He is out of contract this season and he’s sure to be offered a better contract at a club with a bigger budget, he will be hard to replace but that is the way it works at Stanley.

In January, Accrington loaned in Czech goalkeeper Radek Vitek from Manchester United and Striker Jake Bickerstaff from Wrexham. How good have these both been playing and when looking ahead to the summer, do you trust the club’s recruitment team to get it right?

Of all the keepers that have come in this season on emergency loan Vitek has been the best. He’s very mature for a keeper, good footwork, commands his box and is a good shot stopper. He’s a quality keeper that will play at a high level. I saw Burnley’s James Trafford at Stanley and I rate Vitek over him. 

Jake Bickerstaff has struggled at Stanley, he’s more suited to play up front with a strike partner he doesn’t seem to fit into the formation we are using now as a lone striker. 

A lot is being made that the core of the team will be players coming from the Academy will be the foundation of the team next season, several of which will play against Tranmere such as O’Brien, Martin and Henderson.

What would you like to see happen for the club to kick on? 

It will be interesting to see how many of the old guard will be signed next season by John Doolan, with all the youth that could be on the team signing veterans like Joe Pritchard, Shaun Whalley, Sean McConville and Seamus Conneely up for the campaign will be crucial. Next season the goal will be to challenge for a playoff position and the following season go far automatic promotion. 

Andy has said he’ll back John Doolan in the off season but that will be to fill in around the core young players, the key will be to get in a striker possibly through the loan market.

Finally, what are your thoughts on Nigel Adkins’ Tranmere Rovers? Do you believe Accrington will win and end their season on a positive note? 

I’ve always held Nigel Adkins in high regard and I think he’ll do a good job at Tranmere. You are in a similar position in the league as Stanley, both teams are safe and everyone will be out to impress for next season. With it being the last home match this season look for a strong start from Stanley as they won’t want Tranmere to do the double over them. I think a positive end to the season will be reaching 60 points but that’s going to be hard based on games at Doncaster, Mansfield and Stockport so the lads will be looking for three points against Tranmere! 

Accrington Stanley’s Wham Stadium. 

Rovers last league tie here was in early March 2020 as James Vaughan and Mark Ellis struck in a 2-1 win for The Whites. 

Ben Pringle: My year at Fleetwood United

Despite having five promotions in England with clubs ranging from Ilkeston Town to Morecambe, 35-year-old Ben Pringle was starting to get “fed up” with life in the UK.

Thus, the forward relocated to Fleetwood United in Dubai last summer, where he took on the role of captain and led the team to promotion from the UAE Second Division.

The professional from North Tyneside spoke with me about his experiences there and how much he has been amazed by the calibre of the players, coaches, and facilities, despite almost retiring a few weeks after moving to the UAE

Ben, a brilliant first season with Fleetwood United, winning the Second Division. How was that feeling when you lifted up the trophy?

“It was a good feeling, probably one of the best I’ve had in a long time. It’s a bit of a strange story (going over to the UAE) but it’s one I’ve been thoroughly enjoying” 

What made you move over there?

“I was fed up with playing in England, to be honest. The football, the politics, a little bit of everything. I either had the decision to retire or try something new and I jumped at the chance. It’s not every day that you get the chance to go to Dubai, never mind to play football. I’ve loved it” 

There’s 19 different nationalities in the squad. How has that been to be a part of?

“It was a bit strange to begin with. I’ve played with foreign players before but 19 is quite a lot. It’s the environment that the manager and the head of football has created and everyone has bought into it as we’re all there to play and to win which we have managed to do”

Do you train at the Dubai Sports City Complex?

“That isn’t too far from where I live but we train at JAA, which is used by Premier League club’s when they come over for a warm weather break because they’re unbelievable. Their Championship, touching Premier League quality. Right in the middle of a desert so it is a bit of a strange one but we play and train at the best pitches in Dubai”

Have you been impressed with everything over there then? The players, the coaches and the pitches.

“Yeah, 100%. I came here not expecting much but to play and train at JAA is better than any pitch I’ve played on before. The same level as Championship training grounds, touching Premier League, which is why the PL clubs use it. People ask what the quality is like, in comparison to English football, even I thought it would be like walking football but the standard is competitive, physical and fast. It’s been a good challenge, perfect for me and I’d recommend it to everyone!”

Who would you say are the stand out players in the current Fleetwood United squad? 

“We have: Egyptian 24-year-old Mohammed Farouk and he scored 24 goals this season, missing out on the golden boot by one goal, David Webb; English lad, was at Gulf United last season and has been brilliant all year and goalkeeper Josh Lumsden. 

“We’ve had some really good players throughout the team, everyone has been very good. Back home, you wouldn’t have heard about these players but they’ve been very good. Some have played at a good level in Germany and in different countries so to get everyone on the pitch, winning, was special” 

Does the team have the perfect mix of experience?

“Yeah, the Director Of Football (James Ward) said to me last summer, before I signed, that they needed experience, players to grind the game out and show good game management as that’s what they had been lacking. So, that was perfect for me as I just wanted to enjoy my football again. I feel having English players in the team has helped, they’ve used their know-how to be successful”

Who is the Director Of Football?

“Michael Rice is manager, Andy Collins is his assistant and James Ward is the Director Of Football. I’d not heard of any of them but I noticed their professionalism straight away. 

“The club is run like an English club back home, the preparation and the training. The togetherness of the squad. If you didn’t know you were in Dubai, you’d believe you were in England because of the way everything is run. It’s professional from start to finish”

It sounds good the heavy workload and the professionalism but has the hot climate over there meant that it’s taken you time to adapt?

“Yeah, I thought I was going to retire after the first few weeks because I couldn’t do it in the heat, especially with being ginger and pale (laughs)! It wasn’t the perfect weather conditions for me but the one thing I noticed was that the teams who play there regularly know how to play and when to take a rest during the game and that’s a big component of playing over here”

How would you describe the team’s style of play?

“We’re very attacking, our front was: myself, Webby (David Webb) and Mohammed Farouk who scored 24 goals. We also had a striker called Durin Phillips who played the second half of the season as a left-back, having scored ten goals, so we were very attacking in the front four positions. 

“We were solid at the back and passed forwards quickly and then from there, we went out to score goals and scored 68/69 so yeah, very attacking!”

Like the Man City of Dubai?

“Yeah (laughs)! We could say that, that’s what we tried to do! We had a solid defensive structure, including the keeper, so the blend of the team was perfect”

Pringle with David Webb.

That sounds good! Are you looking forward to next season then?

“Yeah, I can’t wait! There’s a bit of a long break now and the majority of the team will be broken up as we try to meet the rules and regulations in a new league but it’s a challenge that we’re looking forward to!”

Would you mind telling us more about those rules and regulations?

“This season, in Division Two, we could sign 14 foreign players so effectively you could have 14 English lads and then ten resident players under a certain age. However, in Division One you’re only allowed four foreign players and the rest have to be ten residents, below a certain age, and you have to have ten Emirates, as in locals born in Dubai who live here. The better Emirates go to the top clubs because they can pay more money and it’s more attractive for them to be there and then it filters down. 

“We’re hoping that with the two promotions in three years that players view us as an exciting club to join, to not just play in Division One but to be part of an English mentality set up”

It sounds tricky having so many players leaving! 

“Yes, it’s a challenge. I’ve always said that this season wasn’t easy but you could sign a lot more players, from England or from other clubs. I’ve always said that it’s hard to be a manager but when there’s such restrictions put in place of who you can sign, for any manager at any level, you have to go out, find them, ensure that their personalities match and see if they fit into the group, it’s a greater challenge. However, the manager has been here for a long time so he’ll have good contacts so it will be good. We’re looking forward to the challenge”

What are the fans like over there at the moment?

“There’s no fans really, just families and other teams who have come to watch. It’s not in central Dubai, it’s in the South where we play so it’s a bit far to get to but with being in the top league and our rise, with the media coverage ensuring people learn a bit more about us here and back home I’m hoping that there will be a few more people coming to watch next season. Then, if we ever get into the Pro League, which we are hoping to do, then that unlocks another opportunity of exposure to get fans and acceptance inside Dubai for the team” 

Are there any Fleetwood Town links at Fleetwood United?

“There’s four teams in the group: Fleetwood Town, Fleetwood United, Waterford in Ireland and Western Cape in South Africa. There have been a couple of success stories where lads have been picked up from agents watching them in Dubai, one lad in particular Keito Lipovschek trained and played for Fleetwood Town U21s before coming to Fleetwood United. 

“It’s a good set up which is very similar to the City Football Group which has partnerships and links with different teams. Fleetwood Town have their own model, we’re trying to get the best players at Fleetwood United ultimately but if they succeed it’s easier to send them to Waterford and Fleetwood Town in England”

Would you say you’ve learnt anything since being over there, despite being a well experienced player already?

“Yeah, it’s been a completely new experience for me. I didn’t know what to expect in terms of how the club is run, the standard of play, and the many different nationalities coming together but it has been great to be part of it all and to learn about everything. 

“Everyone has got on, everyone has great ambition and everyone has brought into what the club is aiming to do”

So, might you go into coaching in the near future?

“Potentially! I’m enjoying playing at the moment so I’ll definitely be available for next season and we’ll see how that goes. 

“I feel like I’ve got another two more years on the pitch but after that, who knows? I wouldn’t mind going into coaching but I enjoy the business side of the game also so that might be something I look into doing as well, out here. We will see”

When does the 2024-25 campaign start?

“The season starts in August, or September, so there is a four/five month gap now”

Are you looking forward to a hot summer in Dubai?

“Yeah, it’s one of them where in England I wasn’t necessarily enjoying it but I’ve been loving it over here so I could’ve carried on for another month or two but now will be about resting and getting ready to go again”

In the heat!

“Yeah, it’ll get hot again now as pre-season starts in July/August so that won’t be pretty but that’s what you have to endure if you want to be playing out here!” 

It’ll be nice on the sun bed for a month! 

“Yeah, exactly!”

Fleetwood United won 20 of their 26 games, drawing four and only losing two in the process of claiming the Second Division title. With a goal difference of +48, they won the league by five points, ahead of second place, Al Dahra.

AFC Wimbledon meeting the opposition

Tranmere Rovers play their final home game of a disappointing 2023-24 campaign on Saturday afternoon, as Nigel Adkins’ side face Johnnie Jackson’s AFC Wimbledon. 

The Whites will be looking to build on from a good victory down in South Wales last time out as a brace from the ever impressive Robbie Apter ensured all three points were claimed against the struggling Newport County.

The tie brought centre-back Ben Hockenhull’s first ever league start for the club, two years into his time at Tranmere, as his loan at Southport was terminated with Jordan Turnbull, Josef Yarney and Tom Davies all on the treatment table. 

It was a good performance from the 22-year-old as he partnered up well with Jean Belehouan, who has also been placed down the pecking order.

It will be interesting to see whether the game will inspire Adkins to keep the pair at the club as he has revealed his plan to build a well balanced, tight-knit squad consisting of 22 outfield players and three keepers. 

Despite being placed eleventh, having won one of their last six, visitors AFC Wimbledon still have a very slim chance of claiming a play-off spot when the season ends next Saturday thus will be very much up for the game on the Wirral! 

Ahead of the game, I spoke to Chris Draper from The 9yrs Podcast.

Hi 9yrspodcast, when did you start supporting AFC Wimbledon and what was your first experience of the club like?

So for me (Chris, who does the Twitter updates), I started supporting Wimbledon in the early 90’s, since then I’ve worked for Wimbledon FC and volunteered for AFC Wimbledon – both me, my brother Nick and our mate Stu Stu Deacons (who present the podcast) were founder members of the Dons Trust – the owners of AFC Wimbledon – and have been here from the start. Nick now presents a show from the ground on match days, with Stu pitching in, as well as conducting stadium tours. I look after the match day mascot, Hayden the Womble. So we keep busy!

What have been some of your best and worst moments watching The Dons? Wimbledon reached the Football League in 2016, beating Luton Town in the Conference Play-Off Final, after being crowned Champions of the Conference South in 2009. 

Best moment: There have been a few! From WFC – Two Cup Semi Finals and a top ten Prem finish in ‘97. From AFCW – Promotion back to the EFL.

Lowest – The hellish relegation from the Premier League and the year that followed which resulted in the split. Whilst the eventual success of AFCW offsets the pain, it was the lowest moment I have ever felt as a football fan, when two of three panel members thought it was fine to move a club 70 miles away.

Could you tell us a little bit about your podcast? Why is it called 9yrs and what is some of the greatest content that you have produced?

It’s called 9yrs because that’s how long it took us to get back to the league from our rebirth. 

Nick and Stu created the podcast in time for the 2015/16 as there hadn’t been one up to then, and handily we got promoted that same year! 

They would be better placed to answer what some of the best podcasts have been but, probably, but at a guess, meeting and interviewing John Green (AFCW’s American Owner and part-time sponsor), various managers and players probably ranks highly. During lockdown, I was lucky enough to join in interviewing some ex-players from the WFC era as well. 

AFC Wimbledon is owned by The Dons Trust. What are your thoughts on the way the club is being run?

The Dons Trust owners model is working well for us and gives us the necessary safeguards against another MK situation, so I am very happy with that. It does put a glass ceiling over us, whilst we pay off our stadium (AFCW moved into Plough Lane in 2020), but it suits us.

Former Charlton Athletic boss Johnnie Jackson was appointed by Wimbledon in May 2022. What are your thoughts on the 41-year-old’s relationship with fans and his 4-4-2 playing style?

Johnnie comes across well and is good with the fans. He had a rough patch last season, but we stuck with him and that is paying dividends this year. The style is a less-rigid 442 and can be mixed up..we’ve certainly had to vary our style a little at times and it’s working so far.

Wimbledon avoided relegation to The National League last season, finishing 21st. This season, at the time of writing, the club is pushing for a place in the Play-Off’s. What are the main reasons for the great turnaround?

The improvement is mainly down to recruitment. We hired a new head of football operations, Craig Cope, who has brought in some quality, both loan and permanent, which has improved us overall. 

The last meeting between the  two club’s, in late September, resulted in a 4-1 win for Wimbledon at Plough Lane as Ali Al-Hamadi netted a hat-trick. How pleased were you with that performance? Rovers had netted first through Connor Jennings in the fourth minute.

The result came out of nowhere and was obviously heavily influenced by the sending off (Rovers centre-half Jordan Turnbull was sent off in the 54th minute) which changed the game. It was our first home win of the season and it was much needed as our away form was great.  

Ali Al-Hamadi is Wimbledon’s top goalscorer, despite his move to Ipswich Town in January, having netted 16 goals in 27 games whilst also providing his teammates with seven assists. How big of a miss has he been?

Had Al-Hamadi stayed, we could have been top seven easily..but needs must when you’re in a financial hole and that deal from Ipswich could really help!

30-year-old Omar Bugiel is the club’s top goalscorer, from those still with The Dons. The Lebanon international has netted eleven goals in 42 games, providing his teammates with three assists. How good is he? 

Omar is great, and I’m really hoping we can tie him down to a contract. He’s in his prime and provides a touch of class up front. There was the worry he would have been eclipsed by Al Hamadi (we had a problem many years ago when Akinfenwa took the focus away from Matt Tubbs, who went off to Portsmouth, but we should probably have kept Tubbs and left Akinfenwa (just don’t tell him I said that!) In this case, Omar remains and is proving his importance to the team, as his winner on Saturday (6th April at home to Salford City) proved!

In January, three players were brought in on a permanent basis: Centre-back Joe Lewis from Stockport County, Left-winger Ronan Curtis who was a free agent and Striker Josh Kelly from Solihull Moors as Centre-back John-Joe O’Toole was brought in from Mansfield Town on loan alongside two Crystal Palace players. 

How good has the club’s recruitment been recently and how optimistic are you that the club can push on in the summer? 

The new lads have settled in well, sadly Josh Kelly – who has shown some great touches and plays so well – hasn’t broken his duck, which is a shame…he needs one to do the classic “off his arse” job to sort out his confidence..

Ronan Curtis attained legend status by scoring the 94th minute winner against the MK mob (It was the first time that AFCW had beat MK in ten games, since 2017) and Kofi Balmer (who appears to be free this summer) has been impressive. 

Much happier after a long spell of dodgy deals, the new DoF has done well but will need to add a goalscorer as we’ve been misfiring since Al-Hamadi has left. Bugiel would admit that he needs to do more.

What are your thoughts on Nigel Adkins’ Tranmere? Do you believe Wimbledon will complete the league double over The Whites? 

Tranmere … Talk about journeys in football! I remember playing you that season in Nationwide League fact you were the first team we played that season! Now we find ourselves in the same division again, battered but unbowed. 

I’ve always liked Tranmere, was pleased to see you come back up from The National League fairly quickly..that COVID year was BS, by the way.

I kind of hope we do the double over you, only for the off chance of extending the season, but it’s been tough scoring goals at the mo, so maybe not!!

Tranmere have failed to win their last three home games, last defeating promotion winners Mansfield Town on 12th March, but will be hoping to end the season off on a high! 

Newport County A.F.C meeting the opposition

Tranmere Rovers travel to Newport County on Saturday afternoon, looking to get back to winning ways. 

Nigel Adkins’ side last won on 16th March away at arch-rivals Wrexham as defeats to Crawley, Bradford and Walsall have followed. 

The SWA are looking forward to the summer, when this dismal campaign is finished, and work has already started at the club as two players have extended their contracts this week: Goalkeeper Joe Murphy and Striker Harvey Saunders. 

Newport will also be looking to win a game, having lost all of their last five. However, as seen at Valley Parade (other examples are available!) Rovers don’t fare well against team’s who need their form to be changed! 

Ahead of the game, I spoke to 1912 Exiles’ Ed Bridges. 

When did you start supporting Newport County? What was your first experience of the club like?

My first game was back in October 2004 when I saw us beat North Leigh of the Southern League in an FA Cup replay at Spytty Park, our old ground, 6-2. County were a Conference South club at the time, playing in a council-owned athletics stadium in an unloved industrial estate on the edge of town. What it lacked in glamour and quality it made up for in goals and entertainment, and I kept coming back for more.

It has to be said that we’ve moved on a lot in the 20 years since then – crowds have increased from 600-800 to more like 4,000 and we now play at Rodney Parade which we share with the local rugby team. It’s a much better prospect – it’s a city-centre ground, a short walk from the best pubs and restaurants, and has much better transport links. It also boasts clean modern facilities on one side with a historic, atmospheric old stand and terrace on the other, meaning there’s something for everyone.

What have been some of your best and worst moments as a Newport fan? The club won the Conference Premier Play-Offs in 2013, beating Wrexham 2-0 to return back to the Football League for the first time in 25 years.

The promotions have been fun, but for many of us our recent pedigree as a cup team has probably been the best part of being a County fan. Beating the likes of Leicester, Leeds and Middlesbrough, and giving the likes of Spurs, Man Utd and Man City a scare, have left some incredible memories as well as leading to a new generation of County fans coming along and taking an interest.

Next month it will have been five years on from the League Two Play-Off Final between Newport and Tranmere. What are your thoughts on The Exiles’ last five years? Would you have liked more progress to have been made throughout this campaign?

Some County fans still grumble about decisions in that game, but you were the better team and we’d have come straight back down even if we had prevailed on the day. The game two years later, where we got done at Wembley by Morecambe and some truly awful officiating, is the one that sticks in our collective craw as that felt like a real chance to progress. 

We’ve had a few ups and downs in the intervening years, but we’re still here and plugging away. If Mansfield go up then we’d be the longest-serving club left in the Fourth Division, and that’s no mean feat.

Could you tell us a little bit about the 1912 Exiles Podcast and the content you have been able to produce recently?

We’ve been going for six seasons now, and every year we grow a little bigger and – we think – a little better. We’ve turned out fifty episodes this season; some are long-form panel discussions whilst others are short match diaries and we also have the odd special episode looking at broader challenges facing lower-league clubs. We just make the content that interests us, and then hope that others enjoy listening in. So far, so good!

Where does Newport’s nickname ‘The Exiles’ come from?

After the original Newport County FC went bust in 1989, we were the original phoenix club, with Newport AFC (later Newport County AFC) rising out of the ashes following the efforts of supporters. Quite rightly, we wanted to continue to compete in the same football pyramid as the original club, but the Football Association of Wales, in their wisdom, said that any new club in Wales had to compete in the Welsh system. So whilst we challenged that ruling, the club played its matches in exile over the border in Gloucestershire, in order to start at the bottom rung and work our way upwards. Hence “The Exiles”. Eventually, following a High Court ruling in 1995, the FAW were forced to relent and allow County (and a number of other clubs) to play in Wales whilst competing in the English pyramid.

Huw Jenkins, the former chairman of Swansea City A.F.C who oversaw the club’s rise from English football’s fourth tier to the Premier League, is the majority shareholder of Newport, having purchased 52% of the club in late January 2024. How has his time at the club been so far and how important is it that 27% of the club is still owned by the supporters trust?

It’s early days, but he’s won plaudits for saying little and doing a lot. The behind-the-scenes picture has improved, with better comms and marketing already evident, and some of the club’s historical debt has been reduced. We’re not going to be throwing money around a la Wrexham, but hopefully we’ll get back onto a sustainable footing with more joined-up thinking between the football team, rugby team and the stadium that is home to both. 

The Supporters’ Trust is in a period of flux following the takeover, with the need for some fresh faces and thinking as it defines and promotes its role in the new setup.

49-year-old Graham Coughlan was appointed manager in late October 2022. What are your thoughts on the Dublin-born gaffer who had previously been at Bristol Rovers and Mansfield Town?

We love a bit of Cocko! If you Googled “no nonsense Fourth Division manager”, he’s what would come up. Honest, down-to-earth and fiercely determined, he was exactly what we needed when he arrived to take the helm at a club that was in serious danger of getting sucked into a relegation scrap. His “crawl, walk, run” philosophy wasn’t pretty to watch, but we ground out results to finish well clear of danger last year and then he has built on it this year to bring us towards mid-table despite having the lowest budget in the league and an absolute plague of serious injuries. Whether he is what Mr Jenkins wants in the long-term remains to be seen, and Cocko himself may prefer a job closer to his Yorkshire home if one comes up, but most County fans have a high opinion of him and think he’ll continue to improve us if he’s still here next season.

How would you describe Coughlan’s playing style which seems to consist of either a 433 or 352 formation?

Pretty much always a 5-3-2 with wingbacks. Occasionally we experiment with a 4-3-3 but not usually to good effect. When we’ve got a first-choice XI available (which has happened about twice this season), we use those wing-backs to drive us forward, counter quickly and feed the front men. Due to injuries, we’re having to adapt currently with those attacking wing-back options unavailable. Expect Tranmere to have a lot of possession but face a high press and high workrate. If you can deal with that, you’ll win – if you can’t, you’re buggered.

Would you be able to give us a quick run through your favoured eleven at the moment?

Ha! Have we got eleven fit players? Honestly, predicting our lineup currently is a mug’s game. Our entire squad is either crocked, knackered or both. Even in goals, where Nick Townsend has been phenomenal all season, we saw a change on Tuesday night with backup keeper Jonny Maxted being given minutes. The only thing for certain is that the XI who do get picked will be under a lot of pressure to deliver after five straight defeats.

The last time the two club’s met was in early December at Prenton Park as Tranmere came from behind, following a 22nd minute strike by Will Evans, to win 2-1 with goals from Kieron Morris and Connor Jennings. What were your thoughts on that game?

I went back and listened to our episode from that game (it was only eight minutes long, which tells you what you need to know about how County fans viewed the match). Adkins hadn’t long been confirmed as permanent manager at that point, if memory serves, and there was a sense going into it that your lot were on the up and we were having a mixed bag of form. It was a strong team we put out that day and we fully deserved to take the lead – but as has often been the case this season, we took our eye off things and conceded and then lost all confidence and composure. We were only behind for about five minutes, but can’t really say your lot didn’t deserve the points.

Newport’s squad features two former Rovers players and both are centre backs! How have Kyle Jameson and Declan Drysdale been getting on in South Wales? I would’ve liked 24-year-old Tranmere youth product Drysdale to stay on The Wirral for a bit longer than he did!

Both have done well when fit – which is a label that can apply to 90% of the squad. Jameson in particular has really impressed recently, leading the back line and showing a real appetite to compete. Drysdale often has an error in him, but at times he’s been having to play with unfamiliar faces around him so I wouldn’t judge him too harshly.

In the January window, it was only 26-year-old Welsh Striker Luke Jephcott from St Johnstone that was signed on a permanent deal. How has he been playing and would you have liked more signings to have been made?

Early days. Many of us think he has been signed as a long-term replacement for Will Evans (see below), and it’ll take him a while to get fit, match-sharp and attuned to our system. He got rave reviews from Plymouth and Swindon fans, but his move north clearly didn’t work out. He’s only started one game so far; the rest of his appearances have been from the bench. He needs a goal to get himself settled, but it’ll come. The focus is more on having a good summer of recruitment and retention now we have a solid nucleus in the squad.

Will Evans is the club’s top goalscorer. The winger/striker, signed from Bala Town in 2022, has netted 23 goals in 48 games this year, whilst also providing his teammates with four assists. How good has he been? How good would you say Newport’s frontline is?

Ah yes, the Llangedwyn Eusebio. Will’s been great, he’s a Mr Reliable, working incredibly hard for the team and finishing well. He can also cover about four different positions which is invaluable. He’s lost his scoring touch a little recently, but that’s likely a reflection on how much football he’s been forced to play. Many of us think he might have a summer move already lined up, and good luck to him if so, but he’ll be a tough act to follow. 

Alongside him up front has been a rotating cast of Omar Bogle, Offrande Zanzala, Luke Jephcott and Seb Palmer-Houlden (on loan from Bristol City). “SPH” is the pick of them and won’t be playing at this level again next season, but (Jephcott aside) they’ve all chipped in with goals and done their bit.

Newport have lost all of their last five games, against Barrow, Colchester, Crawley, Grimsby and Accrington. What would you say is the main reason for this poor form?

Christ knows. Tiredness? Injuries? Complacency? Probably a mix of all three. But if you’re going to show relegation form, do it once you’re mathematically safe from relegation. A couple of wins between now and the end of the season, to put us back on an even keel and regain some momentum going into the summer, will do fine.

What are the main positives from this season?

We didn’t get relegated! Genuinely, if you’d offered me 22nd place and 45 pts in August, I’d have bitten your arm off. It was pretty clear by November that we’d rise above the relegation maelstrom, and in the event we’ve shown solid mid-table form for most of the season. Throw in that Man Utd cup game and a win against the six-fingered livestock botherers from North Wales and it’s been a vintage year, even if the current run is decidedly non-fun.

What are your thoughts on Nigel Adkins’ Tranmere Rovers and will Newport claim all three points this Saturday?

There is precisely zero expectation of anything other than a County defeat on Saturday. We’ve lost five straight games and there are very clearly big problems around County at present. Add to that injuries, suspensions and a murderous atmosphere from the fans, and Tranmere really ought to be aiming for a win. 

Adkins has steered the good ship Tranmere fairly steadily from what I’ve seen; you’ve been a bit inconsistent like we have this season, but you’ve got a solid base on which to build over the summer and I’d expect you to be top half next season, and possibly playoffs if you recruit well.

Newport County won promotion to the EFL in 2013. 

Colchester United FC meeting the opposition

Tranmere Rovers return back to action this Easter Monday as Nigel Adkins’ men play host to Colchester United. 

More than a thousand Rovers supporters made the trip to Bradford City on Good Friday and they all left Valley Parade with a feeling of disappointment as the Bantams won 2-0.

Tranmere will face another challenge on Monday as The U’s are managed by the successful Cowley brothers who claimed their first home win against Newport County last time out. 

Ahead of the game, I spoke to Colchester United’s long-serving Daily Gazette Journalist Jon Waldron. 

Hi Jon, when did you start reporting on Colchester United? What was your first experience of the club like?

I started reporting on them back in November, 2005. I was fortunate enough to begin covering them during an exciting time for the club, when they were on the cusp of a historic promotion-winning season from League One into the Championship.

What have been some of your best and worst moments as a Colchester fan/reporter? The 1992 FA Trophy Winners reached The Championship in 2006, finishing as runners up in League One with current Wrexham boss Phil Parkinson as manager.

Reporting on Colchester United’s promotion to the Championship in 2006 was an unforgettable experience, as was their outstanding first-ever season in the second tier when they finished in tenth spot and had an outside chance of making the play-offs, in the final weeks of the campaign.

There have also been some memorable moments in the cup, with wins over the likes of Spurs and Crystal Palace and taking on Manchester United, at Old Trafford.

The 1-0 win over Preston North End in the final game of the 2014-15 season which kept Colchester in League One against all the odds was pretty memorable, too.

The worst moments have been the two relegations Colchester have suffered in 2008 and 2016, along with the FA Cup home defeat to non-league Marine.

Colchester finished 20th last season and are currently positioned 22nd in League Two, having claimed 37 points in 38 matches.  What are your thoughts on the past two years and do you believe that anything has got better?

It’s hard to be anything other than disappointed in how things have gone for Colchester, over the past couple of years. They’ve been flirting with relegation for a while now and this is the fourth successive season that they have been battling the drop. However, the arrival of Danny Cowley has boosted everyone and has given fans renewed hope that there are better times ahead.

What are your thoughts on Colchester Chairman Robbie Cowling? He took the position in 2010.

Mr Cowling became chairman in 2007. He has ploughed millions into the football club since then, including on a brand new training ground and investing a substantial amount in the club’s academy.

He has backed his coaches in the transfer market and while some of his decisions have been questioned by some, he has always made those choices for the good of the football club.

The U’s are managed by 45-year-old Danny Cowley, who is assisted by his brother Nicky. The Cowley’s were appointed in early January, following the dismissal of Matthew Etherington on New Year’s Day. What are your thoughts on the former Lincoln City, Huddersfield Town and Portsmouth duo who were previously very successful in Essex at Braintree Town? I thought that the League One promotion winning captain Karl Duguid coming in to watch training spoke highly of the close connection built at the club.

The Cowleys have been a breath of fresh air for Colchester since they arrived in early January. They have brought with them so much enthusiasm and vigour and have helped to reunite the club and its fanbase, which had become fragmented prior to their arrival. They perhaps have not had the results they have deserved so far but two defeats in their 12 games in charge so far show that they have made Colchester a much harder side to beat.

Could you talk to us about the current style of play? It seems like the preferred formation is 3-5-2.

Colchester are presently playing with wing-backs, with two defensive midfielders and an advanced central midfielder behind two forwards. They like to have energy and positivity in their performances but also physicality and a will to win.

The last time the two clubs met was in early September at The Colchester Community Stadium as Colchester won 2-0 with goals from Joe Taylor and Bradley Ihionvien. Can you remember that game? What were your thoughts on each side’s performances?

Colchester’s win over Tranmere last September was significant for them in that it was their first home win of the season and a much-needed victory. It was also important in that it proved to be Ian Dawes’ final game in charge of Tranmere.

On the day, Colchester put in a dominant performance and fully deserved their win, registering 27 shots on goal – 12 of which were on target.

Colchester beat Newport County 2-1 on Good Friday as midfielder Jay Mingi hit a 92nd minute winner. Do you believe that the good winning feeling will keep Colchester above the drop zone? The U’s last victory before this was on 27th January however Cowley’s side had drawn six of their last eight.

The win over Newport on Good Friday will have done Colchester the power of good. It was the Cowleys’ first home victory since they took charge and was crucial in that it kept them out of the relegation zone, following Sutton United’s win at Salford City.

The manner in which Colchester won the game was also significant, in that they came from behind to claim the three points and scored a stoppage-time winner, which resulted in a euphoric atmosphere at the final whistle.

Joseph Taylor is Colchester’s current top goalscorer, having a fantastic time on loan from Luton Town at the start of the season, as 28-year-old midfielder Cameron McGeehan looks to chase him down having netted eight goals in thirty games, providing his teammates with four assists. How big of a miss is Taylor and how special is McGeehan? Who would you say are the squad’s other threats?

Colchester have certainly missed Joe Taylor’s goals, in the second half of the season. It is a shame that the Cowleys have not had him at their disposal, given his excellent showing in the first half of the campaign.

Cameron McGeehan has certainly stepped up in the second half of the season and has a habit of being in the right place, at the right time to score some crucial goals.

Wide men Jayden Fevrier and Harry Anderson are real threats with their pace and trickery and watch out too for Samson Tovide, who has just returned from a three-month lay-off due to an ankle injury.

Finally, what are your thoughts on Nigel Adkins’ Tranmere and do you believe that The U’s will complete the league double over The Whites this campaign?

It’s always a tough game at Tranmere and this match will be no exception. Colchester are fighting for their lives and would dearly love to secure back-to-back wins for only the second time this season. I think they are capable of doing that but it certainly won’t be an easy task for Danny Cowley’s side, especially as Tranmere have improved under Adkins in the second half of the season. Colchester fans will be particularly wary of their former striker Luke Norris, who showed his predatory instincts for the U’s during his time with the club.

Tranmere have won two of their last three home games and will be looking to put wrong to right following on from a disappointing showing at Bradford City. 

Crawley Town FC meeting the opposition

Tranmere Rovers are back in action tomorrow afternoon as Nigel Adkins’ side play host to play-off chasing Crawley Town.

The Whites claimed, arguably, their three most important points of the season last time out as they won 1-0 at Wrexham. 

It was a brilliant performance as striker Luke Norris netted early on, following a fantastic pass from deep by midfielder Regan Hendry, and the defence remained resilient.

Are the play-offs still on? Maybe. However, in order to get closer to the top seven, in which they are seven points away from, they will have to get the better of an in-form Crawley side, who are only a point away from seventh, with two games in hand.  

Ahead of the game, I spoke to, Chair of the Crawley Town Supporters Alliance, Reuben Watt. 

Hi Reuben, when did you start following Crawley Town? What was your first experience of the club like?

Thanks for letting me answer your questions! The club actually celebrated the 13th anniversary of me supporting it a month or so ago. It just so happened that it was the 13th anniversary of us playing Man Utd! I remember getting tickets for my first game later that year for my birthday. I have been hooked ever since!

What have been some of your best and worst moments as a Crawley fan? The club, formed in 1896, achieved promotion to the EFL for the first time in 2011.

For me, the best moment was getting promoted to the Football League. That jump made to the Football League was huge for us as a club and we were really able to stamp Crawley on the football map. The worst for me was probably getting relegated from League One. It was a very disappointing season however, it hopefully won’t be too long until we are back up there!

You’re the Chair of the Crawley Town Supporters Alliance. Could you talk to us about what the role entails and how long you have been doing it for?

I have been Chair since October 2022 and whilst it keeps me very busy, it is a privilege to be able to serve the Crawley Town fans as the Chair. A lot of my work is engaging with the Crawley Town Supporters Alliance (CTSA) members and hearing from them about their concerns for the club. All these concerns then get conveyed to the owners/staff at the football club. We have just started a CTSA podcast as a way to improve dialogue between us, the club and the fans.

Crawley Town are positioned ninth in League Two, having narrowly avoided relegation last time ‘round. What would you say are the main factors in the great upturn in form and how confident are you of the club ending up in a play-off spot?

Scott Lindsey. What more can I say about this man? He has without a doubt changed the football club for the better. He, along with the backroom staff, have brought in players who, at the beginning of the season, many were concerned about. However, many of these players have been real hidden gems. I am quietly confident that we will do it. Although it is important to not get too ahead of ourselves as we should be proud of where we are considering we were favourites to be relegated!

CTFC is owned by the cryptocurrency sports company, WAGMI United. What are the fans’ current feelings about them? It didn’t seem like a smooth start to their time in West Sussex.

Thankfully, this season the on the field stuff is doing the talking. Had results etc not been going out way then I feel like WAGMI would be getting a lot more stick than they are currently getting. For now, fans need to concentrate and support the boys, and the manager, on the pitch.

51-year-old Scott Lindsey was appointed manager in January 2023, after Swindon Town gave him his first EFL role in 2022. He has won 26 of his 65 games so far at Crawley, losing 28. What are your thoughts on him and his playing style? His preferred formation seems to be a 3-4-2-1.

He said after we lost 6-0 to Swindon that, because of the way he plays, they will occasionally be games where we lose dramatically. However, for most games we will be a force to be reckoned with. We play some great football, are easy to watch, possessive and can score some beautiful goals. Now that we have been playing that way for a whole season, the players have really gotten on board with this and can tell how great we will be for the rest of the season. The play-offs are ours to lose!

27-year-old London-born Danilo Orsi has netted 17 in 37 appearances this season, whilst also picking up three assists. Could you give us a quick scouting report on last summer’s 6ft2 signing?

He is a player who, like many of our players, wasn’t wanted by his old club. Scott saw that he had high xG but never had that final finish to put the ball in the net. Scott, with his backroom staff, have been working on that and now we have a fantastic player. I don’t want to give too much away in case Tranmere’s scouting team are reading!

Where would you say the game will be won/lost on Saturday for either side? Have Crawley got other great threats?

In midfield. We are without three of our better players (Kelly, Gladwin, and Williams) and so if we are to win on Saturday, Scott will need to find a suitable pairing to be able to play and dictate the game. Our goalkeeper will also need to remain in the great form that he is currently on as well.

The last time the two club’s met was in mid-September as Crawley won 3-2 with a last minute winner from Greek 23-year-old Klaidi Lolos, who had recently signed from Oxford City. Can you remember that game? What were your thoughts on the performance and the resilience shown to come back?

I mean what a game. Well, what a game for us anyways! I remember it well and who doesn’t love a last minute winner. Lolos is a player who has come on leaps and bounds this season. He is now starting to regularly find the back of the net. Scott believes and drills into all of the players about resilience and the never give up attitude. We could be two-nil down in the 85th minute and still find a way to draw, or even win as shown at our game against Bradford. That is why you NEVER leave a game early.

Crawley have only lost one of their last eight, following Monday night’s draw at home to Stockport County. What is your score prediction for the game at Prenton Park?

It should be a good game, particularly as Tranmere are also four games without a loss. I am going for a 3-1 win with Lolos, Orsi and Tsaroulla scoring for us!

In the January transfer window, goalkeeper Ryan Sandford was brought in from Dartford and a bit of overseas recruitment saw the club sign winger Jeremy Kelly from USA second tier side FC Tulsa. How have they both been getting on?

Sandford hasn’t played for us as our other GK, Addai, has been outstanding. Kelly got questioned when he first arrived, coming over from the 2nd division of the USA. However, he has been a great find and I can not wait to see him play more and more.

Finally, what are your thoughts on Nigel Adkins’ SWA? The Rovers beat Wrexham last time out, following their win against league leaders Mansfield Town.

We couldn’t have picked a worse time to play you guys. Two great results, wins against Mansfield and Wrexham. Since Adkins took over, you have taken a turn for the better (or worse in our case!). Adkins’ pedigree and experience has been crucial for you guys but let’s hope he has an off day on Saturday – Bring it on!

Tranmere Rovers return to Prenton Park this weekend, following a great win at Wrexham. Rovers have won all of their past three games at home however, Crawley will look to attack as they chase a spot in the play-off’s. 

Mansfield Town FC meeting the opposition

Following on from their good away performance at Gillingham on Saturday afternoon, Nigel Adkins’ Tranmere Rovers play host to league leaders Mansfield Town on Tuesday night. 

The Whites netted early in Kent, before going on to draw one-all, with a great strike from midfielder Regan Hendry. 

Midfielder Chris Merrie has come back to the starting eleven recently and he started the move for the goal. There have been some questions around his future at the club but with recent performances, the 25-year-old seems to still be highly thought of by fans. 

It will be interesting to see if he starts from the off tonight against Nigel Clough’s Mansfield Town who beat Swindon Town 3-2 on Saturday afternoon.

It will be a tough test but it wasn’t too long ago that Rovers beat league leaders Stockport County 4-0 at Prenton Park. So, could the same happen again? 

If it does, it’d certainly provide a good boost ahead of the game at fierce rivals Wrexham this weekend. 

I spoke to Mansfield Musings’ Sam Binch. 

Hi Mansfield Musings, when did you start following MTFC and what was that first experience like?

My first game was in 1997 at the age of 5, Mansfield 1-0 Hartlepool, Ben Sedgemore scored the winning goal with a screamer!

What have been some of the best and worst moments in your time as a fan of The Stags? Mansfield won their last trophy in 2013 as they were crowned Champions of the fifth tier. 

The best moment was winning promotion from the Football League Third Division in 2001/02 when we finished in third place. The worst was relegation from the Football League in 2008. 

Could you tell us a little bit about who you are, when the page started and what you have been up to recently?

I’m Sam Binch, 32 years old. I can’t remember exactly when the page started in all honesty, I think it was around 2015 when I started writing a weekly blog, which also found its way into the local newspaper, The Chad. Since then I’ve stopped and started the blog a few times, but I’ve always continued posting on Twitter with match updates and opinions. This year I’ve started a weekly newsletter which looks back on the previous week.

Mansfield are Owned by John Radford, he purchased the club in 2010 and is the founder of One Call Insurance who the stadium is named after. What are the current projects and what are the fans’ feelings on him? 

He’s very well liked by supporters, mainly because he continues to pour his own money into the club year after year despite us continually falling short of his expectations of promotion. We’ve been getting closer and closer, and hopefully this season we can crack it and he can finally achieve his aim.

Nigel Clough is the manager of The Stags as he took over from Graham Coughlan in November 2020. The 57-year-old, formerly of Burton Albion, Sheffield United and Derby County, has won 44% of his 184 games. How highly is he held in the eyes of fans? 

Again, he’s very popular. There has been a gradual improvement during his time here, with a slight step backwards last term. He can be stubborn at times, but he’s finally sorted the defence this season and it’s paying dividends. The football played throughout his time here is some of the best we’ve seen, and attendances have continued to increase throughout his tenure.

How would you describe his playing style? The recent formation has been 4-3-1-2.

He likes to play attacking football, first and foremost. We’ve played various formations during his time here, but the one that has always worked best is the diamond or 4-3-1-2 as you have called it. He likes his side to work the ball into the box, with a lot of combination play in wide areas.

The club finished 8th last season, there was some drama on the final day! How special has this season been as you’re now positioned at the top? Are you certain that The Stags will go on to achieve promotion having claimed 69 points from 36 games? 

I think we will do it, yes, I’ve said it from quite early in the season that I think we’re the best team in the league on our day. Whilst it would be nice to finish top, anywhere in the top 3 will do me, I can’t be doing with the play-offs again! It’s been a brilliant season, we remained unbeaten in the league till late November.

Mansfield have won three of their last four games, including a 3-2 win at home to Swindon Town on Saturday afternoon. Will Swann has bagged six in his last eight, netting the winning goal on the weekend. Could you talk to us about him?

We had Will on loan from Forest last season and he did very well, mostly as an impact sub. We signed him permanently in the Summer, he went through a lean spell early in the season but has been like a new signing since January. He’s got a bit of pace and clever movement. He’s a poacher, but can also create chances for others. He will go higher than L2 in time.

Mansfield’s sole piece of winter transfer work came to fruition when the club signed Gillingham striker Tom Nichols on an undisclosed fee. How has been getting on?

He’s done pretty well, scoring a couple of goals and being involved in plenty more. I don’t think we’ve seen him at the top of his game just yet, but he’s a clever player who adds something we didn’t have.

Former Rovers striker Lucas Akins has bagged 13 goals in 38 games this campaign but it is 26-year-old Davis Keillor-Dunn that is the club’s top goalscorer, netting 18 goals whilst also picking up eight assists. Could you talk about those two forwards as well? It’s an exciting and greatly efficient frontline!  

Lucas Akins in the link man, he wrestles defenders all afternoon, chases lost causes, works hard for the team. He can be frustrating at times as his touch is hit and miss, but when he’s on form defenders find it difficult to handle him. Davis Keillor-Dunn is an excellent player. He can beat a man, and often scores brilliant goals from all sorts of angles. He has a free role behind the strikers, which has really suited him this season. He’s one of the best players in L2.

The last meeting between Tranmere and Mansfield resulted in a two-all scoreline in late November. Robbie Apter and Charlie Jolley netted for Rovers as defender Jordan Turnbull was sent off. Can you remember what your thoughts were of that game?

Yes, it was a time where we were struggling for rhythm in games, playing with too slow a tempo. Tranmere hit us on the break with pace and we struggled to cope. I think we’ll be a different proposition this time around.

Will Mansfield claim all three points at PP? What is your score prediction? 

I think we might nick it 2-1, despite Tranmere being a good side at home.

Finally, what are your thoughts on Nigel Adkins’ Tranmere team? Rovers have picked up four points in their last two games, putting in a good performance at Gillingham on Saturday.

He’s done a good job since he came in, at a time where Rovers were in a tricky spot. They have a very dangerous player in the form of Rob Apter, who I can see doing well when he returns to Blackpool next season.

Mansfield Town claimed all three points when they visited The Wirral in mid-February 2023. However, the last time Tranmere faced the leaders of League Two was when they demolished Stockport County 4-0. 

Gillingham FC meeting the opposition

Nigel Adkins’ Tranmere Rovers travel to play-off chasing Gillingham FC, on Saturday afternoon, looking to get back to winning ways. 

Ahead of the game, I spoke to Daily Mail Sports Reporter Lewis Browning. 

Hi Lewis, when did you start following Gillingham? What was your first experience of the club like?

I started following Gillingham when I fell in love with football in 2007. I got free tickets through my school and was just hooked, even though I didn’t know what was going on in my first game.

It was a 2-1 defeat to Port Vale – start as you mean to go on – and I say in the infamous scaffolding end with my dad. It hammered it down.

What have been some of your best and worst moments as a Gills fan so far?

My favourite moment is still the 2009 play-off final when we earned promotion from League Two with a last minute winner. Winning the title in 2013 was great too, and I’ve had some pretty good away days, probably highlighted by beating Brentford last season.

In terms of worst, it would be last season when we were on the brink of falling out of the Football League and running out of money. The Galinsons saved us and literally turned the club around. 

Gillingham play their home games at the Priestfield Stadium. The venue has a capacity of 11,582. What are your thoughts on the ground and where should away fans go to forget the football?

It’s been our home forever so that’s what it is, home. I think our aspirations are to move away but that won’t happen any time soon. I know people joke about the away end but I find it a little bit embarrassing. In terms of the pubs, I can’t actually help at all, sorry!

Gillingham are positioned ninth in the league, it’s quite a turnaround following last season’s 17th placed finish. How happy are you at the moment?

Not at all to be honest with you. I don’t mean to sound pessimistic but I’m staggered we are competing. We are the lowest scorers in the league and have played some really bad football. Replacing Neil Harris with Stephen Clemence really hasn’t worked out, but, again, we are up there and you never know. 

Brad Galinson has been successful since he took over as Owner in 2022 from the long-serving Paul Scally. What are some of the best changes he has implemented so far and what are the current plans looking forwards?

The first one was injecting money into the playing squad last January to save us from relegation. He’s also been very communicative with fans, being really open and honest, and has instilled a number of things to make the match going experience better, where it is something simple like LED screens or deals on tickets.

He’s also a really nice bloke. I cross him and Shannon – who has been equally as great and important – when they come to home games and they also have time to talk and say hello to anyone that wants to.

Brad wants to get out of League as soon as possible. He said that at the start of the year. He talks about the Championship and beyond. He’s a big dreamer but that can’t be a bad thing – I think Shannon is the one who is a little bit more realistic!

Stephen Clemence was appointed Gillingham manager in November ‘23, taking over from former Millwall man Neil Harris. What are your thoughts on Clemence? His 5-3-2 playing style and relationship with fans.

I’m not a fan at all to be honest. The main thing for me has been his connection with fans. Harris had a really good one, Clemence is dull in the media and you can tell he’s learning on the job in terms of his management style.

We started refusing to play a long ball and then turned into the most direct team ever in the blink of an eye. He wants to play 4-3-3 but has been pushed into this wingback system. It’s helped a bit, our defence record is good, but the football is still poor.

Could you talk to us about the current Gills squad?

Do I have to?! There are major gaps. The defence is good – I’m glad Clemence has swapped number ones and put Glenn Morris back in goal over Jake Turner. On the pitch it’s fine but Romeo Hutton has brought off-field baggage and he was booked alongside Conor Masterson after the two squared up to each other in the loss to Barrow.

We miss legs in midfield to go alongside Ethan Coleman with Dom Jefferies likely out for the season and lack wide players. Jonny Williams is a good player but we’ve not got the most out of him.

Up front, it’s frankly nearly the worst front line I’ve seen in our history, second to the one at the start of last season. It lacks goals – that’s the bottom line – no matter who it is. The recruitment team has questions to answer around that.

Gillingham had their good run of form put to an end with a 2-0 defeat at Barrow on Tuesday night. What went wrong? Do you believe that there is still a good possibility of the club finishing inside the Play-offs following that result?

I think we just ended up reverting to how we have been under Clemence. We didn’t have a shot for ages and our play was poor. Normally if you (the opposition) score, you win, because we lack goals majorly. We could get play-offs, it only takes a run and we are somehow up there, but I’m not sure we will.

The last meeting between the two clubs was in late November. Tranmere won 3-1 as in-form loanee Rob Apter struck twice. Can you remember what your thoughts were of that performance? Gillingham dominated possession but failed to make it count.

I didn’t attend the game but I remember being very frustrated by the result because we were a lot better positioned than you at the time. It was one of Clemence’s first games when he wanted to play the 4-3-3, possession-based style, before ripping it up.

Connor Mahoney is Gillingham’s current top scorer with five goals and three assists in 31 games. Could you give us a quick report on the Huddersfield Town loanee?

He was a Neil Harris signing. He’s been VERY hot and cold, being shoehorned into our current team in a central role due to the system before losing his place to Williams. I’d be surprised if he starts Saturday, and he won’t be here next year. 

In the January transfer window, 25-year-old full-back Remeao Hutton was signed from Swindon Town. What has happened since that horror initiation video? How has he been playing?

He’s brought bad PR. I think the club were wrong to let it die out, but the big issue at the start happened and then he had a bit of a tussle with Conor Masterson on the pitch against Barrow. Good player, but way too much baggage.

Finally, what are your thoughts on Tranmere? Nigel Adkins’ side are struggling at the moment.

Yeah, it’s probably been a season to forget for you guys but I imagine you’re happy to be out of danger considering what you had been facing. I imagine you’ll be happy to beat Sutton given the results before that but, with all due respect, I guess you’ve been one of the more irrelevant teams this season. Hopefully it’s better next year, but I will back us to win this weekend.

Gillingham FC play their home games at The Priestfield Stadium.

Tranmere were beaten 2-0 the last time they travelled here, in March 2023. 

Sutton United FC meeting the opposition

Tranmere Rovers play host to Sutton United on Saturday afternoon, looking to get back to winning ways following two consecutive away defeats.

Nigel Adkins’ men followed up a 4-0 victory against league leaders Stockport County with a defeat at relegation threatened FGR before a defeat at Swindon Town. 

The game against Swindon brought a chance for players to stake their claim for more game time as Paul Lewis, Josh Hawkes, James Norris started from the off. 

However, it was a largely frustrating night in Wiltshire as former Tranmere man Rushian Hepburn-Murphy netted twice. 

Sutton United FC will be looking to carry on their good form as they backed up a one-all draw against Colchester United with a 4-3 win at Notts County.

Ahead of the game, I spoke to Sutton blog Gandermonium about the impact new manager Steve Morrison has had and more.

Hi Gandermonium, could you tell us when your love for Sutton United first started? 

Age of 8, I got into football and as this was the early 80’s, my folks had zero interest in taking me within a million miles of a major game with all the sort of bother that tended to go on back then (although my dad did kinda relent and we did the ‘81 & ‘82 Cup Finals together). Luckily for them, my godfather Alan, a former Arsenal ST holder, had stopped going because of all the trouble and was trawling round the Non-League outfits local to us. So he got lumbered with taking me around games at that level. Most of the other sides were crap and on about our 4th or 5th outing, Sutton scored within about 30 seconds of us coming through the turnstiles and won 2-1. Stemmed from there really.  

The scorer of that goal was Mickey Joyce, who can still be found doing stuff about GGL pre-match to this day. I’ve told him many times over the years that this is all his fault. 

What have been some of your best and worst moments as a Sutton fan? The club was playing in the National League South as recently as 2016.  

I’ve been going 40 years now and to be fair, it’s not been a half bad run in that time, so there’s plenty to choose from. High points would be Coventry in ’89, our 26 game unbeaten run to nick the NLS title in 2015, promotion to the FL and of course finally seeing Sutton at Wembley in the Pizza Cup final 2 seasons ago. Typically, I’d started going the year after our last visit there! 

If I had to pick one right now though, it would be the Semi-Final win at Wigan in the Pizza Cup. I’ve always maintained I’ll never cry at football, but I got bloody close that night. The celebrations after were fantastic too. 

The bad? The 2007\08 season was a shocker. Although this campaign up to Christmas was pushing it hard in that respect. Losing that Pizza Cup final was a tough one as well. Seconds from the end 2-1 up, one hand on the pot and Rotherham levelled. We knew we were doomed in extra time. 

Could you tell us about the Gandermonium podcast? 

It’s not a podcast. Next question! 🙂 

Seriously though, Gandermonium is a long running blog that first started in ’98, ran to 2008, had a couple years off and then two idiots persuaded me to resurrect it in 2012. I did and then we had 10+ more years up to the end of last season where we managed to cover every single competitive game in that time. Sadly though, our ‘staff’ of writers suddenly reduced from 5 down to just me that last season and doing 2 entries a week most weeks and actually being vaguely interesting was sadly beyond my skillset, so I knocked it on the head. It’s still all online though and I still do the odd entry when the fancy takes me (there’s a handful of games from this season on there). In fact, I’ll probably cover this game given there’s a few of us travelling and it’s a mate’s 40th that weekend. So yeah, check it out. 

Maybe some other idiots will fancy a go so the baton can be passed on once more? Who knows!

Bruce Elliott has been Chairman of The U’s since 1996. Could you tell us about the way the club is being run? What are the biggest plans at the moment?  

Stay up! Although there is some work to be done in getting to the 2000 seat mark required by the FL, that should be done before the end of the season I believe. Apart from that, just keeping the club on an even keel is the aim I’d say. This Football League stuff ain’t cheap and we’re not a big club. We do have some outside investment coming in though now, so that might help. 

Steve Morrison replaced promotion winning manager Matt Gray in early January. What were your thoughts on Gray leaving? The 42-year-old had been highly successful at Gander Green Lane, guiding the club to the EFL Trophy Final and missing out on the play-offs, by one point, in 2022.  

Losing Matt was genuinely sad. He gave us something none of us ever thought possible let alone thought the club could actually achieve. It was an incredible little run and done on a real shoestring. It was the right call however when the time came, something just wasn’t right this season and the squad seemed broken and unable to really perform consistently. The shellacking at Stockport was just the final straw. 

No hard feelings though. Matt’s welcome at GGL anytime. He’s a genuinely nice bloke and I think many at Sutton would happily buy him a pint.  

How successful has Morrison been so far? The 40-year-old, former Cardiff manager, won his first game on Tuesday night, 4-3 against Notts County at Meadow Lane. 

He’s done ok. Performances have been better and all our games have been close affairs, but until this week, we hadn’t scored many, the wins just hadn’t materialised and I think a lot of people (myself included) thought that it just wasn’t going to happen. But we looked good on Tuesday and showed real character to lead 4 times. So who knows what can happen if we can string together a couple of long overdue wins? 

What are your thoughts on his style of play and his relationship with fans?   

The football is fine. More ground based than the end of the Gray era which was increasingly direct and too easy to defend against. But we still mix it up. As for the relationship, I think that’s still to be decided! He’s a totally different character to Matt, keeps cards close to his chest. Big on his psychology and stats etc. I’d say opinions are still mixed, but only time will tell.  

Harry Smith, formerly of Leyton Orient, is the club’s top goalscorer with 11. How good is the 6ft5 No.9?  

He’s missed 9 games due to suspension this season and god we’ve missed him at times. When he’s on it, he’s a proper pain in the arse for defenders. Good in the air, not half bad with the ball at his feet, holds up well, links up play. I like him a lot and he’s easily the best of Matt’s summer acquisitions. But two silly reds have cost him almost a quarter of his season, so that’s hurt us badly. 

In January, six players were brought in on either a permanent or loan deal. Midfielder Charlie Lakin, on loan from Burton, has impressed as he has netted three goals in ten games. Are you happy with the club’s recruitment?  

Yeah, they’ve all contributed. Steve went for younger, fresher legs in the Window (we had one of the oldest squads in the FL before that) and it really helped inject some energy. Lakin’s been the pick, was ok the first couple but since then has really kicked on and has 3 in his last 4 games. Stephen Duke-Mckenna from QPR has been a livewire too. Nino from Millwall has had his moments also, but he’s still young and can only improve. No complaints here really.

Would you say losing Enzio Boldewijn and Omar Bugiel last summer is a significant reason for this campaign’s struggles?  

We’ve missed Enzio’s utility. He could play up front, wide or at full back. We’ve been crying out for a player like that this season. Omar I don’t think we’ve missed as much as people make out, as Smith’s been a decent replacement and scored more goals. He’d have a few more too if it wasn’t for suspension. The big misses for us this year though have been Ali Smith moving on to Lincoln and having Craig Eastmond out most of the season. Our midfield up to Xmas was just shocking and offered a shaky defence with zero protection. 

Sutton, despite Tuesday’s win, remain in 24th and Grimsby Town, just above the drop zone, have three games in hand. How upsetting would relegation be for the club? The U’s 126th anniversary is celebrated on March 5th. 

It would be upsetting purely for the manner in which it’s arrived. No one is under any illusion we’re anything but a Non-League club trying to adapt at a higher level, but the first two seasons were very comfortable and then this year’s been a shambles at times. I think if we do go down, then I feel most would think it a huge opportunity missed to grow as a club. First year in ages there’s been no basket cases taking up the bottom two and there we are having a shocker of a season. Typical Sutton.  

The last meeting between Tranmere and Sutton, at Prenton Park, resulted in a two-all draw as an Alistair Smith strike cancelled out Kane Hemmings’ goal in the second half. What is your score prediction this time round? 

A win is needed. We have to back up Tuesday’s result now. I’ll take a shit 1-0 away win all day long.  

Finally, what are your thoughts on Nigel Adkins’ struggling TRFC? 

As bad as us when we met at GGL TBH. But Adkins found your groove and what made you tick after that and had a great run to pull you away from trouble. Yeah, recent results have been patchy, but thumping Stockport at yours shows what you’re capable of. You’ll be fine this season. You probably only need maybe 1-2 more wins to be safe, so there shouldn’t really be any panic on the Wirral. 

Tranmere Rovers return to Prenton Park this Saturday afternoon looking to get back to winning ways. 

Swindon Town FC meeting the opposition

Tranmere Rovers travel to Swindon Town on Tuesday night looking to get back to winning ways. 

In ‘typical Tranmere’ fashion, Rovers followed up their 4-0 victory at home to league leaders Stockport County with a 1-0 defeat against 23rd placed Forest Green Rovers. 

Nigel Adkins’ side failed to convert any of their five shots on target as Charlie McCann netted for the hosts, just before the break. 

Tranmere haven’t won at Swindon since March 2006, despite travelling to Wiltshire nine times since then.

Ahead of the game at The County Ground, I spoke to Swindon Town Podcast @LoathedStranger about all things Robins.

Hi The Loathed Strangers, when did you start following Swindon Town? What was your first experience of the club like?

I’ve been an active supporter of Swindon Town since my first game which was in November 1990, a 2-1 home loss to Port Vale.

My main memory from that day is listening to the foul-mouthed tirades of old men with thick-Wiltshire accents in flat caps smoking pipes which, admittedly, sounds more 1950 than 1990 but those are the memories.

Since then, I’ve seen Town play in four divisions, witnessed plenty of great players and enjoyed some lovely moments but also countless false dawns and assorted nonsense to last a lifetime.

Swindon won promotion from League Two in 2020 as Richie Wellens’ side were crowned Champions. What have been some of the best and worst moments in your time as a Swindon supporter?

Best: Seeing the Glenn Hoddle era as a kid. Hoddle was a ‘cheat code’ and his side was full of players who are still considered in the highest regard by Town fans. It’s a great shame he didn’t stick around for one more season.

Worst: Swindon Town have been on the brink of extinction a couple of times during my time supporting them. No rubbish season compares to the fear that your club’s future is in serious doubt!

Could you tell us about the podcast?

The Loathed Strangers (a Swindon Town related reference to ‘Fever Pitch’ by Nick Hornby) was established in 2017 and went live in 2018. We’re over 650 episodes in with the initial focus being ex-player/employee/fan interviews, but we have evolved over time to concentrating on current events.

It’s sort of taken over my life but I’ve made some great friends over the last seven years.

Swindon have played their home games at The County Ground since 1896. What are your thoughts on the venue and where should Tranmere fans go to make their most out of their night around the area?

The County Ground is a relic but it’s our relic. We desperately need to enter the 21st Century on the stadium front but I’m sure the floodlights won’t let anybody down this time (I write that with minimal confidence!).

The Merlin tends to be the away friendly pub unless the away bar on the County Ground site is open.

Swindon are 18th in the League Two table after picking up 40 points in 34 games. Thoughts on the season so far?

It’s not been a largely horrendous time since the nine game unbeaten run ended in late-September. Since then… 5 wins in 24 games – 20 points from a possible 72. Michael Flynn was replaced by interim head coach Gavin Gunning in January.

A 7-4 home loss to Aldershot in the FA Cup (we were 7-0 down after 58 minutes) – Rubbish moments are so frequent that we’ve largely gotten away with this one.

Town are 18th yet, somehow, only 9 points from the Play-Offs (at the time of writing) which means a fair percentage of the fanbase still harbour hopes of a dramatically late Play-Off push and I’d love to have a large dose of that optimism but I can’t see it happening.

Australian Clem Morfuni has been majority owner of the club since 2021. What are your thoughts on him? His time at STFC hasn’t exactly been smooth.

I’m not a huge fan of the Morfuni era.

He arrived with much gratitude and appreciation, but you’ll find it hard to find a bigger decline in popularity.

There’s been lots of big talk but it simply hasn’t translated to what we have been seeing on and off the pitch. It’s being dismissed by the club as pessimism and we have to be more positive but 

Season 1: An unexpectedly good and highly emotive season. Expectations were initially extremely low, but we made it to the Play-Offs only to lose on penalties at Port Vale in the Semi-Final.

In hindsight, it’s largely agreed that the success was down to individuals who had remained from the previous regime.

Season 2: This is when the Morfuni era truly kicked-in to operation with a change of philosophy with many of the reasons behind Town’s success on-and-off the pitch the previous season leaving the club.

It didn’t go well. Two managers arrived and left while there was a significant dip of quality within the squad despite the welcome return of Charlie Austin.

Season 3:  So it’s been a disaster since October, an absolute disaster.

The Morfuni Era has been mostly about surrounding himself with people who he likes/trusts but may not necessarily be what’s good for the football club. Town have employed a lot of inexperience, and it has shown.

Gavin Gunning is the current interim manager of Swindon, following former boss Michael Flynn’s dismissal in mid-January. What are your thoughts on the 33-year-old’s coaching style and how has he aimed to galvanise the club?

Gavin Gunning is an interesting character. 

He quietly arrived without fanfare at the start of the 2022/23 season as a first team coach under Scott Lindsey. He then had two spells as co-caretaker manager with Steve Mildenhall during the season (which, in terms of performances and results, was good fun).

He then disappeared from the first team set-up under Michael Flynn. His Swindon duties then consisted of being a ‘loans manager’ and assisting the U18s as a defensive coach. He also helped launch Morfuni’s Australian soccer school before being appointed as interim head coach for the remainder of the season (18 games).

Many fans like him as he has a very matter of fact way of speaking and talks a reasonably good game whilst others are sceptical.

We will probably play four-at-the-back with two holding midfielders and an attacking central midfielder with a front three of two wide men and centre forward. There’s been a mild improvement with the new signings but not enough to see a miracle turnaround to the season.

Taking a look at the bookies odds for the next managerial appointment, it is Gunning that is favourite. Would you be happy with him getting the job permanently?

No. I think such an appointment represents this regime. It might work internally but for the club but I can’t see it being a success. It feels like a holding position, and I’d be genuinely shocked if he got it on a more permanent basis.

Tranmere last played Swindon two days before Christmas as Kieron Morris and Tom Davies netted for the Whites in a 2-1 win after Dan Kemp edged his side in front in the 22nd minute. What were your thoughts on that game and will Swindon get their revenge this time ‘round?

I think there will be an expectation for Swindon to win this. It’ll definitely be identified as a ‘must win’.

Swindon possesses a good attacking threat. Daniel Kemp has 24 goal involvements in 27 games whilst Jake Young has 20 goal involvements in 26 games. Charlie Austin is also at the club. Are The Robins quite exciting to watch despite their position in the league table?

Dan Kemp and Jake Young have gone! Dan Kemp is the best player we’ll see this season and I suspect Jake Young won’t have a better spell as what he enjoyed at Swindon.

We’ve brought in a few players since who look quite interesting, but we’ll see how they do over the next few weeks and months.

Charlie Austin is a nuisance to any opposition at this level but isn’t the player he once was (which is no crime). 

However, Swindon’s attack hasn’t been the issue this season, that honour belongs to our defensive play which has been as bad as I’ve ever seen it.

There are a couple of Rovers links in the Swindon squad. Rushian Hepburn-Murphy and Paul Glatzel. How have they both been getting on?

I really like Paul Glatzel. We are all aware of his injury record, so expectations aren’t sky-high but he’s a real tryer and has been worth more than his solitary goal thus far.

Rushian Hepburn-Murphy has endured an on/off season. He disappeared for a while and has struggled since returning but he’s a nuisance on his day. The problem is that his day doesn’t occur enough.

What were your thoughts on the January window’s transfer recruitment and where that leaves the team now? Five players were brought in on a permanent basis, including 22-year-old Southampton shot stopper Jack Bycroft who has slotted straight into the side. Forward Harry McKirdy returned back to the club.

Prior to Deadline Day, I think Town supporters were ready to get the pitchforks out ready in preparation for the apathy-fuelled revolution but then Harry McKirdy was announced amongst several other late signings and then that seemed to simmer a lot of the fanbase.

Given that my expectations for the remainder of the season are quite low, it’s quite hard to judge the new signings especially as some aren’t match fit.

Jack Bycroft is a work in progress. Seems to have real potential in some areas.

We haven’t seen enough of Aaron Drinan to judge so far.

Harry McKirdy can only play about 30 minutes at the moment (this might change for the Tranmere game) but causes the familiar mischief and scored a late equaliser at Gillingham.

Zach Elbouzedi is on loan from AIK and looks pacy but frustrating in equal measure.

Pharrell Johnson and Sean McGurk are relative rookies, but the latter comes with a lot of good reviews from Leeds and we’ve already seen this in places including the opener at Gillingham.

Conor McCarthy has made our defensive line look steadier but we’re still conceding goals and he was largely responsible for MK Dons first opener on February 17.

Finally, what are your thoughts on TRFC?

The side of Half Man Half Biscuit and, therefore, you’re fine by me.

I still think of the Tranmere side of the 1990s. Nixon, Malkin, McGreal, Irons, Morrissey, Nolan, Brannan, Muir, Hughes, Aldridge, Nevin et al.

It’s a great shame that this side didn’t make the Premier League (apart from in 1992/93, of course).

Tranmere’s win against Swindon was a classic of the genre for us this season. Essentially, losing from a winning position! Six of that starting eleven have since left the club (and one other probably won’t play) so you’ll see a new side.

Tranmere’s last visit to Swindon resulted in a one-all draw, back in mid-November 2022. Josh Hawkes opened the scoring in the ninth minute before Jacob Wakeling netted in the 30th.