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.

Forest Green Rovers meeting the opposition

Nigel Adkins’ Tranmere Rovers travel to Forest Green this Saturday looking to add on to the three points they claimed in last weekend’s 4-0 thrashing of league leaders Stockport County. 

The centre-halves were on fire that afternoon as Tom Davies opened the scoring before Jordan Turnbull netted a brace. Connor Jennings added the fourth with an exquisite Rob Apter assist. 

In my eyes, striker Harvey Saunders had a fantastic week as despite not scoring in the home defeat to Morecambe or in the game against Stockport, he continued to rush both defences into making mistakes and this should have been enough to pick up all six points. 

However, it will be interesting to see if he starts at FGR as Luke Norris came back from injury to play against Doncaster Rovers in a behind closed doors friendly in midweek. Having Norris back comes as a relief to all TRFC fans, knowing what he is capable of despite his red flag injury record.

FGR, now managed by Steve Cotterill, are positioned inside the League Two drop zone and are a wide 17 points away from The Whites, Adkins’ side steering away from their disastrous early season form. 

Ahead of the game, I spoke to FGR’s BBC Gloucestershire summariser Josh Evans.

Hi Josh, when did you become a reporter for Forest Green Rovers? What was your first experience of the club like?

I’ve reported on the club for just over 18 months now but was not a supporter of the club taking the role. The club is welcoming and has a good feel to it. However, results on the pitch have dampened spirits in the past 12 months. 

What have been some of your best and worst moments as a FGR reporter?

Beating a strong Sheffield Wednesday side was a brilliant day in a poor season. Back-to-back wins, including a win over local rivals Cheltenham Town, was also a highlight. Being relegated from League One was a low point albeit inevitable. 

You’re a FGR summariser for BBC Gloucestershire. Could you tell us about your role and when that started?

I’m a student at the University of Gloucestershire and started by taking on the role as Gloucestershire Live reporter for the club. It soon became an option to summarise with the club on BBC local radio – an opportunity I took and have had ever since. 

FGR play their home games at The New Lawn, a venue which has a capacity of 5,141. However, there’s a new stadium on the horizon which will be the world’s first ground made out of timber. What’s the current update on that move and how important do you think it will be for the club?

It’s still moving in a positive direction. It’s expected that the training ground will be ready for next season and the Eco Park should follow all being well. 

FGR were relegated from League One last season and are again placed in the relegation zone, staring another era of National League football in the face. What has been going on since Rob Edwards guided the team to promotion into the third tier two years ago?

There’s been significant change in senior roles at the club since Rob Edwards took them up to League One. They haven’t quite got the managerial post correct and have not recruited in a way that their budget offers. 

How disastrous would relegation be? FGR are 23rd with 23 points whilst Grimsby Town are 22nd with 29 points thus there is a lot, still, to be fought for.

The National League would be a disaster given the position they were in not too long ago. Back-to-back relegations are never something a club wants to happen. Dale Vince continues to back the club with cash flow which means that FGR would be hot favourites to go up. 

Dale Vince has been loved by FGR fans since he became majority shareholder in 2010 but it all has all been majorly successful. What are your, and the fans, thoughts on the 62-year-old owner of EcoTricity now the club is struggling?

I think what fans would say is they wouldn’t be where they are without Vince. He’s not someone who loves football by any means but there’s no suggestion you have to when you’re the owner – it’s just a case of getting individuals in positions that will benefit the club. Fans will be expecting that right now with Steve Cotterill being an important move. 

It was very important to get away from the issues that Troy Deeney had at the club. What were your thoughts on his time at FGR as both a player and in the hot seat?

You could tell he had that bit of star quality whilst a player but without making a huge impact. His managerial term of six matches was short but did have an impact in terms of style of play. They were unfortunate not to get more in some games but his comments post-Harrogate matched with the four match touchline ban was too much for Vince to take. 

Steve Cotterill, formerly of Birmingham City and Shrewsbury Town was appointed in late January and on February 13th put an end to a run of 15 games without a win by beating Barrow 2-1. What are your thoughts on him and his playing style, which seems to be a 3412 formation, so far?

He’s competitive and a winner. He wouldn’t have taken the role if he didn’t feel he could keep the club up but it will be tough. Six points adrift but with some tough games towards the end of the campaign, the next five or so will be crucial. 

On February 16th there were many changes made at the club as the CEO, the DOF and many others high up at the club departed. Is that a positive as the club can now look towards the future with a new, fresh regime?

I think there were going to be changes, but maybe not to that extent as expected. It’s tough to see how a new regime will work in such a tough period so I’d expect Cotterill to have significant say until the end of the season. 

It is safe to say that there is a good bit of attacking quality in the current squad as both Matt Stevens and Kyle McAllister have eleven goal involvements this campaign. Could you talk to us about how FGR looks at the top end of the pitch?

Rovers are guilty of not scoring enough goals, their performing below their xG and conceding more than they should – which understandably explains the league position. Stevens and Christian Doidge will be important, McAllister’s technical ability is noticeable but it’s required more than ever now. 

The recent signing of former Derby defender Richard Keogh should tighten up the team’s backline. That was a good bit of recruitment wasn’t it?

It looks like it, yes. 37-years-old but a wealth of experience. He’s had an impact already with his leadership skills as well as setting high standards. He communicates well with players around him, it’s now a case of making sure Rovers come out on top in tight games. They had that resolve away at Barrow, that’s a platform to build on. 

The game against Tranmere in mid November resulted in a 3-0 victory for The Whites as an own goal from Tyrese Omotoye opened the scoring in the eighth minute before Kristian Dennis and Robbie Apter netted after the break. What were your thoughts on that fixture?

I wasn’t at the away fixture but was told it was one of Forest Green’s more concerning performances. Tranmere have that quality in wide areas and set pieces to cause Forest Green issues. It’s important to take those chances on Saturday when they come. 

There have been a few recent links between the two clubs, we could delve further back and discuss Manny Monthe and James Norwood! However, FGR replaced Luke McGee with Ross Doohan in a somewhat mad move last season. What were your thoughts on that and the departure of midfielder Regan Hendry?

Doohan didn’t have the Forest Green career he would’ve hoped for, he’s already departed for Aberdeen. There was a feeling that Luke McGee needed to be replaced and therefore a new goalkeeper needed to be searched for – a decision that ultimately doesn’t look a positive one. Hendry was a good performer for Forest Green, it was a case of his contract was expiring and Duncan Ferguson was not keen to keep on any players with contracts coming to an end. 

Finally, what are your thoughts on Nigel Adkins’ Whites? Tranmere will be looking to add to their 4-0 victory against league leaders Stockport County when they travel to Nailsworth.

They’ve had their worries this season but seem to have ensured they won’t have any relegation fears this season with a few good results. They’re direct and aggressive, something Forest Green usually has a problem with. Tranmere will come with confidence and it won’t be an easy task whatsoever.

Morecambe FC Meeting the opposition

Tranmere Rovers return to home action on Tuesday night when they play host to club legend Ged Brannan’s Morecambe.

A third defeat in five league games on the weekend, away at Doncaster Rovers, brought a reality check for Nigel Adkins’ side as there were still some supporters who believed that the club’s play-off chances remained alive. 

Forward Josh Hawkes levelled the scoreline in the second half, making an immediate impact from the bench. However, Hakeeb Adelakun regained his side’s lead four minutes later.

It will be interesting to see whether Hawkes’ goal places him into the starting eleven tonight. However, his speed and trickery is quite effective off the bench when the opposing defence is tiring. 

Brad Walker may also be out, a chance for new recruit Ousmane Kane to shine? 

Ahead of the game, I spoke to Shrimps Trust Podcast Producer Joel Shooter. 

Hi Joel, When did you start supporting Morecambe? What was your first experience of the club like?

Hi, I first started supporting around winter 2006. The club had been doing well in the Conference for the past couple of seasons, so my dad thought it would be good to get me going to games, and it ended up being a very positive experience as we won promotion to the Football League! That was when we were still at Christie Park, which was on its last legs but very much full of non-league character and history. It was very exciting to be supporting the club on its push for promotion to the Football League for the first time in its history, and since then I’ve been hooked.

What have been some of your best and worst moments as a fan of The Shrimps?

That initial promotion in 2007 was amazing, but it was definitely trumped by the 2021 promotion to League One. It was just so unexpected after years of struggling in League Two, and on a personal note it was at a point where I’d then had a longer term association with the club, having only been a fan for a few months before promotion in 2007. There were some tough years in League Two, although staying up on the final day in 2018 was a high. Relegation at the end of last season has probably been the main low, coupled with the frustrations from the slow-moving sale of the club.

You’re a Podcast Producer for The Shrimps Trust, a group that was formed in 2017 to strengthen the links between the club, its supporters and the surrounding communities. Could you tell us about some of the work you’ve done and when did you start?

The Trust has been around since 2016, when a sale from our previous owner went belly up and fans stepped in to try and support the situation. Since then, many people have been doing some great work around the club and in the community such as raising money for a roof behind the home terrace, and organising a Christmas toy appeal every year. Since I joined in 2021, I have picked up media duties such as speaking on the radio or writing programme notes, as well as producing the podcast. The podcast has been enormously good fun to produce, and has given great insight into the players, coaching staff and off the pitch at the club.

Morecambe are owned by Bond Group Investments Limited since they bought 80% of the club in 2018. The club’s chairmen are Graham Howse and Rod Taylor. What are your thoughts on the way the club has been run in the last six years? What are the main objectives at the moment?

Graham Howse, Rod Taylor and the rest of the board (James Wakefield, Charlie Appleyard, Ben Sadler and Mick Horton) have done incredibly to run the club as well as they have been doing over the past few years. Their stewardship of the matchday and footballing operations have seen the club make over a million pounds in player sales, spend two seasons in League One and have three runs to the FA Cup third round. It’s important to separate them from the owners Bond Group, who have largely let the board get on with things over the past few years. However, Bond Group have been frustratingly dragging their feet with the sale process of the club, which has unfortunately limited the potential to drive the club forward as much as the board would like.

Last season, The Shrimps were relegated from League One as they finished 22nd. What went wrong?

Off the pitch issues from Bond Group’s protracted sale has certainly capped potential growth into being a more stable League One club. On the pitch, we had Stephen Robinson build a team in his image before leaving in our first season in the third tier. Derek Adams returned, but had a different idea of how he wanted to build the team, which led to a difficult summer trying to turnover players on a budget restrained by the aforementioned off-field issues. Staying in League One was always going to be a fight, but these issues made it even tougher.’s%20relegation%20was%20confirmed%20with,is%20yet%20to%20go%20through.

Tranmere legend Ged Brannan was appointed Morecambe manager in late November as former boss Derek Adams made the move to Scotland. The 51-year-old, in his first managerial role, has won four of his 14 games in charge. What are your thoughts on him and his 4-2-3-1 playing style? The win on the weekend, against Sutton United, was his first win at home as Morecambe manager.

There’s been a bit of an adjustment period for various factors – first there was starting to implement his own style, then we lost a load of extremely talented loan players. But with a bit more time in the role now and the addition of some really strong January signings, we’ve been looking a lot stronger over the last few games and have only lost once in the league in 2024. The style is a bit more high tempo than under Derek with more of a leaning towards playing on the deck. However, there are still some similarities in the preference for counter-attacking and moving the ball forwards at pace.

What were your thoughts on his first January transfer window as manager? 

After the fairly devastating blow of losing our loan players, Ged’s done fantastically well to recruit and mould the squad a bit more to his liking. We’ve also brought in something we didn’t have before in a bit of experienced class/quality with Gwion Edwards out wide, as well as sorting out the goalkeeping issue with Archie Mair in goal. Julian Larsson and Nelson Khumbeni both also look handy additions, and Garner has really been finding his feet these past couple of games. 

Morecambe lost two of their top four goal scorers last month as Adam Mayor signed for Millwall as JJ McKiernan also departed. In came 25-year-old Liverpool-born striker Gerard Garner from Barrow, on loan. Garner has netted three in four games so far and will thus be one to watch on Tuesday night at Prenton Park. Could you talk to us about what he has brought to the team in the way he plays?

JJ McKiernan is still our player thankfully, but is currently on the sidelines. He hopefully should be back with us within two months. Ged Garner has taken a couple of games to find his feet but his last couple of performances have been really strong. He’s been linking play nicely as well as stretching defences really well with his running in-behind. He’s been getting into lots of good areas in the box so has still notched a few goals despite missing some chances, and hopefully his conversion rate will continue to improve as his confidence builds. He also scored a lovely solo goal to win the game against Crawley, so he has a bit of flair as well.

Morecambe are 12th, having won both of their last two games, and are eyeing the play-offs as they are just four points away from Harrogate, with a game in hand. How much faith have you got in an instant return to League One?

It might be a bit of a stretch given the quality towards the top end of the division, but it would be nice to see us try and sneak into the play-offs over the final run-in. Overall though, this season’s main goal was stabilising in terms of league position and hopefully off the field.

The last time Tranmere faced Morecambe was in late October at the Mazuma Mobile Stadium. Morecambe won 1-0 with an own goal from Rovers defender Jordan Turnbull. What were your thoughts on that game?

It was a game I thought we edged – we were missing a few key players but did well to grind out the result. We had a couple of opportunities but it was ultimately a teasing ball from Chris Stokes that did for the unfortunate Turnbull. I thought Tranmere looked a fairly tidy team and moved the ball around nicely but were a bit toothless in the final third – summed up by a frantic last 10 minutes that saw Rovers spurn a few good opportunities to equalise. This seems to have gotten better now though for Tranmere.

A Rovers link … two-time promotion winning manager Micky Mellon’s son, Michael, is Morecambe’s current top scorer having netted 15 in 26 outings during his loan spell from Burnley before his move to Dundee. How special was he?

He was really fantastic. His game came on leaps and bounds throughout the season. He’s a seriously deadly finisher and has remarkable composure in front of goal for a 19 year old. His overall game is great too – he can drop deep to hold the ball up (not quite to Cole Stockton levels but still impressive) and link play, and also run in behind with really good movement. He’s an absolute predator in the box too – all round a really good nine.

Finally, what are your thoughts on Tranmere? 

I’m interested to see how they compare to when we last played earlier in the season. There was some nice football played by Tranmere and they looked fairly solid at the back, but just a bit lost in the final third. At a glance, it seems this issue has been improving of late over the last few months though, so it will be informative to watch on Tuesday night.

Tranmere return to Prenton Park on Tuesday night, following on from a 2-1 defeat away at Doncaster Rovers.

The last home game brought a goalless draw against Crewe Alexandra. The club’s home form is fifth best in the division as four of the last six games have resulted in victories. 

Doncaster Rovers FC meeting the opposition

Nigel Adkins’ Tranmere Rovers return back to action on Saturday afternoon as they face Doncaster Rovers at the Eco-Power Stadium.

The week, following a good point picked up at Prenton Park against Crewe Alexandra, has brought a 2-1 win away at Warrington Rylands in a Liverpool Senior Cup Quarter Final and the announcement of a new midfielder in Ousmane Kane. 

22-year-old Kane has been training at the club for a couple of months at different stages of this campaign. He has signed a short-term deal with an option for an extension, if he impresses, thus it will be interesting to see how he gets on. 

Doncaster are currently positioned 22nd, seven points away from 23rd placed Sutton United who they claimed a last minute point against in their last outing with a penalty from top scorer Joe Ironside.

To hear more about Grant McCann’s side, I spoke to supporter Daniel Nice.

Hi Daniel, when did you become a Doncaster Rovers supporter? What was your first experience of the club like?

My first game was in 1992, so it’s safe to say I’ve seen a few things over the years. My main memory of home games is of a ground falling to bits and a team that had some players you could relate to but no real hope or ambition. It was always cold. The tea was scalding hot in polystyrene cups. I can’t quite see the attraction looking back, but something clicked for me. The love is as unconditional now as it was then.

What are some of your best and worst moments as a Doncaster fan?

There have been some real highs & lows, in essence relating to promotions, failed attempts & relegations and the odd shock cup result. Beating Leeds at Wembley was incredible, as was the win at Brentford and the drama over 3 Conference play-off games to get back into the Football League. However I am quite philosophical these days and therefore it’s often the occasions like when you travel the length of the country to watch a goalless draw in abysmal conditions that capture the essence of being a fan all at once. It can be the worst game in the world but in those moments you get that feeling where belonging and supporting is the strongest. It may sound strange but the play-off defeat at Charlton was probably my favourite ever game; hope and heartbreak, the full spectrum of emotions, the most glorious of failures. I’ll never forget that night.

Doncaster play their home games at the Eco-Power Stadium which was opened in August 2007. The venue has a capacity of 15,231. What are your thoughts on the ground that also plays host to Doncaster RLFC? 

It’s fair to say that it’s not a venue designed for a basement battle in League Two, and the football certainly hasn’t matched the surroundings in recent times. Maybe it’s too comfortable for the opposition – nobody wanted to play at Belle Vue!

Where should away fans go to make the most of their day?

The best option for food, drink and maybe even a bit of shopping is the Lakeside centre that’s right near the ground. It’s handy for cars, coaches and the train station too as you have to head that way anyway. It’s worth heading towards the racecourse to have a look in and also see what happened to Belle Vue too, if you like your football history.

Last season, Doncaster finished 18th after struggling under both Gary McSheffrey and Danny Schofield. The club are currently placed 22nd as the 2023-24 campaign enters its final moments. What are your thoughts on things at the moment?

Where do we start? It’s been pretty desperate at times, and although being 22nd feels rubbish, we were rock bottom with two points after seven games and I feared the worst then, so a seven point gap with a game in hand on Sutton actually feels like it could be a lot worse. You only have to rewind to the 95th minute last Saturday to know that. 

There are lots of theories as to where and why it’s gone wrong, but my gut feel is that everything has combined, snowballed, and contributed to it. 

I’m hopeful that the escape from Gander Green Lane without defeat means there won’t be as much drama and pain to come as there could have been – let’s not even consider that it could get worse from here. 

Sometimes, avoidance is as good a defence mechanism as anything.

Grant McCann is DRFC manager, he was re-appointed by the club in May ‘23. What are your thoughts on him and his wing-back playing style?

It’s important to be objective but it’s also hard not to like Grant McCann following his first spell plus his efforts in the middle part of this season, where we looked to have turned the corner. The reality is that he is yet to turn things around, but he is our best chance of constructing a long term rebuild. 

McCann is calm, knows the lower leagues well, understands the club, and is someone who can lay the foundations for something. Yes, he has to take some responsibility for poor results, and there have been some interesting selections and formations at times, but you can’t keep blaming and sacking the manager every time it fails. 

My instinct is that the job is harder than he imagined and he’s trying to play the cards he’s been dealt. Interestingly he doesn’t really want to play with wing backs but has moved away from a favoured back 4 to a 3-5-2 and even a 3-4-3 last week, which brought me out in a cold sweat recalling the Danny Schofield days. But it was never going to be a classic at Sutton and at least at times it turned into a 5-4-1 and we weren’t a soft touch. Rather than sticking to a plan that definitely wasn’t working, he is prepared to shuffle the pack to try to find a better option. 

It’s not pretty but it doesn’t need to be at the moment. I do feel we need to get more attempts at goal though – you miss every shot you don’t take right?

Could you talk to us about the current team and how well you believe DRFC operated in the January transfer window?

We signed so many players in the summer that we couldn’t really go with wholesale changes again. Having said that, only 2 players started at Sutton who were part of the last away league win – that decent 2-1 success at Tranmere (sorry) – back in October. Two! And they are the only two who I’d say with any conviction have been super consistent in Owen Bailey and Joe Ironside. Yes there have been more injuries and it’s hard to see how Ben Close and Zain Westbrooke wouldn’t play if fit for example, and the odd departure such as Mo Faal, but it feels like it sums it up in a way. We’re still not much further on from finding longer term solutions but we don’t have the luxury to experiment too much. We’re going game by game and trying to find some answers. 

My gut feel is the squad needs another dose of major surgery in the long term but there are some decent players to work with and we can’t really look beyond the next game at this stage. It is what it is.

Terry Bramall became Chairman a week before Christmas, he had been on the club’s board for almost twenty years and guided the club to the Championship for the first time in 50 years. What are your thoughts on him?

There’s been a lot of debate about the ownership of the club generally and I’d prefer to focus on the football. Personally I’m grateful that Terry Bramall has stepped up in a difficult moment, it’s easy to lead when things are going well but he’s trying to do it when times are tough. I’ll always respect people who do that.

Doncaster have failed to win in the league since New Year’s Day. How important was last weekend’s one-all draw at Sutton United as top scorer Joe Ironside netted a 96th minute penalty?

It wasn’t a must win for us but defeat felt unthinkable and we were staring it in the face. The last minute was absolutely bizarre, from Sutton cheaply surrendering possession when they had the ball by the corner flag to us trying to get the ball forward against a strong wind, to Dean Bouzanis inexplicably clattering Ironside towards the edge of the box with 20 seconds on the clock. Why did he do it? The referee had given us very little yet then gave the most important and arguably softest decision of all three penalty shouts after initially appearing to let it go. What took so long for the call? I can’t explain the logic of any of it. I’d describe it as being down to your last penny and then finding a £50 note that somehow goes on to change your life. It has to be the sliding doors moment. Was there a life lesson in there about never giving up? Maybe, but perhaps more to the point, it proves that however desperate things are, there’s always someone in a worse position than you.

Could you tell us a little bit more about Ironside? The 30-year-old has netted 14 goals and has provided his teammates with four assists in 33 games.

Big Joe! How can you not love him? He gets kicked from pillar to post every game but he’s the first to go in for the next challenge. He never stops running. He scores vital goals. Most importantly he has the calmness and composure of a surgeon about to conduct the trickiest of operations. A 96th minute penalty with grave consequences if you miss? No problem. I didn’t even consider him missing it. I’d trust him with my life when stepping up for a penalty. Okay, I wouldn’t have survived Meadow Lane, but in the current Donny world of trauma, drama and inconsistency, he’s someone to rely on.  

The last game between Doncaster and Tranmere finished in a 2-1 win for the visitors at Prenton Park as Harrison Biggins and Mo Faal netted for McCann’s side. DRFC have won 39 of their 79 meetings with Tranmere. What is your score prediction for Saturday?

It’s a tough one to call as both sides really need a win but we’re also at a stage of the season where it feels like every point counts. Our home form has deserted us recently but we were good up to Morecambe, and did sweep MK Dons aside 3-0. We have that in our locker on our day. We should have beat Newport. We’ve also conceded 5 at home twice within the last 5 games. So you might think it seems slightly weird for me to predict another tight game between our two sides but there will be a mutual respect between managers, who know one another well, so it has the potential to be cagey. We have looked far more assured with Richard Wood back. It has the feeling of a 1-1 or a goal in it either way. 

Finally, could you give your thoughts on Tranmere?

I’m amazed at the turnaround to be honest, the night we beat you I thought it could be a long, hard season but Nigel Adkins has done an amazing job to steer you up the table. You’re probably in that part of the league where nothing is likely to happen now but you’d have gladly taken that a few weeks ago I’m sure. Having said that, another winning run and you could be looking to gatecrash those play-offs like Harrogate are threatening to do. There’s probably too much to do though and too many teams around to prevent it from happening. I expect a hardworking, organised team that will play on the break and try to capitalise on mistakes. I can’t see it being the most entertaining of games but from our perspective we just need the points, however they come.

Doncaster’s Eco-Power Stadium, formerly known as Keepmoat, was opened in 2007. 

The last time Tranmere played here Doncaster won 2-0 as Ben Close and Kyle Hurst netted just after the hour mark in early February 2023.