It is now time to return all the excitement and optimism as the season draws closer.
In the past week, Mike Jackson’s Tranmere Rovers have played two competitive cup games that have resulted in penalty defeats. Although they were beaten, as the season draws nearer, the newly appointed Rovers manager has been able to take some positives from watching his team switch from friendly encounters to fierce competitive run outs.
The two cup games were spread across two cup competitions: in the league cup Tranmere played Harrogate at Prenton Park and in the EFL trophy they faced Port Vale at Vale Park.
The eleven that would face Harrogate, a game that resulted in a 1-1 draw with James Vaughan slotting into the empty net as he was able to dribble past the ‘Town’ goalkeeper, was: Scott Davies, Lee O’Connor, Peter Clarke, Manny Monthe, Calum Macdonald, Otis Khan, Jay Spearing, Paul Lewis, Corey Blackett-Taylor, James Vaughan, Morgan Ferrier. A few days later, as Tranmere travelled for their first competitive game, Jackson made four changes to his eleven: Joe Murphy replaced Scott Davies, Ollie Banks replaced Paul Lewis, Liam Ridehalgh came in to the team as Calum Macdonald was pushed into the wing-back position and Stefan Payne played as a lone striker as James Vaughan and Morgan Ferrier were left at home.
Throughout the two games, there was one mainstaying strength and one unfortunate weakness following a period of successful recruitment. The defence maintained the qualities that brought a spike of success in the tail end of the previous season. Strength and leadership characteristics were shown in Peter Clarke and Emmanuel Monthe and the newly recruited full-backs O’Connor and Macdonald showed their comfortability on the ball as they aimed to create attacking situations. Liam Ridehalgh also impressed when he was brought in against Port Vale. Although Mike Jackson was able to secure the signatures of Otis Khan and James Vaughan and keep hold of players who are able to threaten good football league defences such as Ollie Banks, the weakness that has been shown in the past week is the inability to score and create much. In the league cup game against Harrogate Town, Rovers only managed one shot on target and the passing (56% accuracy) and crossing (1/10 completed) failed to impress. Jackson has acknowledged that his side must develop a ruthless streak in front of goal and has stated that their transfer business is yet to be completed, thus this is certainly an area that Jackson knows he needs to improve on and I believe that he will.
This coming weekend sees the start of another league campaign, around six months after Tranmere travelled to Blackpool and returned home with three points and thousands of optimistic and excited fans who believed survival was a real possibility. Cruelly due to the coronavirus, the league was forced by the EFL board to end on a PPG (points per game) basis and all hopes were shattered. Now it is time to turn hopes of survival into a great promotion season and return all the optimism and excitement that was once held in the ‘Super White Army’s’ hearts. The first league opponents are Mansfield Town, who play their home games at Field Mill, a stadium that hosts a capacity of 9,186. The ‘stags’ are managed by Graham Coughlan, who was appointed in December 2019. Much to the disappointment of the ‘stag’ fans, they finished the season in 21st position which was a great difference to their finish in the campaign before as they finished the 2018/19 season competing in the play-offs. This pre-season has seen a great turnaround in their squad’s personnel, many have been released such as the new Tranmere forward Otis Khan and they have received an undisclosed fee from Blackpool for the 25-year-old forward C.J Hamilton. A number of faces have come into the ‘town’, experienced forward Jordan Bowery has signed on an undisclosed fee from Milton Keynes and should, if fit, pose a threat to the Tranmere back-line on Saturday. The signings of Luton Town goalkeeper Marek Stech and Bristol Rovers centre-half Rollin Menayese should also be successful in strengthening their defensive play. Interestingly, former 34-year-old Newcastle United defender James Perch has also joined Mansfield Town. Thus, it is safe to say that the ‘stags’ have had a successful transfer window and will pose a threat to many league two clubs. It shall be a great, yet tough, game to start the season.
Tranmere Rovers v Mansfield Town
Games played – 80
Tranmere wins – 33
Draws – 22
Mansfield wins – 25
The last Mansfield v Tranmere game at Field Mill finished 3-0 to the ‘stags’.
Interviews with Tranmere Rovers supporters about tomorrow’s game and the upcoming season:
Where will we finish? – ‘top five’, ‘automatic promotion’, ‘top five but we may sneak into automatic promotion’, ‘Play-offs’.
Thoughts on the manager? – ‘inexperienced thus he needs time’, ‘hes inexperienced thus needs support and time, he’s brought good players in and it seems like he wants to play exciting football’, ‘had my doubts but his recruitment has been great and all the players have spoken highly, thus i’m looking forward to see what he can do’, ‘He’s inexperienced so it’ll either go great or awful’.
Who is our best player? – ‘Blackett-Taylor’, ‘Blackett-Taylor’, ‘Blackett-Taylor’, ‘Emmanuel Monthe or Otis Khan’.
What do you think the score will be tomorrow? – ‘0-0’, ‘0-0’, ‘1-1’, ‘2-2’.
If you could bring one player in, who would it be? – ‘A loanee forward, Anthony Gordon would be amazing’, ‘Kaiyne Woolery’, ‘Kaiyne Woolery’, ‘Outside shout, Bobby Duncan’.