The start of another eventful football league campaign as Tranmere look to gain revenge and again ‘Come Back Stronger’.
Mike Jackson’s Tranmere travelled to Nottinghamshire to face their first tricky opponents of another eventful league two campaign. Mansfield Town were the hosts, fresh from a positive pre-season which saw a successful turn-around of squad members as ‘stags’ manager Graham Coughlan aims to improve from last season’s disappointing league table finish. This game was always going to be tough, Tranmere had failed to score against Mansfield in their past four encounters, yet the game would offer questions to Jackson that he had been looking forward to facing. Difficult questions in a test of strength and character, a well-needed test whilst the transfer window remains open.
Jackson named his eleven, one hour before kick off, whilst the Tranmere faithful took to places of comfort to watch on I-Follow instead of the pubs and terraces. The announced team saw two changes in the one that had been chosen in midweek as the ‘whites’ travelled to Port Vale for a tough ‘Trophy’ game: Captain and goalkeeper Scott Davies came in for Joe Murphy and James Vaughan replaced Stefan Payne. The team looked to be solid defensively and with a league debut for forward Otis Khan, it was interesting to see how he’d fare and manage to improve Tranmere’s attacking play.
The opening twenty minutes saw a slow start for Tranmere, Mansfield posed more threats and looked to be the side that would score first due to their energetic and attacking playing style. Tranmere’s best offerings were counter-attacks, in which they failed to impress. The ‘stags’ 26-year-old defender Malvind Benning came closest to opening the scoring from a free kick which was headed on to the bar. Fortunately for Tranmere, the ball would bounce on to the goalline and be cleared by the defence. Minutes later, Rovers winger Kieron Morris found that the afternoon would be tough in his pursuit of getting past a strong battling ‘stags’ defence as he tried to turn on the edge of the box and was met with the strength of the newly-recruited centre-half Farrend Rawson. At the other end, the visitors defended well through Peter Clarke who showed his qualities by getting in the way of a goal-bound attempt from the feet of midfielder George Maris. In another Mansfield attack soon after, Liam Ridehalgh did brilliantly to throw his body in the way to block an attempt from full-back Corey O’Keefe.
Tranmere’s defence had shown their many defensive qualities, including a great strength, in the opening twenty minutes. However, it was clear that they had to pose questions of the hosts’ defence before they found themselves one down.
Morris would come closest to opening the scoreline in favour of the visitors with a wonderful strike from 25 yards out, yet this was tipped around the post by Mansfield goalkeeper Marek Stech. This shot was the start of serious positives from Tranmere’s pursuit for an opening goal as full back Lee O’Connor would soon link up with winger Kieron Morris on the right side of Field Mill although nothing but a corner could be carved out from their play. However it wasn’t all good for Rovers, ex Tranmere forward Andy Cook was managing to frustrate Rovers centre half Emmanuel Monthe as he out strengthened him before trying to play his fellow forward Jordan Bowery in one-on-one with Davies but the Tranmere keeper was able to impress as he rushed off his feet to gobble the ball up. In the last move of the half, Cook was also able to move away from his markers in the box to rise highest at the far post, his header glancing wide.
Similar to the first half, Mansfield started the second half strongly and looked to be the more positive team as they continued to pose many threats towards the successful Tranmere defence. Davies, Clarke and Monthe defended well against three powerful goal bound attempts. Davies caught a header from Cook, Monthe blocked a shot from Cook with his foot and Clarke brilliantly blocked a powerful shot by throwing his body in the way of the ball on the edge of the box. Soon after a flurry of Tranmere corners at the other end, Mike Jackson made his first substitution as Calum Macdonald was replaced by Mark Ellis. This saw Ridehalgh being pushed from the heart of the defence into an attacking wing-back role. Mansfield tried their best from many set pieces to test Davies whilst Ridehalgh proved his qualities in defensive and attacking situations. He was able to flick a free kick clear and deliver a great cross to forward James Vaughan who should’ve been awarded a free kick. Rovers’ centre midfielders Jay Spearing and Ollie Banks tried their best to pose threats to the Mansfield goal yet Spearing’s move would miss the final man after his brilliant through ball to Otis Khan and Ollie Bank’s ambitious shot from 40 yards away failed to test the hosts’ keeper.
In the past week Tranmere goalkeeper Scott Davies has had some critics following his relatively poor Football League cup performance, it is only just to factor in his injury that he had come back from as he showed brilliant quality to get down and deny a long range attempt from youngster Tyrese Sinclair.
This would be the last move in an evenly contested game between two sides that should finish the league two campaign in high positions. The game certainly proved that Tranmere are great defensively as they were able to match Mansfield’s tricky and powerful forwards throughout a tough opening game to the season. However, more must be done to threaten the opponents defences that they will soon come to face .. again Tranmere manager Mike Jackson acknowledged this whilst hinting that his side’s summer recruitment was yet to be completed ‘We are happy with our defensive play, we aren’t happy with a draw and more must be done to win games, we are looking to announce something early on in the week that will help us win games in the future’.
Man of the match – Liam Ridehalgh – Amazing in both defence and attack.
6 clearances, 3 tackles won, 1 blocked shot, 3/6 ground duels won, 2/2 aerial duels won.
Tranmere are next in action on Saturday 19th September as they face Cheltenham Town at Prenton Park in League Two action.