Cheltenham Town (H) – Match report.

Tranmere Rovers 0 v Cheltenham Town 3

Prenton Park

Saturday 19th September 2020

Opinionated match report – how can we improve?

Ultimately the performance against Cheltenham at Prenton Park wasn’t anywhere near ‘good enough’. Thus, for this weekend I’m going to change the type of match report I usually provide. I’m going to try and be as honest as possible in an opinionated match report where I will detail where I believe we have gone wrong, portraying similar mistakes that we have shown in previous games throughout Mike Jackson’s tenure. 

Let’s be honest, playing against Cheltenham we expect to face questions of our quality from our opponents. Cheltenham Town are tough opponents, they always have been. However, when Tranmere perform in a way as poor as we did we as Tranmere fans should be disappointed and just like the opponents should ask of us we should also ask the team and the manager questions. Why did we start with five at the back and one up front at home? Why did play in a way that looked shy of any great interest and creativity? Why did our defence concede three?, regardless of the quality that the Cheltenham side possesses.

I aim to go into depth on all these points and explain how we can improve in our upcoming games, the next being a tough away encounter in Cambridge as Mike Jackson’s side face Cambridge United at the Abbey Stadium.

First of all, I believe that Jackson set his side out in the wrong formation. I don’t understand why we continue to leave experienced striker James Vaughan without a partner, I also don’t understand the need to play five at the back when we know that we are capable of defending well. In my honest opinion, Mike Jackson needs to take more risks and set a Tranmere side out to attack the opponents that would certainly be a way of reaching his wishes of creating a ‘Tranmere side that Tranmere fans are proud of’. From previous games, Tranmere have played two competitive cup games and their league campaign started at Mansfield Town the week before, it is understandable that we struggle to create thus I don’t understand why Ollie Banks was left out of the midfield and only brought on with ten minutes left on the clock .. he is a midfielder that is certainly able to create good attacking opportunities from situations where nothing positively attractive looks likely. It is also worrying that we continue to spread high ‘hoof’ balls, which have little success rate, across the pitch. I believe we would get into better areas and have more success if we played fast-paced attractive short passes, the performances would certainly be more attractive and it would save Vaughan who is isolated on his own trying his best to header balls that he has no chance of reaching. Aswell as Ollie Banks in midfield, I also believe that Liam Feeney should’ve been used from the off, he admitted after the game that he is in perfect fitness as his club,Blackpool, who we have loaned him from were one of the firsts to come back into pre-season training. Maybe he wasn’t used as he was only announced this week and it may take time to bed into the squad through training sessions etc, I believe that his amazing attacking performance yesterday is good enough to guarantee a start next week. I believe that he is our best attacker and he created so much yesterday when he replaced Mark Ellis in the first half. Thus, I believe that the team selection and playing style is something that we have to improve on. 

Yesterday, it also seemed to my eyes that players looked off the pace and disinterested in the game. This has to be another thing that Jackson needs to improve on as we need to reach a good level of fitness to become strong in both defending and attacking situations to get points next to our name on the league table. In my opinion, if the Tranmere manager puts out an eleven that are capable of attacking their opponents the team will look more interested and the quality that we have on paper will shine.

Aswell as in front of goal, we struggled defensively against Cheltenham Town’s attack. We conceded twice from corners, the first seeming to be from a lack of communication and the second an own goal. We also conceded from a position where we played with a high line of defence as we searched for a goal at the other end. Thus, it is clear that we aren’t perfect in defence although we are usually solid. Again, I believe the best way to combat this is to play with players who are able to perform at the other end as we would place less focus on our defensive play thus pressing the opponents defence instead of having our defence pressurised. This may mean less mistakes in front of our goal.

The defence also isn’t helped by the players that have been chosen to play in midfield, Jay Spearing and Paul Lewis both played poorly yesterday as they both looked unfit and failed to provide any sort of strength in front of the Tranmere defence. This may be an area that Mike Jackson needs to talk about with club owner Mark Palios as new recruitments may need to be signed, Tranmere are only able to field: Ollie Banks, Paul Lewis and the experienced Jay Spearing in the centre of the park. 

However, we also must look to work on our set pieces as we look poor when there are many in our box although we have many defenders to strive in those positions and we look like we struggle to be successful when it is us that has a corner.

The game against Cheltenham showed that we have many things to work on thus hopefully the following week at Solar Campus is successful in targeting the improvements and we should also hope for a more progressive line-up next Saturday in our third league game of the season.

Thank you for reading, let’s try to keep the faith and continue to back the ‘whites’ in our upcoming games despite doing this from behind a screen.

Tranmere Stats:

Possession 46%

Pass accuracy 60%

Shots 8

Shots on target 1

Cheltenham Stats:

Possession 54%

Pass accuracy 65%

Shots 9

Shots on target 3 

Goals:

Tranmere – 0

Cheltenham – 3 : Raglan 6’, Williams 20’, Lewis (OG) 39’

Mike Jackson’s ‘whites’ are next in action on Saturday 26th September as they face Cambridge United at the Abbey Stadium. Former Tranmere striker Paul Mullin may face his old club, he is in great form so far this season.

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