Harrogate (a) report and Accrington (h) preview:

Two games, one week. From league to cup, what happened? What is soon taking place?

On Tuesday night, Tranmere Rovers won their second league encounter in six. This came a few days after sacking manager Mike Jackson as performances turned sour. Now, ‘things’ are looking more positive. It has always been evident, on paper, that this season Rovers have a great squad on paper. Players such as James Vaughan and Corey Blackett-Taylor can fire the ‘whites’ to victory and the strong defensive veteran Peter Clarke can keep the Rovers in the games with his amazing ability in battle and his leadership to his fellow defenders. The squad just needs a manager to lead them to victory and to inspire them to a high quality performance on a consistent basis. Dawes and Parkinson were the two interim managers that inspired the team to victory with a very high quality performance in midweek.

Tranmere travelled to Yorkshire, to face Harrogate, and left with a sense of pride with what they had put on display. Otis Khan got his first goal contribution of the season, after signing for the Merseyside club from Mansfield Town in the summer, with a beautifully placed finish into the bottom corner of the net out of the reach of experienced ‘Sulphurite’ goalkeeper James Belshaw. It was evident that Dawes and Parkinson had worked well with the time that they had, as the performance was a complete contrast to those seen recently. Going into this game, Rovers’ last two league encounters finished in a 4-0 defeat away at Crawley Town and a 1-0 home defeat to Morecambe on Halloween. The Halloween performance frightened Jackson’s role, he was soon sacked. On Tuesday night, Tranmere were perfect from the first whistle. The defence defended appropriately to stop any real threat from their hosts, the midfield supplied the attack and the front men put the Harrogate keeper under threat many times across the evening’s fixture. Corey Blackett-Taylor showed the quality that he possessed as he ran at the opposing defence which saw him create many chances for the other forwards as well as coming very close to firing past the shot stopper, Belshaw, as he saw himself placed on the initial eleven for the first time this season. It was recently revealed that Blackett-Taylor had a heart issue, it was nothing too serious but Mike Jackson thought it was better to not risk the forward’s health as he was undergoing checks on his heart rate through different activities at many different speeds and exercise difficulties. It’s certainly beneficial for Rovers to have the youngster available and his performance in midweek proved this. The pace that he possesses was shown in the first minute, driving forwards past the hosts defence before firing just over the bar. Little in the means of attack was created by Simon Weaver’s side, this was a testament to Rovers’ solidarity. The best chance of the game for the hosts came when Davies was unable to catch from a cross in the last minute of added time, the ball fell to a Harrogate man but again Tranmere were able to defend perfectly. Other than that, Harrogate had a succession of corners and ‘pop shots’ from a wide range and that failed to phase their opponents goalkeeper. In truth, this was a game dominated by Rovers’ attacking attempts and although the scoreline finished looking like a close game had just been played out. The scoreline should’ve been wider. In the last minute of the first half, Vaughan broke through one on one with the hosts’ keeper but managed to get only as close as the post. It would’ve possibly resulted in a goal if he had passed to midfielder Paul Lewis who was running alongside him, he was placed in a better position. However, with a successful performance going forwards and with Vaughan as the attacking talisman Rovers fans should be proud of the performance from their number 9. Kieron Morris may have been able to double the scoreline in the first half, the ball falling to the forward at the edge of the box and he volleyed it at the first time of asking. This strike was defended perfectly, unfortunately it was his own team-mate that was the defender. Thus, with Blackett-Taylor’s pace as he has recently returned from injury and with the attacking ability of all of the other Tranmere forwards; in particular, James Vaughan the ‘whites’ shall look forward to the weekend with a lot of excitement as they head into the first round of their FA Cup campaign. Speaking of attacking threat Corey Blackett-Taylor was, unsurprisingly, Tranmere’s man of the match. Ian Dawes and Andy Parkinson, in their first game of interim management, were able to reignite the pride and confidence in a beaten Tranmere team and excite the Tranmere faithful.

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Now it’s time to look forward to this weekend, it’s looking extremely positive in terms of availability; it has been revealed in Thursday’s press conference that the only player unable to perform is Stefan Payne who is recovering from a recent operation. This means that Morgan Ferrier is able to grace the turf of Prenton Park, for the first time this campaign, since picking up a difficult injury. This is very beneficial to Tranmere’s attacking threat as last season Vaughan and Ferrier partnered up together and managed to share a run of great goal contributions that should’ve kept Tranmere in league one, if it wasn’t for COVID restrictions and the ‘unfair demotion’.

The first challenge of Rovers’ FA Cup campaign is Accrington Stanley, the cup tie will be played at Tranmere’s Prenton Park stadium. ‘Accy’ are managed by Merseyside-born John Coleman who has been their manager for six seasons. Nineteen seasons, if you take into account his role as manager at the ‘Wham’ Stadium from 1999-2012. John Coleman had a fairly average playing career in the lower leagues. He scored 49 goals in 89 appearances for Southport in the mid 1980’s as a forward and he featured for clubs such as Runcorn and Macclesfield Town. However, it is as an Accrington Stanley manager that he has truly impressed. At ‘Stanley’ he has won four promotions as manager, taking the club from the seventh to third tier, across a 19 year period that started in 1999. 

Accrington Stanley are a tough team to beat, they are currently placed 14th in league one after winning four in seven league encounters and their goals have been spread fairly across a group of players. One player that the Tranmere defence should keep an eye on this weekend is 25-year-old midfielder Dion Charles who has so far got three goal creations in the five appearances he has made for the Lancashire club, he joined the club last year after impressing for Southport. Joe Pritchard is another player to keep an eye on.

Last season, Accrington Stanley finished 17th in the league one table. The season ended on a PPG, points per game basis, Accrington had 1.14PPG compared to Tranmere’s 0.94 although the latter had a game in hand. They exited two cups, FA and EFL cup, in the first round with narrow home defeats to Crewe Alexandra and Sunderland. They managed to reach the quarter finals of the EFL Trophy, winning their group by 4 points and getting past Bolton and Fleetwood before they met Salford City at Moor Lane and were defeated 2-1. 

This pre season, they bolstered their ranks with the signings of young forwards Ryan Cassidy and Thomas Allan, on loan until the end of the season. Aswell as capturing the services of 25-year-old defender Cameron Burgess from Scunthorpe United, the Scotsman was on loan at Salford City throughout the last campaign. These are a few signings from the list of many, Tranmere’s visitors this weekend certainly had a strong recruitment process over the summer as they look to progress in all areas moving forwards.

From my understanding, Tranmere has met Accrington Stanley on ten different occasions. The most recent meeting being a 2-1 victory at the ‘Wham’ stadium in league one action, one game before the league season was forced to finish early due to COVID restrictions. It was a great day in Lancashire for the Rovers faithful who travelled in their thousands.

Played – 10     Won – 6     Drew – 2      Lost – 2 

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Interim manager, Mike Jackson’s assistant, Ian Dawes met the press to discuss this weekend’s FA Cup encounter;

“The big thing for us moving forward is number one, the players looking like a team on the pitch, both with and without the ball and number two, to play a little bit more relaxed when in possession. We want to enjoy having the ball more, be more positive and create more chances. We want to take the game to the opposition more often. When you are low on confidence, and things are not working out, you can go into a little bit of a shell, and you can be nervous in possession and make mistakes. One mistake can lead to another and then everyone is giving the ball away. The players on Tuesday realised they have to get over that, enjoy the game and if mistakes happen, we have to respond in a more positive manner. Play on the front foot and enjoy the game! The big thing for us now is momentum, we have to not take just the result on Tuesday but part of the performance into Saturday’s game. We know Tuesday’s performance wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a good start. There were some positive signs without possession but more with the ball, we created a few chances and arguably could have scored more on the night.  We have to take that positivity into Saturday’s game and not fear anything of Accrington and go and take the game to them. The FA Cup is a fantastic competition. I was lucky a couple of seasons ago when I was at Blackpool, we played Arsenal in the third round and it was a great occasion for everyone. It is a competition where anything can happen. We know we have to be at our best to win the game because Accrington are the type of team that if you don’t turn up and be at your best, they will hurt and beat you. If we turn up with the right mentality, we can take the game to them and get a result.”

(quotes taken, as ever, from the club’s official website) ‘https://www.tranmererovers.co.uk/news/2020/november/dawes-previews-this-weekends-fa-cup-tie/

—————————————————————————————————————Thank you very much for reading, stay safe and keep supporting our beloved Tranmere!

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3 Comments

  1. Ethan,
    You have a great reporting style and shall look forward to following future reports.
    Its nice that you not only cover the match but events around the club and forthcoming game previews.
    Living away from Wirral this is very useful as a long distance follower of the Rovers.

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