Crawley Town meeting the opposition.

Crawley Town meeting the opposition.

Tranmere are on a great run of form at the moment. However, they still have a task on their hands as they aim to close down Forest Green to finish first in May. The two clubs will come head to head next weekend at Prenton Park, the next opponents for The Whites are Crawley Town away from home.

Ahead of this encounter at The People’s Pension Stadium, I spoke to Town fan Stephen Dimmock who gave his thoughts on how the season has been so far for the hosts, the transfer business completed in January and the controversial relationship that manager John Yems has with the media.

What were your expectations going into the season and what are they now as we enter the second half of the campaign?

I predicted the team to finish 10th before the season started and so far it has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. As for the rest of the campaign, we should hopefully see the return of our best central defender Jordan Tunnicliffe soon which I feel could make a big difference in our ability to hold onto leads.

I estimate at the moment we will finish around 10th-14th, as we have enough points and ability in the squad now to be out of relegation trouble but I don’t think the team is quite at the level needed for a sustained charge at the playoffs or promotion yet. 

I’m hoping to see a few of the younger players given time to develop more between now and August so we can come into the next campaign with a good chance, as the budget is a bit tight compared to some other teams in this division, plus those in the Conference that have been chucking money around like confetti such as Stockport and Wrexham.

What are your thoughts on those in charge at Crawley? John Yems is the gaffer having been appointed in 2019 and Town are owned by …?

The owner is still the Turkish steel businessman Ziya Eren who took over the club back in 2016 and he occasionally comes and visits the club, although COVID issues I think have limited that recently. He helped prevent the club from suffering financially during the pandemic which has been great as I was extremely worried what might happen back when it first hit the UK. 

Recruitment of players was pretty dodgy for a while as we have had a habit of signing players from non-league or academies and then not giving them any game time at all (which made the signings bizarre seeing that we don’t currently have an official reserve or youth set up) but I do think Erdem Konyar, the current technical director, has admitted this wasn’t sustainable and is trying to be more careful about having too many players in the squad, which is needed for a club our size.

Manager John Yems has had varying degrees of popularity in recent times, with some fans that have continued to support him throughout the season whilst others have been very critical of his methods and tactics at times, as well as his behaviour during press interviews. To give credit to him, the performances generally have improved a lot (apart from Tuesday night) since changing the formation to 5-3-2, especially in regards to the defence. 

However, I do wish he took more responsibility when things aren’t going to plan instead of needlessly lashing out at players and fans whenever the team lose, which has happened quite a few times during his tenure. I think he will very likely be around until the end of the season due to the support he’s had from the board and large sections of the fans but it would be interesting to see what happens in the summer with quite a lot of players out of contract. 

Who would you say are the hosts’ danger men and who do you see as the stand out visiting players?

Ashley Nadesan has really turned his form around since he came back from his last suspension (which was in the FA Cup match) and as a result his pace can now be a huge problem for defenders. Tom Nichols has also been on a decent streak lately having scored a couple of great goals this month whilst Joel Lynch has been a valuable asset at the back. 38-year-old Glenn Morris is still one of the best goalkeepers in this division and I will be very sad when he retires.

As for Tranmere, I’ve seen that Charlie Jolley is on a good goalscoring run at the moment and the evergreen Peter Clarke would surely be such a great leader to have in your team.

The last time the two sides met was the 6th November as Rovers won 1-0 at The People’s Pension Stadium in the first round of the FA Cup. How would you describe the course of that particular ninety minutes?

That FA Cup defeat was for me the nadir of the season as it was our sixth loss in a row and even though we had a lot of the ball in the second half, we never looked like scoring at all. The evening ended on a sour note when Yems had to be pulled away from a number of disgruntled supporters after the final whistle. 

At the time I was of the opinion that we needed to change the manager as I didn’t have much confidence Yems would be able to sort things out. However, he did change the formation and brought James Tilley back into the fold not too long after that, which I think has been key in getting away from the teams down at the bottom of the table.

How do you see the upcoming fixture panning out, score prediction etc, and do you believe it will pose different questions than the previous meeting did?

I think it will be different from the previous match as we were going through a really horrid run of form at the time and Tranmere have since shot up into the automatic promotion places, and have started to score more goals too. However I can see this being a pretty boring 0-0 with defence being the king, especially if we have 3 fit centre backs available to start.

What starting eleven do you think Yems will select and how would you describe his playing style?

My guess will be; Morris, Tilley, Francilette (if fit), Lynch, Craig, Tsaroulla, Francomb, Powell, Matthews, Nadesan, Nichols. Subs; Seymour, Davies, Frost, Ashford, Kastrati, Grego-Cox, Marshall.

I must admit I struggle to identify what kind of philosophy John Yems has (which is one of his weaknesses) but at least he’s worked out playing three centre halves is the best method for our defence, especially with Tony Craig.

Thinking of the previous encounters between the two sides, what games/moments stand out as being memorable for you?

My personal favourite was in 2019 when Panutche Camara, who recently played at the Africa Cup of Nations for Guinea-Bissau, scored from a great run to wrap up a 3-1 win.

As we’re now halfway into the January transfer window, who would you like Crawley to sign and would you say there are any particular positions that need to be strengthened? Have any outgoings/incomings been completed so far?

We’ve signed a few younger players, such as goalkeeper Taylor Seymour and midfielder Caleb Watts, although Watts only lasted 18 minutes on his debut last weekend before having to go off injured, so hopefully it’s not too long out for him. 

As for outgoings, defender Tom Dallison left the club this month which I was pretty sad about as I thought he was decent and a reliable option, whilst Blondy Noukeu and Amrit Bansul-McNulty’s loan spells ended. 

However, the most notable business was Joel Lynch agreeing to extend his contract for another 18 months, which was crucial to get that sorted due to his vast experience and ability to lead the defence.

For the rest of the window I feel we need to sign a centre back as a short term option just as cover, as we have been playing George Francomb in that position for the last two games due to injuries. Ideally I’d like to sign a box-to-box midfielder too, but feel that may be tricky, plus for players at the club that aren’t playing any games to be moved on either on loan or permanently in order to save costs on the wage bill. 

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