Barrow AFC meeting the opposition.

Barrow – meeting the opposition.

Tranmere got back to winning ways after a heavy 4-0 defeat, with a 1-0 win at home to Stevenage on Tuesday night at Prenton Park. The defeat brought a fantastic run of results to an end, a run that consisted of a 2-0 over Barrow on Boxing Day.

Since that festive encounter, The Bluebirds have been on a mixed run of form with two League wins from seven outings. However, they will be heading into the fixture against Rovers at Holker Street this Weekend in a positive frame of mind after beating promotion candidates Northampton Town 1-0 on the road.

Ahead of the game I spoke to Barrow supporter Taylor Nelson who gave his thoughts on the season so far, the transfer window that saw the return of John Rooney and discussed how he feels the upcoming ninety minutes will be played out.

What were your expectations going into the season and how do they compare to those that you have now as we enter the second half of the campaign?

Honestly, I didn’t really know what to expect from this season. Our first season back in the EFL last campaign was a real struggle and I think we were served with somewhat of a reality check. There is quite a step-up when it comes to running a club in the EFL compared to a club in the National League League and we had to learn that the hard way. Surviving was massive for us and, personally, I wanted to see us make an improvement on that and learn from the past twelve months. It hasn’t been easy at all again this time around but I’m hopeful that we’ll continue to be in a position where we can keep our heads above water and maintain our league status again. The lower end of mid-table mediocrity seems to be where we’ll be headed.

Mark Cooper is Barrow’s manager and this is his first season in charge of the club. How would you describe Cooper’s time so far and are you optimistic about the future with him at the helm?

Cooper’s appointment was a real indication that the board were keen to learn from the previous season’s errors. We went with an experienced appointment with somebody who has a proven track record at this level and in the EFL with clubs like Swindon and, more recently, Forest Green, opposed to the inexperienced managers we went with previously. It hasn’t been easy for him. He’s come into a squad that he is still working on moulding to his own style and I think we’re only just going to start seeing what the blueprint is. Again, it hasn’t been easy and there have been a minority of doubters but I do think the mass majority see that he is probably best equipped to bring us forward. I see this season as one which he can start to build for the future and the summer will be a real indication as to what he can do with the club.

Who would you say are your stand out men and who, in your opinion, are Tranmere’s key players?

Former Tranmere midfielder Ollie Banks is probably the pick of the bunch when it comes to players to watch for. I remember quite a few Rovers fans being disappointed when he was allowed to join us in January last year. He often dictates the tempo of our game and is a real menace from set-pieces, as highlighted quite a few times this season – in particular against Barnsley in the FA Cup recently. Tranmere are well-known for a defence-first approach. Interestingly, aside from Peter Clarke, I don’t think there’s many real standout names in the defence but they obviously work together excellently.

How do you see the upcoming fixture panning out, score prediction etc, and do you believe this game will pose different questions than the previous encounter did (Tranmere won 2-0 on Boxing Day)? If so, why?

We’ll take a lot of confidence from our victory against Northampton and I’m hoping there is more to come from this group of players. However, Tranmere’s quality is obvious and I do expect a mightily difficult encounter. We often maintain a lot of possession but need to do more with it. Against a side who defend as stoutly as Tranmere do, we have to take our opportunities when they are afforded to us – otherwise, we’ll fail to get the breakthrough and that has been the case far too often. I think the first goal of the game will be massively important.

What starting eleven do you think will be selected by Mark Cooper and how would you describe the playing style he’s implemented onto his side?

I expect a largely similar side to that who played in midweek. It was a fantastic performance that has certainly lifted the mood a little after a pretty worrying few weeks, admittedly. We’ll look to keep the ball and work our way into the box however the recent acquisition of Aaron Amadi-Holloway provides us with another route which we were lacking for too long.

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

None more so than that fateful night at Holker Street, unfortunately! Losing a game from 3-1 up so late into the game can never be forgotten. It certainly changes your perception on a result being ‘done.’

As the January transfer window has now finished, how would you describe the business The Bluebirds were able to complete in terms of incomings and outgoings?

The final 48 hours or so of the transfer window were massive for us. We brought John Rooney back to the club who was hugely influential in our promotion campaign and took no time in reintroducing himself into the team during the week. It was great to see him back in a Barrow shirt. Niall Canavan also joined the club from Bradford which I feel is somewhat of a statement. Capturing the captain of Bradford City on Deadline Day is certainly a way to improve your team and make the teams around you take notice. Elsewhere, we really bolstered our striking options which was massively important given our lack of goals throughout the season and I’m glad to see Amadi get off the mark. The only negative is that Offrande Zanzala, who was loaned out to Exeter in an attempt for him to regain his confidence after a poor spell with us, suffered an injury and will now require surgery. It’s a shame that what I would say was the marquee signing of the summer hasn’t quite worked out.

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