Mansfield Town meeting the opposition.
If Tranmere are to be promoted, their results will need to improve quickly as they have won only one of their last seven games. In their most recent outing, Rovers conceded three against Northampton Town as they started very poorly, a late comeback wasn’t efficient enough as they failed to bring a point back to Merseyside.
Micky Mellon’s defence has been one of his team’s strong points this season, however this hasn’t been the case lately so they will need to work hard if they are to keep a clean sheet against Nigel Clough’s flying Mansfield Town. Clough’s team boasts some of League Two’s finest talents, Matty Longstaff being one.
The Stags are placed 6th and are top of the division’s form table when looking at the last ten games with seven wins and three draws. Although they’re level on points with Friday night’s opponents, they have three games in hand to progress themselves further.
Ahead of the game, I spoke to Sam Binch from ‘MTFC Musings’ about all matters relating to each club, he gave his damning thoughts on Tranmere’s performance at Field Mill earlier in the campaign and named the area in which the key battles for the 90 minutes may be found.
Starting the conversation off, how long have you followed Mansfield Town and what started your love for them?
I went to my first game as a five year old and have supported them ever since. They’re my hometown club.
Could you tell us a little bit about ‘MTFC Musings’?
It was formerly a blog but now mainly a twitter account providing opinion on all things Mansfield.
What were your expectations going into the season and do they match the expectations that you have going into the final stages of the campaign?
I expected us to be in the top 7 and challenge for the automatic places. We were 9th in L2 after Clough came in last season and made significant improvements to the squad over the summer. That wasn’t looking like a very bright prediction in October!
Boss Nigel Clough was appointed in 2020, how would you describe his time at the club so far and are you optimistic about the future with him at the helm?
Yes I am. He navigated a spell earlier in the season of 14 games without a win. Most managers wouldn’t have survived it, but such was the board’s confidence that he would turn it around they stuck with him and are getting their just rewards. The run of form we’re currently on is incredible.
Who are the owners of Mansfield and what is their current relationship with the fanbase like?
The Radfords are the owners and they have pretty much 100% backing from the fans for saving the club and pumping money in season after season. They currently reside in Portugal so the day to day running of the club is handled by David Sharpe.
Who would you say are your side’s stand out players and where will the key battles be on Friday night?
Stephan McLaughlin and Stephen Quinn. Tranmere’s right hand side will have their work cut out as almost all our attacks go down our left. Rhys Oates can create something out of nothing also, an explosive striker.
How do you see the upcoming game panning out, and do you believe this game will pose different questions than the previous encounter (A 2-0 win for Mansfield at Field Mill in late October) did? If so, why?
Tranmere were the worst side I’ve seen at Field Mill this season, combine that with our early season woes and it’s incredible to think that this game is a part of a promotion race. It will be a tight affair but I’m still confident we can come out on top.
What starting eleven will be selected by Clough and what do you believe will be his opted playing style?
Bishop, Hewitt, Hawkins, Rawson, McLaughlin, Stirk, Quinn, Longstaf, Murphy, Akins, Oates.
4-4-2 diamond. Most of the play will be down our left hand side and to try and work the ball into the box.
Friday will be the 84th competitive outing between the two sides, what are some of your stand out moments/games/goals from the games that you have experienced?
Mansfield 6-1 Tranmere back in 2002. We ended up getting relegated so it was one of the most memorable moments of that season.
Touching on the transfers that the club were able to complete in the January window, would you say you’re happy with the incomings and outgoings that The Stags managed to get over the line?
Very happy. Matty Longstaff, Lucas Akins and Jamie Murphy are quality signings for League Two, without a doubt.
Field Mill, the home of Mansfield Town. Tranmere were defeated when they visited in October.