Sutton United meeting the opposition.
Tranmere are now back in good form following wins against Mansfield Town and Harrogate Town. However, both of those wins came at home and one of Micky Mellon’s side’s issues this campaign has been their form on the road. Up next for the Whites is Sutton United at Gander Green Lane, Matt Gray’s team sitting just outside the play-offs in their first season in the EFL.
The two clubs last met in September at Prenton Park, the ninety minutes resulting in a 1-0 victory for the visitors when Rovers were aiming to find their best eleven as Mellon had a rebuilding task to do. However, Sutton have managed to continue their great form and will be incredibly pleased with how they have done. United have a few good goal scorers with seven adding five or more to their tally thus Rovers will have to be at their best if they are to climb further up the table.
Ahead of the game, I caught up with Gandermonium who gave their thoughts on Sutton’s season so far and spoke of their hopes for the match ahead as well as for the remaining games.
Sutton United are currently placed 8th in the League Two table, how great has this season been for yourselves and what would you say are the main reasons for a strong start to life in the EFL?
It’s been an enjoyable first season in the FL. New grounds and being competitive on the pitch has helped! The main reasons for this were continuity, with Matt retaining much of the key players from last year’s title win and then adding a bit of depth and quality to what we already had. The fact that the team operates as a unit and never gives in helps too. No superstars or egos here.
What were your expectations going into the season and how do they match with the expectations that you have now as we enter the final few games of the league season? Would you say that promotion is a real possibility?
A lot of people thought we’d struggle, but I think most at GGL expected us to be largely ok and stay up, barring any disasters. But I’m not sure anyone thought we’d be at the top end of the table for so long. As for promotion, I don’t know. We’re in a real run of injuries at the moment and we’re properly stretched. I think an unlikely shot at nicking 3rd has probably gone, but getting a play-off spot would be a great achievement. Not sure we have the depth to kick on in the play offs, but you never know with this lot.
40-year-old Matt Gray is Sutton United manager and has been since his appointment in 2019, how would you describe his time at the club so far and are you optimistic about the future with him at the helm?
The fact he’s been inducted into the SUFC ‘hall of fame’ already should tell you all you need to know about his time here! He had a tough start, but the club stuck with him and we’ve seen that faith repaid in spades over the last 2 seasons. If we carry on as we are, he’s bound to attract the attention of others, but hopefully he’ll be here for a season or two yet so we can establish ourselves at this level.
Who is the owner of Sutton and what is their current relationship with the fanbase like?
Everyone is. There’s a couple of investors involved and one has 25% of the shares, but we don’t have one main owner as such. We’re still quite non-League in that regard, lots of people who’ve given time & money to help us get here.
Who would you say are your side’s stand out players and where will the key battles be on Saturday afternoon?
Depends who’s fit after the bare bones side we put out against Swindon! David Ajiboye’s been very good this season from out wide and he should feature. Ben Goodliffe at the back has been superb all season too, proper old school defender.
How do you see the upcoming battle panning out and do you believe this game will pose different questions than the previous encounter (Tranmere lost 1-0 at home to Sutton in mid-November) did? If so, why?
As mentioned, we’re struggling for fit bodies at the moment, so would take a draw. Because of this there’s likely to be several differences from the side that played at Prenton Park before Xmas. Issac Olaofe who scored that day for instance probably won’t feature. I don’t think we’ll play any differently, but it may just come down to who’s strongest on the day.
What starting eleven will be selected by Gray and what do you believe will be his opted playing style?
See previous answers with regards to line up. I just don’t know! We’ll almost certainly play 442 however as Matt rarely deviates from that and prefers that formation as it suits our resources best. As always, we’ll defend hard, look to attack at pace when we can and get it wide. I wouldn’t be amazed to see Tranmere have a lot of the ball possession wise either.
What moments/goals/experiences stand out for yourself in previous meetings between Tranmere and Sutton?
The main one is from our National League days together. Our first win at Prenton Park with club legend Craig Dundas scoring the goal that got us the 3 points. He’s still around as our fitness coach and makes the odd appearance off the bench at the ripe old age of 41. Apart from that, we’ve always enjoyed our trips to Tranmere. Always been made welcome and never really got any of the cobblers we get elsewhere with people looking down their noses at us.
Touching on the transfers that the club were able to complete in January in terms of both incomings and outgoings, how influential have they proved to be in their time at the club so far?
In true Non-League fashion, the transfer window was pretty much a non-event for us. With no resources to bring anyone new in, our only action was to pick up Stuart Nelson from National South as cover in goal (400 FL apps, so plenty of experience) and see 3rd choice forward Tobi Sho-Silva depart to Carlisle for a small fee. Barring the recall of youngsters like Adam Lovatt and Kylian Kouassi from loans at the likes of Tonbridge and Chesham in the last couple of weeks, we’ve still got the same squad we started the season with.
Gander Green Lane, formerly a ground with a 3G playing surface, is the home for Saturday afternoon’s fixture.