Tranmere v Sutton United FC
Meeting the Opposition – Gandermonium
Following Tranmere’s narrow away defeat to Crewe on New Year’s Day, an afternoon in which many chances failed to be taken, Micky Mellon’s Rovers are back in action this weekend as they take on Sutton United.
Since their promotion to the EFL, Matt Gray’s Sutton have finished just outside the play-offs, featured in a Papa John’s Trophy Final and currently sit in a respectable 12th place thus Tranmere will be up against tough opponents as they look to get back to form.
Ahead of the game, I spoke to Gandermonium who told me about all things U’s.
After finishing just outside the play-offs last season, Sutton are currently positioned 12th and have won their last three games 2-1. How would you describe the campaign so far?
It’s been tough up to Xmas. We lost key defender Ben Goodliffe to a knee ligament injury opening day and it didn’t get much better from there with up to 12 first team players unavailable at a couple of points due to injuries. So we’ve had to scrap tooth and nail for every point so far pretty much. We’ve done ok though and stayed afloat. We looked fairly comfortable before the festive period when we got a couple of faces back and kicked on with 9pts from 9 and now we’re just 3pts off the play offs all of a sudden. Bloody daft if you ask me!
How has last summer’s recruitment fared? Players such as goalkeeper Jack Rose and winger David Ajiboye were brought in. Who should the club be looking at signing this month?
Mixed success here. Rose has been fine between the sticks and settled in nicely. Decent signing. Elsewhere, defender Aaron Pierre came in with plenty of pedigree, but needed time to get fit but hasn’t yet featured much for one reason or another. Winger Luke Gambin played probably more minutes for Malta than us, Josh Neufville on the other flank started well, but has gone a little quiet lately. However, he’s a youngster and because of injuries has featured probably more than Matt was planning. So probably need a break. We also brought in Charley Kendall on loan from Lincoln for the season, but that just didn’t work at all and he went back this week.
Getting Ajiboye back on loan from Peterborough will give us a bit of spark and hopefully Matt can bring in a new striker, as scoring goals has been an issue this season.
Matt Gray has been manager since 2019, it is his first stint as gaffer and has had great success. What are your thoughts on him, his playing style and the relationship he has built with supporters?
Matt’s a pretty astute guy. Knows how he wants his side to play and set up. No frills. Takes a lot of time over the details and fine margins too. Whilst we can be functional at times on the pitch, I don’t think we get as much credit as we deserve sometimes because of it. Naturally, with the success he’s brought to GGL, he’s a popular guy round here, but he’s genuine with it. Always happy to stop and chat to fans in the bar after games etc. Nice guy.
Bruce Elliott is Chairman. Thoughts on him, what would you like to see changed at the club in the near future?
Bruce is about as close as we can get to being fan owned and not be in the general sense. Fan since the 60’s and started out in the Supporters club, he’s been a steady, sensible hand on the tiller for many years now. A lot of the board are similar too. As for changes, we just need to catch up off the pitch to on the pitch now as making that jump from resolutely non-league volunteers based setup to FT Football League is massive. But we’re getting there. Another year or so and I think we’ll largely have that sorted.
Will Randall is top scorer with six strikes in 22 games. How would you describe his playing style and who are the team’s other key players?
Will plays wide, but I personally would say he’s more of a 10 that would normally play behind the front two anywhere else! Not a traditional winger, but he’s a nice player, decent with the ball at his feet and a very good striker of the ball. Loves coming in off the flank and whipping it to the far corner as seen on NYD against the Wombles. Other key players are skipper Craig Eastmond who’s been massive this season with helping us grind out results with the injuries around him. Ben Goodliffe at the back is also a big player for us. Glad he’s back fit now!
Where will the key battles be played out on Saturday?
I think midfield will be key, as that tends to be where most of our real energy and threat comes from. Be nice to see David Ajiboye back out wide causing problems too.
Score prediction? The last meeting between Tranmere and Sutton was on October 8th as goals from Kane Hemmings and Paul Lewis won the game for Rovers at Gander Green Lane.
I hate doing these! We’re definitely not the side we were back in October and seem to have found a little bit of form of late. If we can keep a first choice XI out for a while we might kick on from here. I’d take a draw for sure, but I wouldn’t say no to a cheeky, narrow away win either.
Thoughts on Tranmere? Where do you see them finishing in May?
To be honest, Tranmere are one of the more respected clubs amongst the GGL faithful going back to the National League days. Unlike a lot of FL sides that drop down, they seemed to twig quite quickly that moping about and crying about playing ‘tinpot’ sides in their cup finals doesn’t get you out of there, winning games does. So they rolled up their sleeves and got on with it. Also never really had a lot of that patronising bollocks off Tranmere fans we got elsewhere either. So plus points for that too.
As for where they’ll finish in May, not sure to be honest! Looked good at GGL in that little run of wins they had, but have been up and down either side of that. Young side too I believe, so that might hurt them in tight games later in the season where experience can be the difference. I’d expect them to be sniffing around the playoffs though that’s for sure.
Tranmere’s last home game was a 3-0 League Two win against Doncaster Rovers.