Tranmere Rovers are back on home soil this Saturday afternoon as they take on Newport County, The Whites were beaten 2-0 away at Gillingham last weekend.
Graham Coughlan’s Newport have failed to win any of their last five and they head to Merseyside looking for their first consecutive set of away victories at Prenton Park.
On Friday, Tranmere recalled creative midfielder Rhys Hughes from his loan at Chester. The 21-year-old scored one and assisted one during his time at the Deva Stadium. Will he bring a change to the starting eleven?
I spoke to Newport County supporter Jamie Harris from the 1912 Exiles Podcast.
Newport County finished last season 11th in League Two and are currently placed 18th. How would you describe the campaign so far?
It’s been disappointing for us to be honest. After a strong playoff run which faded away at the back end of last season, that form continued into this season and we parted company with manager James Rowberry. At one stage we were fearing the drop, and while we’re certainly not safe yet, we’re improving, and all of us at the pod believe we should have enough to stay up. But it’s not been glamourous, or all that exciting… we’ve been in 18th place for what feels like months now!
In the January transfer window, players such as Port Vale Midfielder Harry Charsley and Manchester United Forward Charlie McNeill were recruited. Were all the issues that needed to be addressed focused on?
Charsley has been a real find for us. Too frequently we’ve been a bit lightweight in midfield, both in and out of possession. And while teams can still cut through us with ease, Charsley has given a bit of bite in the middle of the park – and he’s chipped in with a few goals too, which is another issue that needed to be addressed – creativity going forwards. McNeill – and Kavanagh, another young forward on loan from Middlesbrough (Graham’s son) – have come in to inject some energy up top. They’re both clearly talented, but raw at this level.
Newport’s manager is former Mansfield Town and Sheffield United U23 gaffer Graham Coughlan, he was appointed last October. What are your thoughts on him, his playing style and relationship with fans?
I think Coughlan’s appointment has gone down generally ok with fans. Under Coughlan we have become a bit more pragmatic in our approach, and more difficult to beat, but we’re not really setting the world alight. Coughlan has only lost 5 league games since joining us in October – we’d lost 9 before that. We’re still conceding silly goals, but fewer than before. The downside of solidifying our defensive approach has been a lack of goals up top. We have only scored more than one goal in 5 league games under him – and never more than 2. But I think the fans appreciate the turnaround he has managed to achieve – we really did fear for the drop in the autumn.
The Exiles are owned by The Supporters Trust. What are your thoughts on that and the plans that the Trust has for the club?
We were in a sticky situation a few years ago – saved by the Trust, so we’re naturally grateful for that! Our runs in the FA Cup helped solidify our finances, but we’re ultimately just looking to be sustainably and responsibly run. There’s always an ongoing debate about how and if we can inject some cash into the club, but the fans can never agree where. We don’t own Rodney Parade and we’d love to invest in training facilities. But to be honest, this is all like dreaming about how we’d spend our lottery win!
One man to watch out for on Saturday afternoon is Omar Bogle as he has netted nine in 40 games. How would you describe his playing style and importance to the side?
Omar Bogle this season started off very well, but his goals have dried up a bit, possibly due to the lack of service and creativity behind him. Of those 9 goals, only two of them have come since October, both in a home draw against Stevenage. He is still a presence up top, but our goals tend to be shared all over the pitch.
Where will the key battles be played out at Prenton Park?
I think Tranmere will find themselves with more of the ball, and it depends on how well they can utilise that possession and turn it into clear chances. Quick passing, switching the play and getting in behind our defence will be key – but we can generally deal with the opposition keeping the ball and opting to kick it long. That said, we’ll be looking to counter, and our set pieces could be the difference too. Mickey Demetriou has a powerful long throw, although I’m sure if I looked into the success rate, we don’t score that many! Corners and free kicks though, with the likes of Priestley Farquharson towering in the box, might be more effective.
What is your score prediction? The last time the two clubs met was in late August as Newport won 2-1, with a penalty from Omar Bogle completing the comeback victory.
As with most aways this season, we’d bite your hand off for a draw. Give us a 1-1 and we’ll go home fairly satisfied. The last two home games between us however, that 2-1 and the 4-2 last season, have been some of the best games we’ve played. So fingers crossed we can raise our game!
What are your thoughts on The Rovers? Micky Mellon’s men have struggled this season and are currently placed 13th after getting beat 2-0 by Gillingham last time out.
Naturally, having seen Tranmere go up a few years ago (at our expense!), and then reach the playoffs again in 2021, I think we’re a bit surprised at how they’re struggling. The Gillingham game – they’ve spent a lot of money to try and climb to safety, so I wouldn’t read too much into that result. It looks like Tranmere’s recent results have been mixed, and perhaps the playoffs, despite only 8 points away, might be just out of reach this year.
Following a 1-0 away win last season, Newport are looking to win consecutive EFL visits to Tranmere for the first time. Rovers boss Micky Mellon has only won one of his seven prior meetings with The Exiles.