Tranmere Rovers return to home action on Tuesday night when they play host to club legend Ged Brannan’s Morecambe.
A third defeat in five league games on the weekend, away at Doncaster Rovers, brought a reality check for Nigel Adkins’ side as there were still some supporters who believed that the club’s play-off chances remained alive.
Forward Josh Hawkes levelled the scoreline in the second half, making an immediate impact from the bench. However, Hakeeb Adelakun regained his side’s lead four minutes later.
It will be interesting to see whether Hawkes’ goal places him into the starting eleven tonight. However, his speed and trickery is quite effective off the bench when the opposing defence is tiring.
Brad Walker may also be out, a chance for new recruit Ousmane Kane to shine?
Ahead of the game, I spoke to Shrimps Trust Podcast Producer Joel Shooter.
Hi Joel, When did you start supporting Morecambe? What was your first experience of the club like?
Hi, I first started supporting around winter 2006. The club had been doing well in the Conference for the past couple of seasons, so my dad thought it would be good to get me going to games, and it ended up being a very positive experience as we won promotion to the Football League! That was when we were still at Christie Park, which was on its last legs but very much full of non-league character and history. It was very exciting to be supporting the club on its push for promotion to the Football League for the first time in its history, and since then I’ve been hooked.
What have been some of your best and worst moments as a fan of The Shrimps?
That initial promotion in 2007 was amazing, but it was definitely trumped by the 2021 promotion to League One. It was just so unexpected after years of struggling in League Two, and on a personal note it was at a point where I’d then had a longer term association with the club, having only been a fan for a few months before promotion in 2007. There were some tough years in League Two, although staying up on the final day in 2018 was a high. Relegation at the end of last season has probably been the main low, coupled with the frustrations from the slow-moving sale of the club.
You’re a Podcast Producer for The Shrimps Trust, a group that was formed in 2017 to strengthen the links between the club, its supporters and the surrounding communities. Could you tell us about some of the work you’ve done and when did you start?
The Trust has been around since 2016, when a sale from our previous owner went belly up and fans stepped in to try and support the situation. Since then, many people have been doing some great work around the club and in the community such as raising money for a roof behind the home terrace, and organising a Christmas toy appeal every year. Since I joined in 2021, I have picked up media duties such as speaking on the radio or writing programme notes, as well as producing the podcast. The podcast has been enormously good fun to produce, and has given great insight into the players, coaching staff and off the pitch at the club.
Morecambe are owned by Bond Group Investments Limited since they bought 80% of the club in 2018. The club’s chairmen are Graham Howse and Rod Taylor. What are your thoughts on the way the club has been run in the last six years? What are the main objectives at the moment?
Graham Howse, Rod Taylor and the rest of the board (James Wakefield, Charlie Appleyard, Ben Sadler and Mick Horton) have done incredibly to run the club as well as they have been doing over the past few years. Their stewardship of the matchday and footballing operations have seen the club make over a million pounds in player sales, spend two seasons in League One and have three runs to the FA Cup third round. It’s important to separate them from the owners Bond Group, who have largely let the board get on with things over the past few years. However, Bond Group have been frustratingly dragging their feet with the sale process of the club, which has unfortunately limited the potential to drive the club forward as much as the board would like.
Last season, The Shrimps were relegated from League One as they finished 22nd. What went wrong?
Off the pitch issues from Bond Group’s protracted sale has certainly capped potential growth into being a more stable League One club. On the pitch, we had Stephen Robinson build a team in his image before leaving in our first season in the third tier. Derek Adams returned, but had a different idea of how he wanted to build the team, which led to a difficult summer trying to turnover players on a budget restrained by the aforementioned off-field issues. Staying in League One was always going to be a fight, but these issues made it even tougher.
Tranmere legend Ged Brannan was appointed Morecambe manager in late November as former boss Derek Adams made the move to Scotland. The 51-year-old, in his first managerial role, has won four of his 14 games in charge. What are your thoughts on him and his 4-2-3-1 playing style? The win on the weekend, against Sutton United, was his first win at home as Morecambe manager.
There’s been a bit of an adjustment period for various factors – first there was starting to implement his own style, then we lost a load of extremely talented loan players. But with a bit more time in the role now and the addition of some really strong January signings, we’ve been looking a lot stronger over the last few games and have only lost once in the league in 2024. The style is a bit more high tempo than under Derek with more of a leaning towards playing on the deck. However, there are still some similarities in the preference for counter-attacking and moving the ball forwards at pace.
What were your thoughts on his first January transfer window as manager?
After the fairly devastating blow of losing our loan players, Ged’s done fantastically well to recruit and mould the squad a bit more to his liking. We’ve also brought in something we didn’t have before in a bit of experienced class/quality with Gwion Edwards out wide, as well as sorting out the goalkeeping issue with Archie Mair in goal. Julian Larsson and Nelson Khumbeni both also look handy additions, and Garner has really been finding his feet these past couple of games.
Morecambe lost two of their top four goal scorers last month as Adam Mayor signed for Millwall as JJ McKiernan also departed. In came 25-year-old Liverpool-born striker Gerard Garner from Barrow, on loan. Garner has netted three in four games so far and will thus be one to watch on Tuesday night at Prenton Park. Could you talk to us about what he has brought to the team in the way he plays?
JJ McKiernan is still our player thankfully, but is currently on the sidelines. He hopefully should be back with us within two months. Ged Garner has taken a couple of games to find his feet but his last couple of performances have been really strong. He’s been linking play nicely as well as stretching defences really well with his running in-behind. He’s been getting into lots of good areas in the box so has still notched a few goals despite missing some chances, and hopefully his conversion rate will continue to improve as his confidence builds. He also scored a lovely solo goal to win the game against Crawley, so he has a bit of flair as well.
Morecambe are 12th, having won both of their last two games, and are eyeing the play-offs as they are just four points away from Harrogate, with a game in hand. How much faith have you got in an instant return to League One?
It might be a bit of a stretch given the quality towards the top end of the division, but it would be nice to see us try and sneak into the play-offs over the final run-in. Overall though, this season’s main goal was stabilising in terms of league position and hopefully off the field.
The last time Tranmere faced Morecambe was in late October at the Mazuma Mobile Stadium. Morecambe won 1-0 with an own goal from Rovers defender Jordan Turnbull. What were your thoughts on that game?
It was a game I thought we edged – we were missing a few key players but did well to grind out the result. We had a couple of opportunities but it was ultimately a teasing ball from Chris Stokes that did for the unfortunate Turnbull. I thought Tranmere looked a fairly tidy team and moved the ball around nicely but were a bit toothless in the final third – summed up by a frantic last 10 minutes that saw Rovers spurn a few good opportunities to equalise. This seems to have gotten better now though for Tranmere.
A Rovers link … two-time promotion winning manager Micky Mellon’s son, Michael, is Morecambe’s current top scorer having netted 15 in 26 outings during his loan spell from Burnley before his move to Dundee. How special was he?
He was really fantastic. His game came on leaps and bounds throughout the season. He’s a seriously deadly finisher and has remarkable composure in front of goal for a 19 year old. His overall game is great too – he can drop deep to hold the ball up (not quite to Cole Stockton levels but still impressive) and link play, and also run in behind with really good movement. He’s an absolute predator in the box too – all round a really good nine.
Finally, what are your thoughts on Tranmere?
I’m interested to see how they compare to when we last played earlier in the season. There was some nice football played by Tranmere and they looked fairly solid at the back, but just a bit lost in the final third. At a glance, it seems this issue has been improving of late over the last few months though, so it will be informative to watch on Tuesday night.
Tranmere return to Prenton Park on Tuesday night, following on from a 2-1 defeat away at Doncaster Rovers.
The last home game brought a goalless draw against Crewe Alexandra. The club’s home form is fifth best in the division as four of the last six games have resulted in victories.