Tranmere Rovers play host to Sutton United on Saturday afternoon, looking to get back to winning ways following two consecutive away defeats.

Nigel Adkins’ men followed up a 4-0 victory against league leaders Stockport County with a defeat at relegation threatened FGR before a defeat at Swindon Town. 

The game against Swindon brought a chance for players to stake their claim for more game time as Paul Lewis, Josh Hawkes, James Norris started from the off. 

However, it was a largely frustrating night in Wiltshire as former Tranmere man Rushian Hepburn-Murphy netted twice. 

Sutton United FC will be looking to carry on their good form as they backed up a one-all draw against Colchester United with a 4-3 win at Notts County.

Ahead of the game, I spoke to Sutton blog Gandermonium about the impact new manager Steve Morrison has had and more.

Hi Gandermonium, could you tell us when your love for Sutton United first started? 

Age of 8, I got into football and as this was the early 80’s, my folks had zero interest in taking me within a million miles of a major game with all the sort of bother that tended to go on back then (although my dad did kinda relent and we did the ‘81 & ‘82 Cup Finals together). Luckily for them, my godfather Alan, a former Arsenal ST holder, had stopped going because of all the trouble and was trawling round the Non-League outfits local to us. So he got lumbered with taking me around games at that level. Most of the other sides were crap and on about our 4th or 5th outing, Sutton scored within about 30 seconds of us coming through the turnstiles and won 2-1. Stemmed from there really.  

The scorer of that goal was Mickey Joyce, who can still be found doing stuff about GGL pre-match to this day. I’ve told him many times over the years that this is all his fault. 

What have been some of your best and worst moments as a Sutton fan? The club was playing in the National League South as recently as 2016.  

I’ve been going 40 years now and to be fair, it’s not been a half bad run in that time, so there’s plenty to choose from. High points would be Coventry in ’89, our 26 game unbeaten run to nick the NLS title in 2015, promotion to the FL and of course finally seeing Sutton at Wembley in the Pizza Cup final 2 seasons ago. Typically, I’d started going the year after our last visit there! 

If I had to pick one right now though, it would be the Semi-Final win at Wigan in the Pizza Cup. I’ve always maintained I’ll never cry at football, but I got bloody close that night. The celebrations after were fantastic too. 

The bad? The 2007\08 season was a shocker. Although this campaign up to Christmas was pushing it hard in that respect. Losing that Pizza Cup final was a tough one as well. Seconds from the end 2-1 up, one hand on the pot and Rotherham levelled. We knew we were doomed in extra time. 

Could you tell us about the Gandermonium podcast? 

It’s not a podcast. Next question! 🙂 

Seriously though, Gandermonium is a long running blog that first started in ’98, ran to 2008, had a couple years off and then two idiots persuaded me to resurrect it in 2012. I did and then we had 10+ more years up to the end of last season where we managed to cover every single competitive game in that time. Sadly though, our ‘staff’ of writers suddenly reduced from 5 down to just me that last season and doing 2 entries a week most weeks and actually being vaguely interesting was sadly beyond my skillset, so I knocked it on the head. It’s still all online though and I still do the odd entry when the fancy takes me (there’s a handful of games from this season on there). In fact, I’ll probably cover this game given there’s a few of us travelling and it’s a mate’s 40th that weekend. So yeah, check it out. 

Maybe some other idiots will fancy a go so the baton can be passed on once more? Who knows!

Bruce Elliott has been Chairman of The U’s since 1996. Could you tell us about the way the club is being run? What are the biggest plans at the moment?  

Stay up! Although there is some work to be done in getting to the 2000 seat mark required by the FL, that should be done before the end of the season I believe. Apart from that, just keeping the club on an even keel is the aim I’d say. This Football League stuff ain’t cheap and we’re not a big club. We do have some outside investment coming in though now, so that might help. 

Steve Morrison replaced promotion winning manager Matt Gray in early January. What were your thoughts on Gray leaving? The 42-year-old had been highly successful at Gander Green Lane, guiding the club to the EFL Trophy Final and missing out on the play-offs, by one point, in 2022.  

Losing Matt was genuinely sad. He gave us something none of us ever thought possible let alone thought the club could actually achieve. It was an incredible little run and done on a real shoestring. It was the right call however when the time came, something just wasn’t right this season and the squad seemed broken and unable to really perform consistently. The shellacking at Stockport was just the final straw. 

No hard feelings though. Matt’s welcome at GGL anytime. He’s a genuinely nice bloke and I think many at Sutton would happily buy him a pint.  

How successful has Morrison been so far? The 40-year-old, former Cardiff manager, won his first game on Tuesday night, 4-3 against Notts County at Meadow Lane. 

He’s done ok. Performances have been better and all our games have been close affairs, but until this week, we hadn’t scored many, the wins just hadn’t materialised and I think a lot of people (myself included) thought that it just wasn’t going to happen. But we looked good on Tuesday and showed real character to lead 4 times. So who knows what can happen if we can string together a couple of long overdue wins? 

What are your thoughts on his style of play and his relationship with fans?   

The football is fine. More ground based than the end of the Gray era which was increasingly direct and too easy to defend against. But we still mix it up. As for the relationship, I think that’s still to be decided! He’s a totally different character to Matt, keeps cards close to his chest. Big on his psychology and stats etc. I’d say opinions are still mixed, but only time will tell.  

Harry Smith, formerly of Leyton Orient, is the club’s top goalscorer with 11. How good is the 6ft5 No.9?  

He’s missed 9 games due to suspension this season and god we’ve missed him at times. When he’s on it, he’s a proper pain in the arse for defenders. Good in the air, not half bad with the ball at his feet, holds up well, links up play. I like him a lot and he’s easily the best of Matt’s summer acquisitions. But two silly reds have cost him almost a quarter of his season, so that’s hurt us badly. 

In January, six players were brought in on either a permanent or loan deal. Midfielder Charlie Lakin, on loan from Burton, has impressed as he has netted three goals in ten games. Are you happy with the club’s recruitment?  

Yeah, they’ve all contributed. Steve went for younger, fresher legs in the Window (we had one of the oldest squads in the FL before that) and it really helped inject some energy. Lakin’s been the pick, was ok the first couple but since then has really kicked on and has 3 in his last 4 games. Stephen Duke-Mckenna from QPR has been a livewire too. Nino from Millwall has had his moments also, but he’s still young and can only improve. No complaints here really.

Would you say losing Enzio Boldewijn and Omar Bugiel last summer is a significant reason for this campaign’s struggles?  

We’ve missed Enzio’s utility. He could play up front, wide or at full back. We’ve been crying out for a player like that this season. Omar I don’t think we’ve missed as much as people make out, as Smith’s been a decent replacement and scored more goals. He’d have a few more too if it wasn’t for suspension. The big misses for us this year though have been Ali Smith moving on to Lincoln and having Craig Eastmond out most of the season. Our midfield up to Xmas was just shocking and offered a shaky defence with zero protection. 

Sutton, despite Tuesday’s win, remain in 24th and Grimsby Town, just above the drop zone, have three games in hand. How upsetting would relegation be for the club? The U’s 126th anniversary is celebrated on March 5th. 

It would be upsetting purely for the manner in which it’s arrived. No one is under any illusion we’re anything but a Non-League club trying to adapt at a higher level, but the first two seasons were very comfortable and then this year’s been a shambles at times. I think if we do go down, then I feel most would think it a huge opportunity missed to grow as a club. First year in ages there’s been no basket cases taking up the bottom two and there we are having a shocker of a season. Typical Sutton.  

The last meeting between Tranmere and Sutton, at Prenton Park, resulted in a two-all draw as an Alistair Smith strike cancelled out Kane Hemmings’ goal in the second half. What is your score prediction this time round? 

A win is needed. We have to back up Tuesday’s result now. I’ll take a shit 1-0 away win all day long.  

Finally, what are your thoughts on Nigel Adkins’ struggling TRFC? 

As bad as us when we met at GGL TBH. But Adkins found your groove and what made you tick after that and had a great run to pull you away from trouble. Yeah, recent results have been patchy, but thumping Stockport at yours shows what you’re capable of. You’ll be fine this season. You probably only need maybe 1-2 more wins to be safe, so there shouldn’t really be any panic on the Wirral. 

Tranmere Rovers return to Prenton Park this Saturday afternoon looking to get back to winning ways. 

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