Sutton United meeting the opposition.

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.

Mansfield Town meeting the opposition.

Mansfield Town meeting the opposition.

If Tranmere are to be promoted, their results will need to improve quickly as they have won only one of their last seven games. In their most recent outing, Rovers conceded three against Northampton Town as they started very poorly, a late comeback wasn’t efficient enough as they failed to bring a point back to Merseyside. 

Micky Mellon’s defence has been one of his team’s strong points this season, however this hasn’t been the case lately so they will need to work hard if they are to keep a clean sheet against Nigel Clough’s flying Mansfield Town. Clough’s team boasts some of League Two’s finest talents, Matty Longstaff being one.

The Stags are placed 6th and are top of the division’s form table when looking at the last ten games with seven wins and three draws. Although they’re level on points with Friday night’s opponents, they have three games in hand to progress themselves further.

Ahead of the game, I spoke to Sam Binch from ‘MTFC Musings’ about all matters relating to each club, he gave his damning thoughts on Tranmere’s performance at Field Mill earlier in the campaign and named the area in which the key battles for the 90 minutes may be found.

Starting the conversation off, how long have you followed Mansfield Town and what started your love for them? 

I went to my first game as a five year old and have supported them ever since. They’re my hometown club.

Could you tell us a little bit about ‘MTFC Musings’? 

It was formerly a blog but now mainly a twitter account providing opinion on all things Mansfield.

What were your expectations going into the season and do they match the expectations that you have going into the final stages of the campaign? 

I expected us to be in the top 7 and challenge for the automatic places. We were 9th in L2 after Clough came in last season and made significant improvements to the squad over the summer. That wasn’t looking like a very bright prediction in October!

Boss Nigel Clough was appointed in 2020, how would you describe his time at the club so far and are you optimistic about the future with him at the helm? 

Yes I am. He navigated a spell earlier in the season of 14 games without a win. Most managers wouldn’t have survived it, but such was the board’s confidence that he would turn it around they stuck with him and are getting their just rewards. The run of form we’re currently on is incredible.

Who are the owners of Mansfield and what is their current relationship with the fanbase like? 

The Radfords are the owners and they have pretty much 100% backing from the fans for saving the club and pumping money in season after season. They currently reside in Portugal so the day to day running of the club is handled by David Sharpe.

Who would you say are your side’s stand out players and where will the key battles be on Friday night? 

Stephan McLaughlin and Stephen Quinn. Tranmere’s right hand side will have their work cut out as almost all our attacks go down our left. Rhys Oates can create something out of nothing also, an explosive striker.

How do you see the upcoming game panning out, and do you believe this game will pose different questions than the previous encounter (A 2-0 win for Mansfield at Field Mill in late October) did? If so, why? 

Tranmere were the worst side I’ve seen at Field Mill this season, combine that with our early season woes and it’s incredible to think that this game is a part of a promotion race. It will be a tight affair but I’m still confident we can come out on top.

What starting eleven will be selected by Clough and what do you believe will be his opted playing style? 

Bishop, Hewitt, Hawkins, Rawson, McLaughlin, Stirk, Quinn, Longstaf, Murphy, Akins, Oates.

4-4-2 diamond. Most of the play will be down our left hand side and to try and work the ball into the box.

Friday will be the 84th competitive outing between the two sides, what are some of your stand out moments/games/goals from the games that you have experienced? 

Mansfield 6-1 Tranmere back in 2002. We ended up getting relegated so it was one of the most memorable moments of that season.

Touching on the transfers that the club were able to complete in the January window, would you say you’re happy with the incomings and outgoings that The Stags managed to get over the line? 

Very happy. Matty Longstaff, Lucas Akins and Jamie Murphy are quality signings for League Two, without a doubt.

Field Mill, the home of Mansfield Town. Tranmere were defeated when they visited in October.

Poulton Vics 2 West Kirby 1 – Match Report.

Poulton Vics 2 West Kirby 1 

Saturday 5th March 2022.

West Kirby fell to a narrow defeat away to Poulton Vics on Saturday afternoon. However, manager Nathan Brooks believed it was a ‘much improved performance’ in comparison to their last time out.

The visitors started the game in a strong manner, being awarded two successive free kicks as a result of great hold up play by Carl Murphy.

As time ticked on the game grew even, the hosts seeing an effort hit over the bar from 30 yards out as they became much more effective on the ball. 

Vics seemed to be the stronger side in the closing stages of the opening 45 minutes, enjoying possession in their opponents box. However, a fantastically quick counter attack by the visitors saw great play down the left as James Harris played a ball to Sam Haley. The attacker then fired a pass to Murphy, his pressure was enough to force an own goal.

It was a tentative start to the second half for both sides. The first chance fell to Murphy, the keeper saving his effort on goal. 

The hosts needed to score a goal relatively soon if they were going to win the game and they were awarded a penalty with just less than 20 minutes left to play. Louis Haddock converted to get his team back into the game.

There was a sin bin earlier on when James Harris chose to argue his point to the referee but the first cards of the game were delivered to two players after an altercation, Harris and Jason Bull being on the receiving end of them.

It wouldn’t take Vics too long to find the goal that edged them in front following their first. A looping 35 yard volley hit the left post before sinking into the net, Kyle Bennett the man who had the shot.

West Kirby came close to an equaliser on the 80th minute with a quality free kick being sent just over the heads looking to attack the ball. The ninety was soon brought to an end and the visitors were condemned to another cruel defeat.

Nathan Brooks gave his thoughts after the final whistle blew:

“Both teams attacked the game. As anticipated, it was an aggressive contest with both sets of players committing to everything. It was a much improved performance from us. The big moments went against us today but overall I couldn’t have asked for anymore from the players. If we can maintain this standard we should collect a good amount of points in our upcoming fixtures”.

Man of the match: West Kirby captain Callum McCaffrey who won multiple aerial duals and swept up the danger very well.

West Kirby F.C squad: Aedden Jones, Dan Smith, Callum McCaffrey, Lewis Boardman, Cameron Kneen, Charlie Clewlow, Ciaran Gregory, Dave Hird, James Harris, Sam Haley, Carl Murphy, Sam Parker, Josh Sutton, Harrison Hindley, Dan Lewis, Joe Haste.

Northampton Town (A) match preview.

Northampton Town v Tranmere Rovers. Match Preview. 

English Football League Two. 

Saturday 5th March 2022, 3pm K.O

Sixfields Stadium.

On Saturday afternoon, Tranmere Rovers travel to Northampton Town looking for their first win in five league games. 

The Whites have been on a tricky run of form of late. Manager Micky Mellon has assured supporters that blips are to be expected in a long and challenging league campaign although there still remains an element of nerves from the SWA who have seen promotion taken from them late into the season one too many times. 

It seemed like Tranmere were destined for promotion last May, eventually losing out in the Play Off Semis to Derek Adams’ Morecambe, as they had built a squad of great depth and talent. A combination of reasons aided to that failure, many feeling more confident with Mellon now in charge instead of Mancunian and current Scunthorpe United gaffer Keith Hill.

A victory against The Cobblers would make the visitors’ quest for success that little bit stronger as they need to get back to winning ways, time is now ticking on and the games remaining will soon dwindle down into single digits leaving little time left for great change. 

Yet Rovers do remain in the top four and three points on the road would take them to second, overtaking the hosts. A Northampton win would see them stay in second as they aim to chase down the league runaway leaders Forest Green after failing to win their last three league outings. Confidence is important as well in these late stages, a win doing wonders in that respect as always as point totals remain very tight at the top.

Saturday will see the 44th meeting between the two clubs since Boxing Day 1967. Rovers have won 15, drew 12 and lost 16 of these which again proves the little difference there is between the clubs. Tranmere won that festive fixture 1-0 away from home in League Division Three. 55 years on they look for their first win against The Cobblers since 28th December 2014, there may be something about those festive occasions.

The last meeting resulted in a 2-0 defeat for Mellon’s side at Prenton Park, Kion Etete and Sam Hoskins scoring on an afternoon of great disappointment for The Whites – both goals coming in the second half. Etete was one of Northampton’s key players thus Tranmere will be thankful that he was recalled by Spurs before being sent on loan to Cheltenham Town. The 20 year old attacker has scored two goals in seven games for The Robins.

Tranmere’s manager spoke to the press ahead of the weekend’s fixture on Thursday afternoon and informed fans of his current squad’s health, stating that forward Paul Glatzel has had a ‘good week of training’ as well as Jay Spearing who has also come back from injury. ‘The squad is looking in a much better way ahead of an important run of games’ said the Scot.

Brady will be hoping that Hoskins is fit and firing, he is the team’s top scorer with eight goals in 36 appearances as well as providing four assists. Central midfielder Paul Lewis may also be influential if he is fit as his eye for goal may have a great say in how the game pans out, Tranmere fans will know what he is capable of after a good year on The Wirral.

To find out more about the hosts, you can read my meeting the opposition feature where ‘It’s All Cobblers To Me’ spoke about how their season has gone so far before giving their thoughts on Tranmere and explaining how they believe the ninety minutes will go.

My expected Tranmere starting eleven and scoreline.

  • Ross Doohan, Josh Dacres-Cogley, Tom Davies, Peter Clarke, Callum MacDonald, Kieron Morris, Lee O’Connor, Lewis Warrington, Josh Hawkes, Kane Hemmings, Paul Glatzel. 
  • Northampton 2 Tranmere 2.

Northampton Town F.C meeting the opposition.

Northampton Town F.C meeting the opposition.

Looking for their first win in five, Micky Mellon’s Tranmere travel to the East Midlands on Saturday afternoon as they face Jon Brady’s Northampton Town. It’s a clash that sees two promotion candidates come head to head.

Rovers are on a poor run of form at the moment, their last three of four League games have been away from home and their opponents have managed to take a point or three from them in all outings. The hosts on those occasions were: Walsall, Hartlepool and Newport County. 

Similar to Newport, The Cobblers are a side in which a Tranmere win would really make their potential for promotion evident. However, victory will only be achieved with a performance of great effort and quality against opposition of high standard.

Northampton have been on a tricky run themselves as Brady’s side have failed to win in their last three. However, their results haven’t had too much of an impact on their home form as they have picked up four points in their last two fixtures played at Sixfields – comfortably beating Colchester United before drawing against Rochdale.

Ahead of the highly anticipated tie at The Sixfields Stadium, I spoke to Charles Commins from ‘It’s all Cobblers to me’ who gave me his thoughts on Northampton, Tranmere and the upcoming game in general. He also mentioned a game in the Christmas period of 2014 which enabled some changes to be made that ensured promotion would soon be achieved.

What were your expectations going into the season and what are they now as we close in on the final stages of the campaign? 

Before the season most Cobblers fans would have been happy with a top half finish but having got ourselves into 2nd place, our expectations have now risen to match. There’s still a worry that we won’t be able to maintain that position but hopefully we’ll cement it a little on Saturday.

Jon Brady was appointed manager of Northampton Town last year following his time as manager of the club’s u18s. How would you describe his time at the club so far and are you optimistic about the future with him at the helm? What playing style has he implemented on his side?

Despite never playing for the Cobblers, Brady is seen as a local here in Northampton. He assembled a backroom staff who are all local and have an existing connection with the club. His assistant, Colin Calderwood, managed us to promotion from League 2 back in 2006 and Marc Richards was captain of our League Two title winning side under Chris Wilder in 2016.

Our playing style under Brady is fairly direct at times but we like to use our wingers, Hoskins and Pinnock to get the ball into the box. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been working that much of late and trying to see the style can be difficult.

Who are the owners of The Cobblers and what is their current relationship with the fanbase like? Are there any current projects worth keeping an eye on from neutrals?

Kelvin Thomas and David Bower have been in control at Sixfields since 2015 and have been trying to work with the council on a deal that will enable the development of the East Stand at Sixfields to be completed. In that time the relationship with the majority of fans has been fine but there has been a breakdown in the one between the club and the Supporters’ Trust. It’s a very long story but the situation looks like it may be close to a resolution in the coming weeks and months.

Who would you say are Northampton’s key players and what are the battles where the game may be won or lost on Saturday afternoon?

Mitch Pinnock is our standout player. The number 11 has 11 assists to his name so far this season and scored his 5th goal on Tuesday night. You’ll want to keep him quiet to take the points on Saturday. 

On top of the key playing battles, how do you see the fixture panning out in terms of your score prediction and what have you made of Tranmere’s league season so far? 

The last time we faced off it was 5th v 6th and Tranmere seemed to go on a poor run after losing to us at Prenton Park. You’ve recovered well though and are back up at the top of the table. It will be interesting to see how the game pans out. The Cobblers haven’t been in the best of form recently, picking up 6 points in our last 5 games. Tranmere meanwhile seem to be in worse form with only a win and a draw in their last 4. A win for either side could reignite their promotion push. I just hope it’s us.

Northampton won the encounter at Prenton Park earlier in the campaign, in late October, 2-0. What were your thoughts on the performances of both sides that day?

I expected more from Tranmere that day to be honest as I never felt like we were really under any threat. Truth be told, I still think that’s the best performance we’ve had this season. Unfortunately, since then we’ve lost Kion Etete – he was recalled from his loan by Spurs in January – who ran your defence ragged. 

What do you believe will be Jon Brady’s selected eleven?

We’ll likely go with Roberts in goal with Magloire, Horsfall and Guthrie making up the back 3. Koiki and McGowan at wing back with Hoskins and Pinnock in front of them. Then we’ll have McWilliams alongside Lewis in midfield and Apprere up front.

There have been many previous encounters between Tranmere Rovers and Northampton Town. However, what are your stand out moments from the fixtures that you’ve experienced?

The one that sticks out for me actually happened after a game at Prenton Park. Chris Wilder was in charge and ran out 2-1 winners. It was a Christmas match in 2014 and Wilder wasn’t happy with the performance. It spelt the end for 11 players as Wilder rang the changes during the January transfer window. The following season we won League 2.

The Cobblers are on a tough run of form at the moment. How great do you think the transfer business conducted in January will have a say on your side’s improvement as the season goes on?

At the moment, the talk of the recruitment in January is around who we didn’t bring in. Several strikers were brought in to replace Etete but Brady was unable to bolster his options in central midfield. It’s the one place we’ve shown a real weakness in in recent weeks.

Sixfields Stadium, the home of Northampton Town F.C who are the hosts on Saturday afternoon.

Cheshire Lines v West Kirby – Match Report.

West Kirby were comprehensively defeated away to Cheshire Lines on Saturday afternoon. They will be hoping that they can experience victory soon as they’re on a tough run of form at the moment.

Lines opened the scoreline early on, a cross from the right wing was parried by the visitors keeper and fell to the feet of Connor Portues who was unmarked just inside the box. It was a relatively easy finish for him to put his side in front.

Their lead was doubled after a ball from the right hand side was half cleared by the defence, Ste McGarry’s effort was a great half volley that left little chance for Aedden Jones.

Goals kept coming for the hosts, Nathan Brooks’ team getting off to the worst possible start. McGarry scored his brace as his attacking teammate pounced on a bouncing ball before taking it past Kirby’s backline. The shot was fired low, forcing the visiting keeper into making a good save; McGarry getting his second from a rebound.

West Kirby would soon get themselves back into the game, a clever ball was sent over the hosts’ defence and Sam Parker beat the keeper to latch onto it. His effort was neatly placed into the far corner.

For Brooks’ side to get something out of this fixture, they would need to keep hold of a good period of momentum and score one more relatively soon. However, sloppy play between two defenders saw a striker nip in to play Danny Mulvihill through for a one-on-one finish.

The lead was extended, meaning the game was won before the final whistle blew, with two goals that took the scoreline to 6-1. A corner was sent in from the right before being deflected in off the post by Mark Barnes. Mick Hindley got the sixth, a comfortable finish.

Man of the match was awarded to Ste McGarry who took his goals well and kept the hosts looking dangerous in the final third.

West Kirby FC manager Nathan Brooks gave his thoughts on the game shortly afterwards.

“We let our standards drop today. On more than one occasion we made poor decisions, which impacted the game and made it difficult for us to recover. As a group we expect better, but it’s important that we draw a line under this match now and look forward to the upcoming fixtures”.

West Kirby FC squad: Aedden Jones, Jordan Chwalko, Patrick Carpenter, Dave Hird, Adam Chwalko, Sam Parker, Cameron Kneen, Callum McCaffrey, Sam Haley, Callum Hassall, Harrison Hindley, Lewis Boardman. 

Newport County meeting the opposition.

Newport County – meeting the opposition.

Tranmere travel to South Wales on Saturday afternoon looking for their first win in four games, having blown a lead late on last weekend against Port Vale. They seemed to be in control of that fixture until a late header stopped the game finishing 1-0, after defeats on the road to Walsall and Hartlepool.

Newport go into the fixture on the back of a harsh run of form themselves, drawing their last two with the two previous encounters ending in defeats. However, the goal scoring ability that they possess has been made evident in their last two home games – scoring four goals, three coming against Oldham Athletic two weeks ago.

Ahead of the game, I spoke to @1912Exiles about County and their podcast in general. I asked them about the 2019 League Two Play Off Final, they made sure to move the conversation swiftly on.

What were your expectations going into the season and what are they now as we’ve just entered the second half of the campaign? 

Boss James Rowberry was appointed last year, how would you describe his time at the club so far and are you optimistic about the future with him at the helm? Touching on managerial matters slightly away from Newport, do you think Michael Flynn will be a success at Walsall following his time at County?

It’s been a funny season for County. We started with a hangover from May’s playoff defeat to Morecambe, and rumours that Michael Flynn was unhappy in his role as manager and would depart. Despite a solid start to the season on the pitch, Flynn departed at the beginning of October, having apparently served his notice period and seeking a fresh start elsewhere (he has now taken the reins at Walsall, winning his first game at the weekend against Forest Green Rovers). The relationship between Flynn and the Newport fans feels a bit like that between a jilted lover and an ex – we say we’re over him and have moved on, but we’re keeping a close eye on how he does and most of us want him to succeed. It was probably the right decision for both parties, and hopefully County and Flynn can go on to be successful without the other.

Having lost one home-grown local legend, County promptly went out and recruited a direct replacement in James Rowberry – formerly a coach at Cardiff City, but more to the point ‘a proper Newport boy’ who grew up in the area and has strong connections to the club. It’s early days, but he has got us playing exciting, attacking football and results have been solid. There’s a feeling that the disruption of the managerial change, combined with defensive frailties, may put promotion slightly beyond us this season – but you wouldn’t rule out having a late surge. Either way, we’re great to watch and most of us are just enjoying the ride.

Who are the owners of The Exiles and what is their current relationship with the fanbase like? Are there any current projects worth keeping an eye on from neutrals?

We are! As a fan-owned, fan-run club, County are living the dream. True, we can’t rely on a rich sugar-daddy to fund signings and bankroll promotion, but virtue brings its own reward as they say, and most of us are very proud to be a sustainably-run side living within our means. On the pod, we recently ran a three-part series exploring club ownership, dodgy financing in football and how clubs can be run in the fans’ interests, and it really drove home the point that ultimately it is only the fans who can be trusted to have their team’s long-term interests at heart. As for projects, most of us would say that the priority has to be securing a stake in Rodney Parade so that it can be a home in perpetuity for both County and the Newport Gwent Dragons rugby clubs, with both teams having an equal share. That may take some doing.

Who would you say are your side’s stand out players and where will the key battles be on Saturday afternoon?

Only one answer to this: Dom Telford! The man is a machine, netting 23 goals in the league already this season, having barely got a game last year. It’s come out of nowhere, and no doubt he’ll be plying his trade at a higher level than Div 4 next year, but he’s on fire. Behind him, our trio of “fizzy midfielders” have been exceptional – loanees Ollie Cooper (from Swansea), Finn Azaz (from Aston Villa) and Jake Cain (from Liverpool) are all confident and comfortable with the ball at their feet and have given us the creativity we lacked at times last season. Defence is more problematic.

How do you see the upcoming battle panning out, score prediction etc, and do you believe this game will pose different questions than the previous encounter (A 1-0 victory for the visitors at Prenton Park in August) did? If so, why?

County come into this with just two points from 12, and it feels like we’re playing all of the form sides in the division at the same time. If we can keep ourselves in the mix, things get easier for us from mid-March onwards, but at the moment it’s hard going. A gutsy draw with Mansfield in our last game showed character – they’ve been the best side at Rodney Parade so far this season, but once we figured them out we gave them a good game. Tranmere will be a different proposition, but at this stage I’d take a point. Tranmere always bring a good crowd, and I hope you have a great day apart from the result!

What starting eleven will be selected by Rowberry and what do you believe will be his opted style of play for the ninety minutes?

We’ve tended to play a 5-3-2 with wing-backs, although we’ve switched successfully when required (sometimes mid-match) to a 4-4-2. Either way, we tend to play a holding midfielder in front of the back line to try and get the ball to those “fizzy midfielders” who will then seek to set up Dom Telford. Watch out also though for our No 10, Courtney Baker-Richardson, who has an incredible workrate and will cover half the pitch to win the ball back for his team.

I normally ask, in these features, for the stand out games between the two sides. However, I think the most obvious mention will be the 2019 League Two Play Off Final. What sort of impact do you think this game had on Newport? Also, are there any other games/moments that you’d like to mention?

Sorry, still can’t talk about that playoff final defeat! You edged it on the day, but it was an insipid game and not a memory on which I’d want to dwell. As for other matches, I might have mentioned it when I did our last preview, but for me the most memorable game between the sides was when we came to yours in September 2018 and won 1-0. Fraser Franks scored early on and then we defended for 85 minutes solid – it was like the Alamo back there, and a thoroughly undeserved three points, but exactly what you want from a long away trip! Afterwards, Tranmere fans were surprisingly gracious, and my eldest son and I stayed in a camping pod on a llama farm in the Wirral to cap a memorable weekend!

Touching on the transfers that The Exiles were able to complete in the January transfer window. Would you say that you’re happy with the incomings and outgoings overseen by the recently appointed manager during his first transfer window?

Most of the transfer window was stripping out the dead wood. We’d over-recruited in the summer, so we shipped out some players who were surplus to requirements and sent a crop of young players off to get loan games in non-league. In terms of players in, the pick of the bunch has been centre-half Josh Pask, on loan from Coventry City, who looks like he has potential. If we were able to keep hold of him, he looks like he could be a quicker option than many of our existing defenders and someone who can bring the ball out from the back. The summer window will be much more important for us, as Rowberry stamps his mark on the side.

Rodney Parade is where the game this weekend will be played out, a stadium that is owned and operated by the Welsh Rugby Union.

Vauxhall Motors v Macclesfield report.

Vauxhall Motors v Macclesfield report.

Tuesday 22nd February 2022, 745pm ko. 

VanEupen Arena.

Motors returned to NWCFL action, following a win that saw them progress to the Cheshire Senior Cup Semi Final, with a blow as Macclesfield Town showcased the quality that they possess. 

Danny Whitaker’s side showed that they were going to make the evening uncomfortable for the hosts at the VanEupen Arena as they forced Mick McGraa’s goalkeeper into making an early save. Claims for a penalty were dismissed too in the opening stages, the referee claiming that the attacker with eyes for goal was not tripped up. 

It wouldn’t take too long for the scoreline to change however, Tom Clare netting from close range as The Silkmen opened up the defensive backline with a string of great forward passes.

The second came shortly after, the visitors countered as an attack from the hosts came to nothing. Former Tranmere midfielder, Neil Danns fired the ball past Michael Dixon with a powerful strike into the bottom corner when he was exquisitely passed to.

Goals kept coming for the visitors as they attacked relentlessly, a corner being cleared to the feet of Danns who was able to get his brace in a cool and calm manner. There could be no doubts as to whether they were worthy leaders as they made their spells on the ball count. 

Vauxhall, aiming to get one back to be in contention of starting a comeback, threaded the ball through a strong backline. That strength being epitomised by a tackle that took the ball off the forward who would’ve been through on goal. 

Motors needed to not concede any more if they were to have a memorable night and a pass into their box seemed to be going nowhere. However, a defensive mistake saw the ball end up into the feet of James Berry who slotted past the keeper in a 1 v 1 situation. 

Dixon, although he was conceding, should be proud of some elements of his performance on the night that Macc came to Ellesmere Port. He made a great save, one of an excellent few, the rebound falling to Berry who made no mistake in the penalty box. 

Macclesfield were 5-0 up at half time and were showing their quality, they have some brilliantly skillful players and they’ve made the league (Certainly Motors now, if not already) know about that. Danns and Mark Duffy’s EFL pedigree was made evident with their intelligence on the field in particular. The latter being subbed at the break. 

With the game already won, you could’ve had a strong guess at how the second half would pan out. Whitaker’s team started strong, putting a few good crosses into the box but they weren’t able to create anything that was as bothersome as it was earlier. 

Motors thought that they had found their consolation goal when a tame effort from the edge of the box brought a spillage from the travelling keeper. However, to the amusement of the Macclesfield fans, the man who found the ball at his feet was flagged by the linesman as being offside. 

With the game already being won, The Silkmen still had an eye for goal. Harry Freedman crossed the ball into the box to Kielen Adams who managed to squeeze his effort into the net. 

The game finished with an extensive 6-0 scoreline. Danny Whitaker should be pleased with his team’s performance, the hosts will look to forget about the result moving forwards as they play Barnoldswick Town on Saturday.

Man of the match for the hosts was chosen by club legend Steve Hylton, Micheal Burkey took on the immense centre half Laurent Mendy (the overall man of the match) thus he was named. 

TEAMS.

Vauxhall Motors: Michael Dixon, Ethan Gouldbourne (Ben Dufton-Kelly), Joseph Heath, Simon Thelwell, Thomas Mitchell, Haydn Cooper, Michael Burkey, Leo Riley (Jordan Deer), Craig Cairns (Harvey Sample), Sean Moscrop, Ben Holmes.

Unused subs – Greg Drummond, James Eaton. 

Macclesfield: Daniel Wallis, Jacob Hanson, Samuel Grimshaw, Lewis Fensome, Lee Jackson (Aaron Dwyer), Laurent Mendy, Harry Freedman, Neil Danns, Tom Clare, Mark Duffy (Sidi Sanogo Fofana), James Berry-McNally (Kielen Adams). 

Unused subs – Braulio Valera Pinto Maieco, Andrew Owens. 

South Liverpool Reserves v West Kirby – match report.

South Liverpool Reserves 8 West Kirby 0

West Cheshire League Two

Saturday 19th February 2022

On a crushing afternoon for West Kirby F.C, South Liverpool Reserves scored eight against them to highlight the areas in which they need to improve on if they are to be successful going forwards.

The first half would finish 3-0 to the hosts as the visitors fell short to some well worked goals around the box. However, Nathan Brooks’ side did show the level of effort required for success as they worked hard off the ball to track runs and attempted to force the opposition into less dangerous areas of the pitch.

West Kirby had to get a goal in the opening stages of the second half if they were to threaten South Liverpool’s status on the day as winners. However, in a half that was played at a fast pace the hosts began to dictate the game. The movement off the ball, decision making in possession and ability to create 1 v 1s in wide areas were too much to control for their opponents.

Man of the match was awarded to South Liverpool Reserves captain, Kevin Martin, who was first to every second ball and broke on multiple occasions with well weighted passes.

Goal scorers for South Liverpool.

– Mason Nevitt x2

– Josh Bridge x2

– Louis Gorman x2

– Owen Hough

– Bobby Murphy

West Kirby F.C manager Nathan Brooks spoke after the final whistle on what was a really disappointing afternoon for his team. 

“A difficult day for myself and the players. Although the scoreline shouldn’t be ignored, there were some positives to take and at times it was enjoyable pitting our wits against that level of opposition.  In the last 20 minutes the difference in fitness levels between the sides really took its toll, but overall our lads should be happy with the effort that they put into the match. Our season won’t be defined in situations like today and we are looking forward to the coming weeks”.

Port Vale F.C meeting the opposition.

Port Vale meeting the opposition.

Tranmere will aim to return to the form that saw them placed so high up the table this weekend after losing on the road to Walsall and Hartlepool United respectively.

A victory against Darrell Clarke’s side won’t come easy though as they arrive at Prenton Park unbeaten in five with two wins and three draws. Promotion is on the cards for both sides in three months’ time and Saturday afternoon may prove vital in either’s pursuit of success.

Ahead of the game, I spoke to Port Vale supporter Scott Challinor about the Valiants’ campaign so far and how he expects the upcoming fixture to pan out. 

What were your expectations going into the season and how do they compare to those that you have now as we enter the second half of the campaign?

Going into the season I was hoping for us to qualify for the playoffs and maybe have an outside stab at a top three spot. At this stage in the campaign, we’re pretty much on course for that. An automatic berth may be slightly too tall an order, but we’re in touching distance of the playoff spots and nine or ten wins from our last 18 games should see us there. So, we can certainly look at making the playoffs as a very realistic target at this point. 

Darrell Clarke is Vale’s manager, how would you describe his time at the club so far and are you optimistic about the future with him at the helm?

It’s never a dull day under Darrell Clarke and I truly believe he’s the best manager we’ve had at the club in some time. He arrived at Vale Park with the playing side of the club in turmoil and in partnership with Director of Football, David Flitcroft, he transformed us from struggling at the wrong end of the table to realistic playoff contenders. He’s also helped orchestrate a lot of changes behind the scenes to help move the whole club forward. Despite a lot of overhaul in the summer transfer window as well as in January, and an injury crisis or two in the equation, Clarke and his Vale side have overcome a lot of adversity and are within touching distance of the top seven, so I’m very confident he’s the right man to take us up, whether it’s this season or next when maybe we might have a bit more luck on our side. 

What are your thoughts on the ownership at the club and who are they?

I couldn’t be happier with Carol and Kevin Shanahan as owners. Both are supporters of the football club and they live and breathe the local area. The couple already owns successful IT security business Synectics Solutions which is based just next door to Vale Park. They also paid well over the odds for the club to take us out of Norman Smurthwaite’s hands and since then it has largely been a period of steady improvement.

They’ve turned us into a community club that does our bit locally, but aren’t content with just “existing” as that “nice club” and chugging along in League Two. They live and breathe success in their business culture and they’re bringing that winning mentality into Port Vale. They want promotion and they’ve made their long term ambitions very clear. Hopefully with all off the pitch going so well, it shouldn’t be long until we start seeing success on it.

Who would you say are your stand out men and who do you believe are Tranmere’s? What will the key battles be over the course of the ninety minutes?

In the forward positions, James Wilson is the one to watch for Vale. A product of the Manchester United youth academy, the natural finisher has scored eight goals for the Valiants this season despite missing two months of the season with injury. He also brings an injection of pace to the frontline and boasts a fantastic work rate. When he hits his stride he can breeze beyond defenders effortlessly, and hopefully he’s at his potent best at Prenton Park.

Defensively, 6ft4 Connor Hall has been a revelation since signing from Harrogate in January and is a rock in the centre back position. He is not only aerially dominant but capable of playing out from the back and has an exceptional range of passing. He’s played a major part in the Vale’s recent run of keeping three clean sheets in their previous five games. 

As for Tranmere, I’m very conscious of the threat posed by Kane Hemmings. The experienced striker has hit the ground running since arriving from Burton and is capable of causing any defence problems at this level. I expect Nathan Smith or Connor Hall to be tasked with marshalling him and that will be a key contest over the 90 minutes. 

Kieron Morris is another whose creativity can unlock defences and loves a snapshot from distance, and we’ll have to be switched on at the back to mitigate that threat. I expect the energy & tenacity of Ben Garrity in midfield may be tasked with keeping Morris in check and that will likely develop into a key duel. At the other end of the pitch, the evergreen Peter Clarke always seems to have a good game against the Vale. It will be interesting to see whether we opt to deploy the pace of Wilson against old legs, or the height of Proctor or Edmondson to draw Clarke into an aerial battle.

How do you see the upcoming battle panning out, score prediction etc, and do you believe this game will pose different questions than the previous encounter (0-0 at Vale Park in August) did? If so, why?

With both sides very much building from the back at the present time, I’m expecting a battling encounter with few clear chances and much of the action taking place in midfield. I’m going for a 1-1 scoreline and expect the game to be far less open than the return game at Vale Park which although 0-0 was an end to end encounter. I say more goals in this one because with both sides having clicked going forward, I can see both capitalising on fewer chances created compared to the return game way back in August. 

What starting eleven do you think Clarke will select and how would you describe the playing style he’s implemented on the squad?

I’m expecting a 3-5-2 formation with Tomas Holy in goal; Nathan Smith, Aaron Martin & Connor Hall in the back three; David Worrall and Chris Hussey as right and left wing backs respectively; Brad Walker operating as a defensive midfielder with Tom Pett and Ben Garrity playing further ahead of him; then James Wilson and Jamie Proctor as the forward partnership. 

As for playing style, it’s very much built from the back. He’s drilled the Vale to be hard to beat but also to endeavour to play football, with the midfield and wingbacks pushing high up the pitch, plenty of balls going into the box for the two strikers, but also plenty of runners off the front two when the opt to hold up play in the final third. It’s direct and positive as a game plan at its best, but when the wingbacks sit deep and the back three becomes a back five, it can quickly become tedious when under a bit of pressure. Getting the balance right at Prenton Park will be critical. As much as we will need to be defensively organised, we don’t want to be inviting too much pressure for 90 minutes. 

Thinking of the previous encounters between the two clubs, what games/moments stand out as being memorable for you?

There are three that stick out for me. Firstly a 2-0 win in the EFL Trophy in the 2012/13 season. Tranmere were runaway League One leaders at the time and Vale were second in League Two. Former Rovers man Jennison Myrie-Williams scored a free kick for Vale to help secure the win, with Micky Adams’ men going on to win promotion that year. This game felt like an early sign of what that team could go on to achieve.

The following season (2013-14), the Valiants were also victorious 1-0 at Prenton Park in what was my first visit to Tranmere. Despite Tom Pope missing a first half penalty, a peach of a free kick from Chris Lines was enough to secure the win. Later that same season, Vale completed the double over Rovers with a 3-2 victory at Vale Park. Tranmere would go on to be relegated to League Two just weeks later but made a go of it as Vale were seemingly cruising to victory at three-up on the hour mark, before Tranmere scored two in quick succession to make for a nervy finish. The Super White Army were in fine voice that day and it made for a fantastic atmosphere. 

As the January window has now finished (this being a few weeks ago now), how would you describe the business The Valiants were able to complete and the impact the incomings have had on the team’s performances?

There has been a lot of talk about the number of signings made during the January transfer window and maybe we’ve had to do more business than the manager would’ve liked. That’s been down to a combination of moving on deadwood and having to cover for injury problems, but we managed to get quality bodies in and the recruitment team did fantastically well to be able to do that. The players that have left – bar Dennis Politic and the injury enforced loss of on-loan Newcastle defender Lewis Cass – wouldn’t have featured regularly in the matchday squad. Coming into the building, the likes of Connor Hall and former Cheltenham skipper & League Two winner Chris Hussey are excellent signings that have helped shore up the defence and added an extra creative element with the latter’s deliveries and set plays, and the loan additions of Ryan Edmondson (Leeds) and Kian Harratt (Huddersfield) have given us an extra bit of bite up front. With the level of  overhaul we’ve had at the midway point and having gone most of December without playing due to Covid enforced postponements, it has taken a run of games for the side to click into shape again. However, with our unbeaten run now stretched to five games, the signs are there that the Vale are starting to hit their stride once more this season and hopefully we’ve saved a good run of form for just the right time. Overall, I think we’re stronger than we were going into the transfer window, it’s just all about consistency now.