Preview: Tranmere Rovers

An away win in the bag, can we now build some momentum in this new decade?

With the top of the League One table looking so tight and with our next three league games against bottom-half sides, there is an opportunity to assert ourselves in the promotion race over the next few weeks. As amazing as that result and performance against Wycombe Wanderers was, it will be consistency rather than the odd big result that will be the difference between a top six place and falling short.

Being able to follow up a big result with a win in this upcoming trip to Tranmere would arguably prove our promotion mettle more than just that win in and of itself.

Expected Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

The short turnaround between our last game and this one presents the most obvious excuse for not matching the intensity of the showing against Wycombe in this game. Despite that, Mark Robins has shown that he is a manager who expects players to be able to play three fixtures in a week and is unlikely to make changes for the sake of keeping players fresh.

The performance against Wycombe appears to have gone some way to sharpening Mark Robins’ sense of his strongest XI and formation. Matt Godden’s hat-trick lessens the concern over a lack of goals in the side, at least for the time-being, while Sam McCallum’s performance at left wing-back addressed the lack of width that playing a system without natural wingers can leave the team with.

Just who is named on the bench and how they are used looks to be the most interesting aspect of the team selection. There are some useful attacking options who haven’t made the 18-man match-day squad in recent weeks and may be on their way in January. However, this game could represent opportunities for the likes of Jordy Hiwula, Amadou Bakayoko or Gervane Kastaneer to re-assert themselves in the manager’s thinking if Robins wants to freshen things up later on. This could also possibly be a chance for Jodi Jones to make a long-awaited return to league action at some point in the game.

Last Time We Met

Our only defeat at St Andrew’s this season came in front of the Sky cameras back in October against Tranmere Rovers. Having controlled large portions of the contest, missing some excellent chances and being denied a good penalty shout, there was an air of inevitability as Tranmere’s Corey Blackett-Taylor surged towards goal late on and gave the travelling side the win.

The Opposition

Manager – Micky Mellon

After winning back-to-back promotions from non-league, there have been growing pains at Prenton Park as Micky Mellon has looked to adapt a squad that still contains several who played for the club in the fifth-tier. Mellon’s efforts have been hampered by a constant slew of injuries over the course of the campaign, leaving the team without a sense of a settled starting XI or even a regular formation.

Outside of the relegation zone on goal difference, Tranmere head into this game needing a win with MK Dons below them starting to gather momentum. Mellon will likely be looking to make changes to the squad in January in order to add that extra dash of quality in most areas of the pitch that they appear to be lacking.

Who To Look Out For?

Possible Line-Up

Packed with pace, it is likely that Tranmere will look to sit deep in order to make the most of the threat they can pose on the break. From Jake Caprice at right-back, winger Corey Blackett-Taylor and forwards Morgan Ferrier and Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, Tranmere have some absolutely rapid runners who can cause even the best defences at this level some serious problems when they can catch them on the turn.

The summer departure of 28-goal striker James Norwood over the summer still hangs over the squad, with the replacements sourced for their star-man having struggled for consistency. Former Walsall man Morgan Ferrier is the man in form at the moment, with two goals in his past two appearances, but remains a temperamental talent. Another frustratingly inconsistent performer in attack is Aston Villa loanee, and reportedly a former Sky Blues target, Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, who scored an excellent hat-trick at MK Dons a few months ago but has only scored once since. In addition, the more physical Stefan Payne also has four goals to his name, but tends to flit in and out of games.

Elsewhere, the creativity of Connor Jennings in the number 10 role is a key reference point in Tranmere’s attack. The veteran midfield pairing of Neil Danns and David Perkins has started to creak of late but could be thorny to get past if Tranmere have something to defend. At the back, Monny Monthe is a man mountain who will make it a tough afternoon for Matt Godden if we take the aerial route.

Areas To Exploit

Like the game at St Andrew’s, we should be able to control large portions of this contest – although the pitch at Prenton Park could hinder a possession-based approach. Tranmere’s defence and general defensive organisation looks a weak point that can be exposed by making the pitch big and keeping the ball moving to open up space. Despite the four goals against Wycombe, the question with this side remains whether we can convert dominance into a comfortable lead.

The pace Tranmere have on the counter-attack is a concern given how we are likely to push up the pitch with long spells of possession. Cutting off that service by pressing their defence or making tactical fouls should be the strategy to limit that threat as much as possible, especially as we are a side that doesn’t excel when sitting back and looking to play on the counter-attack ourselves.

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