ITEN Match Preview: Tranmere (A)
Darren Moore must be in seventh heaven after Tuesday night’s demolition of Southend, but there is little time to bask in the glow of that record-equalling away win as another road trip beckons.
Doncaster Rovers will look to cap a week that has already yielded six points with a third straight win against Tranmere, who like Southend are struggling to find their feet this season and will no doubt be dreading Moore’s side rolling into town. Can we make it three out of three?
Thomas brace creates welcome dilemma
It can be hard to know what to write about potential team changes after a result as emphatic as the 7-1 thrashing Donny (shorthand of the week due to our opponents again being fellow Rovers) delivered to Southend. The entire team has come into superb form so dislodging any of that starting XI seems a tough task for those on the outside looking in.
Following on from a brilliant team display in seeing off Bristol Rovers last Saturday, Moore’s charges turned the screw against a Shrimpers side reduced to ten men inside the opening 10 minutes, with Kwame Thomas marking his return to the starting line-up with his first two goals in the hoops before Southend lost another man to a cynical challenge on Jon Taylor and the floodgates opened.
The second of three games in eight days, the manager clearly wanted to manage the return from injury of Niall Ennis, and Thomas took his chance with aplomb to set Donny on the way to a big win at Roots Hall. Placing him back on the bench would be harsh, but you feel was probably the original plan before Thomas surpassed Ennis’ goal tally for the season in less than an hour on Tuesday night.
With no new injury concerns heading into the weekend, the only other question mark over selection will be in central defence, where Joe Wright played 45 minutes at Southend in place of Donervon Daniels after Daniels was booked and subsequently targeted by an increasingly desperate opposition wanting to cancel Donny’s numerical advantage in the first half.
One senses that Daniels may retain his place for now but that Moore knows he has a decision to make, particularly once Kazaiah Sterling returns forcing someone to be left out due to our overpopulated loan ranks.
Tranmere smarting from heavy defeat
As Donny were dismantling Southend, Tranmere were suffering a beating of their own in the North East, going down 5-0 to Sunderland. The Whites have had a tough time of it in League One after back-to-back promotions out of the National League and are struggling both away and on their own patch. Their last game at Prenton Park was a 1-1 draw with Southend, a game they were fortunate not to lose, and they sit just one place ahead of the relegation zone at present.
Summer signing Morgan Ferrier’s absence has been keenly felt up front, and although Stefan Payne has notched four times this season, he picked up his fifth yellow card of the season at the Stadium of Light so his suspension means the burden of goals will fall instead to Paul Mullin and Corey Blackett-Taylor this weekend, although the latter is more of a wide forward and has been injured himself this past week.
Manager Micky Mellon has opted for the ultra-experienced midfield pairing of Neil Danns and David Perkins in the last couple of games, with the duo coming in at a combined age of 73, but winger Kieron Morris is the most likely provider in this side, having notched up three assists to date this term and playing in every game.
A flat 4-4-2 looks probable for the game although Mellon isn’t afraid to mix things up, utilising a 4-3-3 and a 3-5-2 earlier in the campaign when the game called for it. With the absence of Payne leaving no obvious focal point up front, a switch to incorporate wide forwards Blackett-Taylor and Rushian Hepburn-Murphy is an option, but it remains to be seen whether Tranmere will look for wholesale changes after that painful, if somewhat predictable, drubbing at Sunderland.
These two sides met frequently throughout the 20th century but have only faced off 11 times since 1990. Donny are on a four-game winning streak against Tranmere in the battle of the Rovers, completing the double during the League One title-winning campaign of 2012/13. Rob Jones scored the only goal at the Keepmoat in April of that season, with former Tranmere striker Iain Hume scoring a memorable decisive goal in injury time of the last meeting at Prenton Park, winning it 2-1 for Dean Saunders’ side.
Tranmere last beat Donny back in February 2007, when a goal from prolific lower league striker Chris Greenacre gave them a 1-0 win. James Coppinger played the full 90 minutes that day for the visitors whilst the opposition included forward Gareth Taylor, just under a year before joining Sean O’Driscoll’s side from the Whites to assist in the League One promotion campaign.
Remarkably, one player lined up against Coppinger that day who is still playing despite being older than the evergreen maestro. That man is the now 40-year-old Kevin Ellison, who currently plies his trade for Morecambe in League Two but lined up at Prenton Park that day in midfield alongside former Liverpool player Jason McAteer, who was playing the final season of his career with his hometown club.