It’s a huge few days for both Tranmere Rovers and Forest Green Rovers as they meet in the League Two play-off semi-final.
The aim? To get to Wembley for the final with the ultimate aim of promotion into League One.
It goes without saying that both teams have had good seasons. They’ve made the play-offs which is achievement in itself, but neither side will be resting on that. They want a bigger prize.
For Tranmere, a place back in England’s third tier at the first time of asking following promotion from the National League last season. For Forest Green, a place in League One for the first time in their club’s history.
There’s a lot at stake, so where might be the tie be won or lost?
Both teams boast prolific strikers in their ranks and keeping them quiet might be the key to success.
James Norwood is the League Two Player of the Season, leading goalscorer and has been Tranmere’s talisman this term. 31 goals in all competitions, so far, is a fantastic achievement in what has been his first real season at EFL level.
With that impressive record, though, comes a spotlight and opposition teams trying to annul his threat by marking him out of the game.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen clubs try and get as many players around him as possible whenever the ball comes near him, and we can expect Forest Green to do similar in this tie. After all, they should know all about his threat having come up against him a good few times, as well as his time at the New Lawn in the early part of the decade.
Of course, trying to man mark one player with two or three will leave space for others. Tranmere are fortunate to have the likes of Connor Jennings, Kieron Morris, Ollie Banks and Ben Pringle who could cause Forest Green some serious problems given time and space, so they could be important players.
A similar statement could be made about Forest Green’s leading goalscorer. Christian Doidge has 14 goals for his side this season, a number which doesn’t sound that impressive, but he was away for four months of the campaign! He has brushed aside the disappointment of a move to the Championship falling through (read more here) and has led the line well, netting five goals in his last five appearances.
He’s a big, strong and aggressive centre forward with an eye for goal, but Manny Monthe did a good job to keep him quiet in the league fixture at Prenton Park a few weeks ago, so Micky Mellon will be hoping for a similar performance over these two games.
As we know from that game, though, Forest Green do have other attacking threats. Junior Mondal scored a cracking goal to give FGR the win on Good Friday and he is a danger man Tranmere will need to keep an eye on, similarly Reece Brown who is a tricky player looking to get between the lines of midfield and attack.
This is an interesting one because both teams have shown this season that they are adaptable to play different formations. Indeed, we may well see two different set-ups for home and away legs.
Do you want the attacking flair of a 4-4-2 which may leave you a bit more susceptible to a counter attack but might offer more of a threat going forward, or would you prefer a bit more control in the centre of the park and stick an extra man in midfield?
Or even three at the back, which both teams have done previously, and maybe use wing backs as the wide attacking options starting from a deeper starting position?
The options are endless, and it’s difficult to predict what either manager will decide to go for.
It may even be a case of a “curve ball” being thrown in, trying to be a bit unpredictable, and the opposition having to adapt to a system they weren’t expecting. Micky Mellon has shown time and time again that he can adapt his team within the course of a game, though, and he may have to do so once more to get through this tie.
As you can tell, I don’t really have a clue how things are going to pan out! That’s the beauty of football, though. In this week of all weeks, its unpredictability has shone brightly.
This week has also demonstrated that heart, passion, desire, grit, determination, will to win can also play their part. What I do know is that this Tranmere team has those qualities in abundance. And with 10,000 of the Super White Army cheering them on, boosting those energy levels, we can do this!