Tranmere Rovers hit the road for the first time this Sky Bet League One season as they face Portsmouth at Fratton Park on Saturday afternoon.
Just a 520-mile round trip (according to Google Maps) for the first away day of the season, and possibly one of the most difficult as Pompey are one of the favourites for promotion this season with a strong squad assembled by manager Kenny Jackett.
Rovers were unable to get off to a good start to the campaign last weekend, falling to a 3-2 home defeat against Rochdale.
The positive to take out of the game, though, was the fighting spirit shown by the team to claw the game back from 3-0 to 3-2 with an own goal and a Connor Jennings strike late on.
That spirit will be needed throughout the season, although it perhaps went a little too far as new loan signing Rushian Hepburn-Murphy was shown a red card for a shove on Jordan Williams after the Jennings goal had made it 3-2 in injury time.
Micky Mellon has added to his squad this week with the season-long loan signing of Chelsea midfielder Jacob Maddox.
The 20-year-old has been at Stamford Bridge for six years after joining from Bristol City, and as well as featuring heavily for The Blues’ junior sides, he has first team experience from a loan with Cheltenham Town last term.
Maddox featured 44 times for The Robins and will be looking to use his temporary move to Prenton Park to further improve and gain more valuable senior experience in a division higher.
The Tranmere boss has also signed full-back Kane Wilson on loan from West Bromwich Albion until January.
The right-back, 19, comes in with Jake Caprice currently out with an ankle injury sustained in pre-season.
Micky Mellon will be without striker Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, who serves a suspension following his sending off against Rochdale last week.
Morgan Ferrier will be pushing for a full Tranmere debut after an impressive 45-minute stint off the bench last week, while Maddox and Wilson are also in line for their first appearances in a Rovers jersey.
Calum Woods could also come into contention for a starting berth. The summer signing was named as a substitute against ‘Dale after recovering from injury, but with a further week’s training under his belt and no other recognised right back fit, Woods might be called upon to step into that role.
Jake Caprice, Mark Ellis, Evan Gumbs and Ishmael Miller all remain absent through injury.
As mentioned earlier in this piece, Portsmouth are one of the favourites to go up from League One this season, having finished 4th last term and missing out on promotion in the play-offs.
They will be looking to go one better this time around under experienced former Millwall manager Kenny Jackett.
To help bolster their promotion push, this summer Pompey signed striker John Marquis for an undisclosed fee which is reported to be around £2million. That goes some way to describe the size of the task in hand for Tranmere this weekend.
However, all that said, the south coast club didn’t get off to a winning start in their opening league game of the season last Saturday, suffering a 1-0 defeat away against Shrewsbury Town.
Pompey did pick up a victory in the first round of the Carabao Cup in midweek, with an impressive 3-0 win over Championship side Birmingham City at Fratton Park.
This game is arguably one of the most difficult of the season. But, perhaps it is a good time to face one of the fancied teams who are bedding in new players and not yet in their full flow.
However, the same can be said of Rovers, who have made three new signings in the past eight or nine days. It will take time to gel, but Micky Mellon will undoubtedly get them well organised for this fixture.
The hosts will likely line-up in a 4-3-3 system, so it will be interesting to see if the Tranmere boss will make any tactical alterations to his side to combat that, with the threat of the aforementioned Marquis likely to line up alongside Ronan Curtis and Marcus Harness in attack.
Pompey had an excellent home record last season, losing only four times at Fratton Park in League One, so it is a bit of a fortress for them. An old-fashioned ground, it’s sure to be a good atmosphere with two passionate fanbases cheering on the two teams.
Looking back through encounters between the two clubs in the past, Tranmere actually have a good record against Portsmouth.
From 34 previous meetings, Rovers edge the head-to-head record by 14 victories to 13, with seven matches drawn.
The last time we visited Fratton Park, though, was one to forget, back in February 2015. We went from 2-0 up to 3-2 down in the space of nine second half minutes to suffer a body-blow defeat which, you could argue, we never recovered from as we ultimately fell out of the Football League at the end of that season.
Hopefully, this game will help to erase the bad memories of that previous visit and put our first points of the season on the board.