Tranmere Rovers face Crewe Alexandra on Tuesday evening in the Cheshire Senior Cup at Gresty Road, kick-off 7:45pm.
In any given season, on a list of priorities, the Cheshire Senior Cup would be fairly low on the list, especially given our current league position. It is generally always used by Rovers as a reserve fixture, a chance to give match minutes to those players who need them.
In this particular instance, it’s an important step for defensive duo Mark Ellis and Evan Gumbs who are on the comeback trail after lengthy spells on the sidelines with knee injuries.
The opportunity to get back playing is massively important for the pair who have been absent for the past 10 months or so, and to help them step up their fitness could be massively important to Micky Mellon for the League One run-in.
Gumbs has had a 45 minute run out before this in a reserve fixture, but for Ellis, this will be his first competitive action since he sustained the injury back on Good Friday last year against one of his former clubs, Forest Green Rovers.
He was playing well at the time and forming a strong defensive partnership with Manny Monthe in the heart of the Rovers rearguard, before disaster struck and ruled him out for 10 months.
The experience that Ellis can bring to the side and the leadership of someone who has played plenty of football in League One previously could be huge for Tranmere in the final few games.
We all know that defensively we have concede far too many goals, and have perhaps lacked that ‘League One know how’. Ellis brings that in abundance.
And so this game, and I’m sure a few reserve games after this, will be important to get him back into the swing of things and improve his match fitness to get him, hopefully, ready to push for a place in the first team once again.
Meanwhile, Evan Gumbs’ return is pleasing to end a run of bad luck for the Academy graduate.
He has suffered a couple of really long layoffs with serious injuries and has been incredibly unlucky in this aspect.
After a long absence through a broken leg, Gumbs had to bide his time for an opportunity in the first team and it finally came against Lincoln City last term, just three days after Ellis’ unfortunate incident.
Coming on as a substitute, he had to be replaced himself before the end of the game with a knee ligament injury after performing well against the Imps.
Gumbs has bags of potential and hopefully his bad luck is well and truly behind him and he can stay fit for a sustained period. He deserves that.
At a time when our defence is a problematic area, the return of these two to full fitness would certainly be a big boost for Micky Mellon and the management team.
The result of the Cheshire Senior Cup tie doesn’t particularly matter, the importance of getting minutes under the belts for these two players outweighs it ten-fold, and it will likely be a competitive game with Crewe likely to field a decent line-up.
Hopefully, the pair can get through this game unscathed, put in a good performance and then gradually begin to give the gaffer a selection headache ahead of some hugely important matches coming up.