After a great run of form which saw Rovers register five consecutive league wins without so much as conceding a goal, familiar problems have resurfaced recently which has yielded three points from four games and saw Rovers dumped out of the FA Cup. What’s next? Swindon away. Just what we need.
When Tranmere won at Salford in mid-September, it kick-started a great run of form that was built upon a newly-discovered defensive formula. Jordan Turnbull and Dynel Simeu at the centre of a back four, no more dodgy back five. Simple 4-4-2.
Rovers followed that result with four more wins before a decent enough draw at Harrogate. However, one thing you cannot escape if you have watched Rovers this season, or any time since February really, is a real lack of attacking threat.
Aside from Kieron Morris on the right side and the brilliant attacking full-backs Dacres-Cogley and Bristow, Rovers lack consistency from an attacking perspective in any other area.
Josh Hawkes’ form continues to run hot and cold on the left side while up front Hemmings and Nevitt still don’t seem to have struck up any sort of partnership or understanding, despite playing a lot of football together.
Hemmings’ work rate cannot be faulted, but we just don’t create many chances. When we do, such as the late couple from Bristow’s crosses against Stockport, we don’t get on the end of them. Let’s hope January brings some solutions by way of new signings, but there is a lot of football to play before then.
That continues on Saturday when we face Swindon Town.
Rovers’ woeful County Ground record
Swindon are one of those clubs that, even when they’re having a poor season, seem to cause Tranmere no end of headaches, especially away from home. In fact, you have to go back to 2006 for the last time we won there – a 2-1 success thanks to first half goals from Chris Greenacre and Sam Aiston.
If you go back to the turn of the year 2000, Rovers have met Swindon 13 times in league games at the County Ground, losing 9 of them and conceding 27 goals!
However, last season we did earn a creditable 0-0 draw early in the season, a game we should have probably won, so maybe all is not lost.
Swindon are currently sixth in League Two, four places and five points better off than Tranmere. A victory for Rovers would put them right back on the coattails of the top seven, potentially even squeezing us into seventh spot depending on results elsewhere.
For that to happen, Micky Mellon simply has to rediscover the defensive solidity that was the basis on which the recent run of positive results was built. The two recent defeats to Carlisle in the league and FA Cup were all too easy for the opposition, with that defensive wall looking pretty easy to penetrate all of a sudden.
The last two games have also seen Mellon start with five at the back again, unsurprisingly it has brought no wins and in both games the switch back to 4-4-2 had to be made before Rovers showed any sort of attacking intent. Hopefully we see the back four restored on Saturday.
The other consideration will be who starts further up the pitch. Maybe Elliott Nevitt is taken out in favour of Paul Lewis perhaps playing a little further behind off Hemmings. Lewis, while not everyone’s cup of tea, does have a knack of pinching the odd goal and arriving into the area at the right time – away from home, that may be a good weapon to deploy.
Whatever we line-up with on Saturday, strap yourselves in for another long and probably stressful afternoon!
And our first win at the County Ground in 16 years…