There are many advantages to be being back in the Football League, but playing Swindon Town is not one of them.
From dodgy floodlight failures and play-off defeat to our own defender trying to scoring an own goal the halfway line; memories of playing this lot are not the happiest.
Even earlier this season, a routine away win and a two-goal lead turned in to a spectacular ten-man implosion. We’ve lost our last six league games against Swindon and they’ve won on their last four visits to Prenton Park. Excited yet?
That said, we welcome the Robins to Prenton Park in a good place. Victory at Cheltenham last week was packed with positives, not least that it put us back on the cusp of the play-offs. Solid debuts for Ishmael Miller and David Perkins and a goal scoring return from injury for Ollie Banks capped off a fine afternoon and ended a woeful run of away results.
We’re also pretty handy at home, losing just one of 13 home league matches this season. The last team to triumph in a league match at Prenton Park was Newport back in September. Since then, we’ve won six of the eight league games on home turf, drawing the other two.
This weekend, it’s a return to home comforts. Swindon arrive just three of places but five points behind Rovers in the division. They sacked manager Phil Brown earlier this season with former Oldham and Blackpool midfielder Richie Wellens now in charge.
They’ve drawn four of their last six games and could only muster a point against leaders Lincoln last week despite the visitors having been reduced to nine men with dismissals on 34 and 55 minutes. Town led 2-0 but were clinging on to a point by the time it got to full-time.
Interestingly, Swindon are not a side to throw the towel in when they go behind in games. They’ve won more points from losing position than any other side in League Two this season, a total of 17.
Another thing to watch out for tomorrow is Swindon’s ability to win penalties. Their top scorer is Michael Doughty with 8 goals – five of which have come from the penalty spot.
Given that information, it’s perhaps somewhat worrying that tomorrow’s referee isn’t afraid of dishing out penalties or cards. Ross Joyce has officiated 30 games this season from the Championship down to League Two, awarding five penalties, showing 107 yellow cards and three reds. Joyce has not taken charge of a Tranmere game this season, but he did oversee Swindon’s 2-1 win at Notts County.
Staggeringly, there has been a whopping 106 goals in those 30 games when Joyce has reffed – a figure that seems very high. So, expect lots of cards and lots of goals tomorrow (cue a drab 0-0).
Micky Mellon will probably name an unchanged starting eleven for this one, though Connor Jennings is back in full training and should return to the squad. He’s usually a regular starter, but given last week’s result, he may have to plump for a place on the bench tomorrow. Ollie Banks will start again – he did of course have a spell on loan with Swindon last season.
Tranmere’s bench may be a little thin following a succession of departures in the last few days. Cole Stockton (season loan), Ben Tollit (1 month loan), Akammadu (loan terminated), Sutton (Morecambe), Williams (released) and Cole (released) have all left Prenton Park. New signings are expected, but it doesn’t look like they will arrive in time for tomorrow.
Swindon will have their own new signing available tomorrow. 30-year-old midfielder Danny Rose has joined from Portsmouth and will likely go in to the squad. He’s left-footed, as the Swindon website reiterated several times in the announcement article.
On-loan Reading striker Ben House will face a late fitness test (dead leg) but should be fine after he stepped up training yesterday. Fellow loanee Ali Koiki could make his first start for the club – he’s a defender and made his debut for the club as a sub last week.