Tranmere Rovers will be looking to get back to winning ways when they play host to Port Vale on Saturday afternoon. After a run of two defeats and a draw in the last couple of weeks, Micky Mellon’s side will be keen to pick three points again, particularly in front of the home support at Prenton Park.
In isolation, the past three results look poor. But given their context, it is certainly no case for alarm.
Defeat in the Carabao Cup was against higher division Walsall and Rovers put in a good performance for large parts of that fixture. Defeat at Swindon followed, with Tranmere in total control and 2-0 up until a 16th minute red card for Jay Harris turned the game on its head. And then on Tuesday night, it was a good point against a good Mansfield Town side who looked a genuine threat and potential promotion challengers this term.
So far this season, Rovers have played some good and exciting football which could and maybe should have yielded more points. But as a supporter, it has been a joy to watch, and it is also nice to see opposition teams trying to play good stuff too. The majority of the games have been entertaining and open football matches, which has been a breath of fresh air.
As the manager has said, it has been a steep learning curve for his team, the majority of which has not played too much League football, and those who have haven’t done so for some time.
Lesson one we have learned is that you have to be good in both boxes. If you don’t score at one end, teams have the quality to punish you at the other if you don’t stay switched on.
Lesson two is you have to keep your discipline. You can maybe get away with a little bit more in the National League, and because of the team’s status, we could probably manage better with a man down in the lower division. You can’t in this one, as Swindon showed us and punished us despite some heroic performances.
So on to Saturday and the visit of Port Vale. New signing Franklyn Akammadu may not be available to feature due to international clearance issues, but the young striker sounds a promising addition to Mellon’s squad and we look forward to seeing more of him and the weeks go by.
Ritchie Sutton is still ruled out but his injury does not need an operation, which we can only assume is positive news. Hopefully he’ll be back sooner rather than later, but it will be a matter of months rather than weeks.
Other defenders Zoumana Bakayogo, Adam Buxton and Liam Ridehalgh are progressing well but not ready for selection in this game, but it might not be much longer to wait before we see them all back in the white shirt.
Looking at the opposition, Port Vale sit a point better off than Rovers in 11th position with two wins and two losses from their opening four fixtures.
Their home form is good, but away from home, they cannot buy a win. They lost 2-1 on the road at Carlisle in midweek, the place they picked up their last away win last December.
In defence, they have a face familiar to most Rovers fans in Antony Kay, who had a successful stint at Prenton Park between 2007 and 2009 under Ronnie Moore.
And up front, they have a potent strikeforce in the form of Tom Pope and Ricky Miller who will undoubtedly keep Mssrs McNulty and Ellis busy all afternoon.
There would be no better way to get the Bank Holiday weekend off to a perfect start than three points for Rovers, but it certainly won’t be an easy task. But nothing worthwhile ever is.