Tranmere remain in League One’s bottom three following a drab 0-0 draw away at Southend on Saturday.
Rovers headed down to play a Southend team who failed to win at home in all of 2019, a staggering statistic. Add to the mix that Sol Campbell’s team had conceded 65 goals in the 24 league matches so far (2.7 goals per game!) and had managed only nine points all season, if Tranmere were to record a priceless away win, this is the game they should do it in.
There was a lot of positivity when the teams were announced. There were league debuts for new boys Peter Clarke and Alex Woodyard, while Ollie Banks, Harvey Gilmour and Liam Ridehalgh were back from injury and among the subs.
However, the game was a not a great one, to say the least. Southend were the better side for much of it and created the better chances. They were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty following a mix-up between Clarke and Aaron Chapman while there was little threat from Tranmere going forward.
As the game wore on, it became clear that Micky Mellon was out to get a clean sheet and would take a point – substitutions reflected that. The clean sheet is totally understandable – Rovers have been woeful at the back this season, so that is definitely a plus point.
However, with the likes of Ferrier, Blackett-Taylor, Banks, Gilmour, Mullin, Jennings and Morris at his disposal, this was game that we should have been going to win. Apply some pressure, up the tempo and show some composure on the ball. Sadly, none of that happened.
That said, let’s look at the positives. By hook or by crook, we got that clean sheet. We also got a point, and let’s be honest, the way the game went, we could have come away with a defeat.
Also, looking at the table, the result leaves Southend 14 points adrift of safety, 12 behind Tranmere. You have to now doubt whether they have any chance of getting out of the mess they’re in, and with Bolton below them still (but improving), that should be two of the three relegation places taken.
As for Rovers, the draw also meant that we closed the gap on AFC Wimbledon and lost no ground on MK Dons. It also took us a point closer to Accrington, although they are seven clear of Tranmere.
The reality is Rovers now have a pretty daunting run of fixtures to navigate their way through. FA Cup fever will of course hit on Tuesday night and could potentially scale-up still further if we win, however, the league is a different animal.
Ipswich, Blackpool, Sunderland and Bolton are the next four games we face and we’ll need to up our game considerably to move out of the bottom three during that period.