When Tranmere beat a host of clubs to sign defender Sid Nelson on loan from Millwall in January, many were expecting him to come in and make a serious impact.
However, as debuts go, Nelson was pretty low on luck. He broke his nose just minutes in to his Rovers debut and was replaced before half-time. Days later he was patched up and put back in to the starting eleven, only for the same to happen.
Since then, Nelson has struggled to get near the first team thanks to the impervious form of Mark Ellis and Manny Monthe. As is now routine for a Tranmere promotion challenge though, the injuries have begun to stack up and Ellis’s serious knee injury against Forest Green on Friday almost certainly ended his season.
Enter Nelson, who played the remaining hour or so of the game on Friday before starting at Lincoln on Easter Monday. However, he was hooked by Micky Mellon after just 45 minutes at Sincil Bank despite a solid enough first half.
While Micky says the move was tactical, there was more than a hint that an on-going injury complaint was the real reason for Nelson’s withdrawal. Incidentally, his replacement also came off injured.
As we head in to a huge game against Bury on Saturday, Mellon will be anxious for Nelson to be fit to play. In fact, as we enter the final two fixtures, there is also the likelihood that at least two further games sit ahead in the play-offs.
Unless Ellis has some incredible recovery, that means Nelson is going to be key to Tranmere’s success. Despite having sat on the bench for much of his time here, he will be required to hit the ground running and form a strong partnership with Manny Monthe at the heart of Rovers’ back four.
He has looked a decent player in the bits we have seen of him so far, but it’s the write-ups from Swindon fans (where he was previously on-loan) and those of parent club Millwall that give us the most cause for optimism.
Monthe is the immovable object at the back for Tranmere, but if there is one area he does struggle in, then arguably it’s his mobility. Nelson appears to have a bit of pace in his locker, which could actually be a real positive. You only have to look at some of the forwards we could face in the play-offs (Grant, Doidge, Maynard, Aneke, etc) to know that most of them can really shift when they need to.
Tranmere’s defence has been exceptional for the most part over the last few months, and it’s that solidity that will need to continue should we achieve the second consecutive promotion we’re hoping for.
Whoever pulls on the white shirt in the next month or so, let’s hope they stay clear of injury and continue with some fine form.