The nightmares before Christmas


Tranmere kick-off a busy schedule of festive fixtures today with a hugely important clash against AFC Wimbledon at Prenton Park.

While looking ahead to this fixture, it got us thinking about the final league game before Christmas in previous seasons. It’s not a slot in the fixture list that really brings any fond memories flooding back, so we decided to dig a little deeper and look back at Tranmere’s record down the years. Maybe we shouldn’t have.

Over the past 20 seasons, Tranmere have gone in to the final league fixture before Christmas in many different positions. From being in the Championship to struggling in non-league, and just about every scenario in between.

You’d think the law of averages would give us a fairly good record over a period of that length, but of the last 20 pre-Christmas fixtures, Tranmere have won only five. And there have been some absolute howlers along the way.

History is history, and we’re sure Rovers will win today, but cast your eye down some of the results from years gone by. And in instances where the game before Xmas was postponed or not a league game, we have taken the next closest league match before Christmas Day.

Here are some of the worst nightmares before Christmas

23rd December, 2000
Tranmere 0-4 Wimbledon
Hopefully not an omen for tomorrow, just over 8,000 fans came to watch this winter warmer, but Tranmere were totally frozen out. The Dons led 1-0 at half-time and then had a player sent off in the 50thminute. Despite that, the 10 men somehow added another three goals to complete the rout. Joyeux Noël, indeed.

18th December, 2004
Hull City 6-1 Tranmere
Possibly the most demoralising pre-Christmas fixture ever? Rovers went to the KC Stadium hot on the heels of Hull and Luton, and ended up with two goalkeeper injuries and an absolute whacking. Theo Whitmore played the second half in goal and, well, the rest is history. Eurgh.

17th December, 2005
Tranmere 1-4 Brentford
Another heavy home defeat before Christmas, this time the Bees stung us despite Calvin Zola netting for Rovers.

21st December, 2012
Swindon Town 5-0 Tranmere
Trips to Swindon are unpleasant at the best of times, but this pre-Christmas disaster took place on a Friday night in 2012. We were 4-0 down inside 33 minutes. What a Merry Christmas that was.

20th December, 2013
Tranmere 1-2 Gillingham
This wasn’t as bad as the first two, but it was still quite grim. Another Friday night before Christmas, and it won’t surprise you to recall that Adebayo Akinfenwa scored twice. Jim McNulty was sent off for Rovers, too. 

17th December, 2016
Lincoln City 2-1 Tranmere
There are probably worse results than this, but it’s another one of those that just knocked the stuffing right out of us. On a typically cold and wintery afternoon at Sincil Bank, Rovers had matched hosts and title rivals Lincoln City all the way, even bettered them. A Jeff Hughes penalty looked to have earned us a point, but a bit of a calamity late on saw Scott Davies race far out of his penalty area and a Lincoln player knock it past him to win the match. Bah humbug.

22nd December, 2018
Bury 2-1 Tranmere
We’ve thrown this in here because it was just so frustrating. Rovers dominated the first half at Gigg Lane and played the hosts off the park. Nors missed a couple of sitters and before we knew it we were heading for defeat. Ritchie Sutton forced in the scruffiest of goals in stoppage time to give us false hope, but it didn’t last. 

The five wins

Okay, let’s end on some Christmas cheer. For the record, these were the only five victories we could find immediately pre-Christmas since way back in the 1999/00 season when we lost the pre-Christmas game at home to Norwich. 

We’re sure that by 5pm today, we will have our sixth pre-Christmas victory since then!

15th December, 2001
Tranmere 3-1 Port Vale
If our memory serves us correctly, the fixture immediately before Christmas was postponed, meaning this was our last game before the festive season. It ended in victory, hurrah. 

Christmas Trivia: Can you name the TRFC scorers? We’ve put them at the bottom of this article for when you’re ready – no cheating. 

20th December, 2003
Tranmere 1-0 Brighton
Okay, name the scorer in this very dull game. It was a late one…83rd minute.

20th December, 2008
Tranmere 1-0 Brighton
Can we play you every week-before-Christmas? The Seagulls were sent packing in 2008 as well and it was an even later winner. Go on, name the scorer. 

19th December, 2009
Tranmere 2-0 Bristol Rovers
Not a particularly memorable fixture, but we did at least win.

21st December, 2017
Sutton Utd 1-3 Tranmere
Finally, Tranmere made relatively easy work of something, although it took a couple of worldies to get us on our way! Can you remember the three scorers?

Winning goal scorer trivia answers:

Vs Port Vale: Wayne Allison x2, Steve Yates

Vs Brighton 2003: Ryan Taylor (pen)

Vs Brighton 2008: Antony Kay

Vs Bristol Rovers: Craig Curran and Gareth Edds

Vs Sutton Utd: Adam Buxton, Connor Jennings, Andy Cook

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