Tranmere Rovers are back on the road for this weekend’s League One clash with Oxford United at the Kassam Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Micky Mellon and his side will be looking to build on a couple of draws in their last two outings, away at Rotherham and at home against Gillingham, as they look to move up the league table.
Both of those points have been earned the hard way, Rovers coming from behind to secure a draw on each occasion. It’s demonstrates the great spirit and determination within the squad, as well as the fitness to keep going, but the Tranmere manager will be hoping his team can get on the scoresheet first this time out.
The two teams both sit on five points, Tranmere three places above 20th placed Oxford due to a superior goal difference, so a positive result for Rovers will be important as it will keep The U’s below in the standings.
United are managed by former MK Dons boss Karl Robinson.
The U’s enjoyed a really good start to the 2019-20 season, picking up an excellent point on the road against Sunderland on the opening day of the campaign, before back-to-back 1-0 home wins over Peterborough United (once in the league and the other in the Carabao Cup).
But since then, it’s been a real struggle for Robinson’s side who have collected just a solitary point from five league games.
They’ve come across some good sides in that run of fixtures, however, so it can be a little misleading purely looking at the results, as they’ve played teams who are likely to be battling at the upper end of the table come May.
Whilst their league form has been less than impressive, the opposite can be said of their form in cup competitions.
In the second round of the Carabao Cup, they knocked out Championship side Millwall on penalties and have set up a high-profile third round encounter against Premier League outfit West Ham United.
They have also picked up a victory in the EFL Trophy, beating Norwich City Under-21, so they do have some sort of form going into this weekend’s encounter with Rovers.
Among their squad is on-loan Liverpool attacker Ben Woodburn, who was linked with a similar move to Prenton Park during the summer, albeit on internet forums and social media.
The 19-year-old burst onto the scene in style a couple of years ago and earned international call-ups with Wales, but he appears to have gone off the boil somewhat during recent times.
Another Liverpool academy graduate sits in the heart of the U’s midfield in the form of Cameron Brannagan.
Now 23, Brannagan has plenty of experience from his time at the Kassam Stadium and is an influential member of their team, scoring four goals already so far this season.
Another player the Rovers rearguard will need to keep an eye on closely is veteran striker Jamie Mackie.
The former Reading, QPR and Nottingham Forest front man may be in the latter stages of his career, but he still has a keen eye for goal.
Mackie netted in the 3-3 draw against Coventry City earlier this month, and the former Scotland international will certainly be looking to increase that tally.
Will Cameron Borthwick-Jackson make his Tranmere debut after joining on loan from Manchester United last week?
The left-back joined the club at the beginning of the month and had to settle for a place among the substitutes last weekend against Gillingham with Liam Ridehalgh maintaining his position in the side.
That may well be the case again this weekend, but with an extra week training under his belt, the loanee may well have stepped up his case for a starting berth.
In the other full-back position, Jake Caprice is edging closer to full fitness again after a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
However, Calum Woods came on at half time last weekend and impressed, could well keep that spot in the team.
Winger Corey Blackett-Taylor misses out for the final time as he serves the third game of a three-match suspension following his sending off against Bristol Rovers last month.
Injuries still rule out Mark Ellis, Evan Gumbs, Kane Wilson, Morgan Ferrier and Ishmael Miller.
Two draws after two comebacks has given Micky Mellon something positive to build on as they head to Oxfordshire this weekend.
However, it would be nice to get that first goal and the manager has spoken this week about how important doing just that can be for his team.
It’s early days, but it’s important to keep as many teams below us as possible. A positive result from this fixture and Oxford stay below Rovers in the league standings, and I believe that would be positive psychologically for Micky and the players.
It’s not an easy place to go to, the Kassam Stadium and, historically, we don’t have a good record away from home against Oxford.
There’s nothing but a car park behind one of the goals, and so it isn’t a ground which is conducive to creating a good atmosphere.
But the Super White Army will, undoubtedly, make as much noise as possible to support the team and, hopefully, cheer them on to what would be an important three points.