Strap yourselves in, the new season kicks off tomorrow as Rovers entertain Barrow. So, what should we expect from the fixture and from both teams?
Rovers are finally free of the long list of injuries that hampered the last campaign, and much of pre-season. At one point in July, Ian Dawes was without eight players for friendly matches due to injury.
While nobody is carrying an injury, that doesn’t mean they’re all fit. The likes of Luke Norris, Kristian Dennis, Chris Merrie and Brad Walker are not yet match fit and are some weeks behind some of their teammates.
Norris got his first taste of action as a late sub against Wigan last Friday having been sidelined since March. Merrie and Walker both made comebacks from long-term injuries earlier last month so are highly unlikely to start. Dennis is a little further along, however, you’d expect all four to be named only among the subs.
As far as the starting line-up goes, our prediction would be something like the below operating in a 4-4-2, though it could be the same personnel in more of a 4-3-3:
Having a fit Kieron Morris available again this season is a massive positive for Tranmere. He missed the vast majority of last season with two long-term injuries but offers the most creativity in the team.
Last season’s top scorer Josh Hawkes will also look to continue to improve having hit double figures in goals last season. Having Morris back, presumably on the opposite side of the pitch, will likely help Hawkes as teams will have two dangerous wingers to keep tabs on and so doubling up on one may leave space for a quick switch of play to the opposite side. Expect them also to swap wings intermittently.
Connor Jennings will lead the line in his first competitive game in a Rovers shirt since that night in Blackpool in 2020, days before the season was ended due to COVID. He has been excellent in pre-season and has shown himself to be capable of playing as a bit of a target man, winning headers, bringing others into play and holding the ball up. A part of his game we didn’t really see in his previous spell due to his role in the team.
The bench is likely to feature the aforementioned Norris, Dennis, Walker and Merrie, with new signing Joe Yarney, youngster Sam Taylor, goalkeeper/coach Joe Murphy the most likely to occupy the other spaces.
Don’t forget, teams can use five subs in games again this season – see how, and other rule/guidance changes, in this article.
The visitors will be a tough nut for Tranmere to crack tomorrow. They enjoyed a good campaign last time around so much so their manager Pete Wild has been linked to other jobs in recent months, not least Tranmere’s.
They’ve recruited well in the summer. Experienced winger David Worrall came in from Port Vale and knows this level well. His delivery from the right is dangerous and he will definitely offer a creative threat.
Two other new arrivals are in the shape of strikers Jamie Proctor, also from Vale, and Courtney Duffus from Morecambe. They may both start tomorrow if fit in a new-look Barrow frontline.
Another player to keep watch for is left back Junior Tiensia. The 22-year-old arrived from Solihull Moors in the summer where he had only played seven games last season having joined from Gloucester in March. He impressed though, and the former Millwall youngster has a big season ahead of him but could turn out to be a great bit of business.
Expect a conservative approach from Wild’s team. Yes, they will still have a bit of route one about them, but organised defending and neat possession play is what helped get results and shift Barrow up the table last season.