Mark Bonner’s free-scoring, table-topping juggernaut returns to Abbey action tomorrow as Tranmere come to town.
If you’d have asked us three weeks ago where we thought we’d be now, even the most optimistic U’s fan wouldn’t have said top of the table, having not conceded any goals. But that’s where we are, off the back of a hard-working performance against Carlisle and an impressive demolition of Morecambe. They might not have been anyones favourites for the League, but you can only beat what’s put in front of you.
Tranmere make the long journey south as one of many peoples favourites for at least a playoff spot, if not outright promotion. Relegated from League One last season thanks to the PPG averaging that hilariously denied P*sh a play-off position, they’ll have an axe to grind. Rovers haven’t got off to the best start this season, drawing away at Mansfield and losing 3-0 to Cheltenham at home as well as losing both their cup games this year. They’ve added a number of faces to their squad this year including two players with Premier League experience in striker James Vaughan (previously of Everton, Norwich and Crystal Palace) and midfielder Jay Spearing (formerly of Liverpool, Bolton and Blackburn), as well as a familiar face in Paul Lewis, who spent three years at the Abbey, making almost 100 appearances.
Mark Bonner has an almost full-strength squad to choose from, with only Liam O’Neil as a confirmed absentee after his injury against Carlisle looks set to keep him out for a couple of months. Harry Darling looks set to return to the squad but probably won’t make the first XI, but new signing Idris El Mizouni will be hoping to get some minutes. One man who hopes to get on the scoresheet again is Paul Mullin who spent two years at his hometown club before joining the U’s.
We’ve played Tranmere 26 times dating back to 1974, sharing 9 wins each and 8 draws. Last season we lost 1-0 at Prenton Park before drawing 0-0 at the Abbey, since returning to the League we have only met each other previously in the 2014/15 season, where a 1-1 draw in Prenton Park was followed by a 2-1 defeat at the Abbey, Sully Kaikai with the goal. Before that, you need to go back to the 2001/02 season to see our last win, David Bridges and Tom Youngs scoring in a 2-1 win at the Abbey, avenging a 6-1 defeat in Liverpool earlier that season, courtesy of some kamikaze goalkeeping by Lionel Perez.
U’s chairman Ian Mather spoke with the media this week and stressed the importance of fans watching the match on iFollow, in light of the decision to stop fans watching games in stadiums again. The income provided by iFollow is probably going to be what determines whether clubs live or die, and whilst we’re not quite in dire straits just yet, this decision is going to have a severe financial impact on the club. Season ticket holders have had iFollow codes emailed to them already, but if you know anyone who wants to watch a (hopefully) attractive game featuring a free-scoring United side, direct them to the clubs homepage to buy a pass.