It feels like every game is a six-pointer at the moment, but this one really is. First plays fourth, and it’s likely the winner of this will be in the promotion places at the end of the season.
That doesn’t mean all is lost if we come away from Prenton Park empty handed – we’re far from assured promotion, and a defeat for the U’s only really means Tranmere are back in the mix rather than us being out of it. There’s still a lot of football to play.
Tranmere have been in poor form lately, just one win in the last five, and a heavy Good Friday defeat to Cheltenham means they’ve dropped out of the automatic places. This has partly been down to the loss of talismanic striker James Vaughan, but they’ve also been without goalkeeper Scott Davies with these injuries coming at the worst time.
United on the other hand are flying, four wins in the last five keeping us comfortably up the top of the form table (just behind Bolton & Orient) and actually top of the actual table. It seems only a few weeks ago we were pouring over all manner of ‘worst case scenario’ tables if all the teams around us won their games in hand, at one point we could have dropped to to sixth, today the worst case scenario table would see us only drop to second.
The U’s great form has been helped no doubt by an empty midweek schedule, and a mostly fully-fit squad – however Monday’s game will – bar an Easter miracle – see us without Wes Hoolahan, so integral to our style of play. You can debate whether he should or shouldn’t, can or can’t, will or won’t play until the cows come home, but Bonner has been pretty clear – at 38 Wes needs time to recover and midweek games aren’t an option for him.
Expected U’s Line-Up: Burton, Knoyle, Okedina, Taylor, Dunk, Hannant, Boateng, Digby, Iredale, Mullin, Ironside
So, without Wes there’s not much point sticking with the diamond, we expect Bonner will revert to a 4-4-2 with Dunk and Iredale at LB and LW respectively, and Hannant out on the right. Shilow Tracey will offer fresh legs from the bench. Boateng and & O’Neil haven’t done anything to lose their places in the centre, but we suspect O’Neil will make way for Digby (for fitness reasons as much as anything) and him and Adam May will be options from the bench. Up front, Mullin will want to prove a point to his old employer.
Who’s In The Dugout: Keith Hill. Got Bolton relegated last season but soon found work on Merseyside. Previously at Rochdale and Barnsley.
Who’s Their Player to Watch? They might be missing James Vaughan but still possess a former international up front in David Nugent. Jay Spearing is also vastly experienced and will be looking to turn around Rovers poor form.
What’s Their Recent Form Like? P5, W1, D3, L1, For 5, Against 8
Any Ex-United Players? Only Paul Lewis, who I was surprised to learn played almost 100 games for United and didn’t really stand out in any of them.
Last Time Out: U’s 0-0 Tranmere, September 26 2020
Not really a classic, a fairly nervy early-season encounter.
From The Archive: Tranmere 2-0 U’s, August 15 1992
John Aldridge amongst the goals for the Tranmere as United attempt to put the disappointment of the previous seasons play-off exit behind them.
UTAS Moosenet Tip: 2-1 United, Mullin.