Tuesday 27th February.
It must be tough being a Town player when they take the field
for each game they are playing a better team, the league table doesn’t
lie, does it? Well, there is one exception to this rule - Tranmere
are actually worse than us, the league table says so! Unfortunately
for Town, Tranmere weren’t aware of this little nugget and extended
our beaten run to three games.
I don’t know if other football fans do strange things in the name
of superstition, but today was Shrove Tuesday, which means little
to me other than the fact that it’s the day when you gorge yourself
on pancakes until you feel sick. This, however, brought back memories
of the same day last season when I troughed on pancakes whilst listening
to Town losing 2-0 to Swindon who also happened to be bottom of
the table at the time. This was too much of a coincidence and I
felt obliged to pass on the pancakes and have curry instead! As
things turned out I should have stuck to the pancakes – my culinary
choice didn’t make one jot of difference.
Surprisingly (to me at least) Macari chose to field essentially
the same side that had lost to Burnley 3 days earlier with the exception
of Kenny Irons stepping back into midfield as expected. The most
peculiar decision was the reshuffling of the rest of the team as
Thomas Heary played in midfield and Craig Armstrong returned to
left back. Steve Jenkins was restored to his traditional right back
slot and he persisted with the shaky looking central defensive duo
of Lucketti and Moses. I flicked Teletext on at 7.45 to see how
many goals we had conceded but was greeted by the message that the
game was delayed for 15 minutes due to crowd congestion. This was
no surprise because games against Town must be one hell of a pull
for opposition fans, and I’m sure it had nothing to do with the
fact Tranmere were issuing vouchers for their FA Cup 6th round tie
Before heading upstairs to listen to the match commentary, I quickly
checked Teletext again just in case there was a further delay to
the kick off and there wasn’t, it was worse than that, they had
managed 2 kick offs in the first minute. The first was the traditional
start to a football match, whilst the second was the result of Wayne
Allison’s 6 yard shot into the back of the Town net after just 53
seconds. Allison was let go far too prematurely last season as he
could still have done a good job for Town, but he was surplus to
requirements and allowed to join Tranmere for a fairly modest fee.
He has been unsettled at Tranmere and on the transfer list since
the 23rd December, but against Town’s uncertain defence he wasted
no time at all in his comeback game.
Town worked hard to get themselves back into the game, but it
sounded as though Thomas Heary had a particularly ineffective game
in midfield, and seemed a very odd selection when you bear in mind
that both Gorré and Sellars were warming the substitutes bench.
Each time Tranmere moved forward they seemed to be able to walk
through the Town defence who have forgotten apparently their job
descriptions. The action hotted up just after the half hour mark,
and was to prove to be a decisive passage of play.
On 31 minutes, Nico Vaesen has to react smartly to save well from
Stuart Barlow, and then a couple of minutes later the same player
shot narrowly wide of the target. Town then broke free of their
defensive shackles with Kenny Irons supplying Thomas Heary who broke
towards the Tranmere area, he unselfishly fed Martin Smith who slipped
his marker and drove a right foot shot towards goal. Tranmere keeper
Achterberg was finally beaten but as the ball headed for the back
of the net it clipped the inside of the post, spun all the way across
goal and out for a corner.
Town were still rueing their miserable luck as Tranmere broke
forward and Steve Yates found himself unmarked to head Stuart Barlow’s
cross from 5 yards out. Vaesen went ballistic with his defence and
I can’t see how Macari can stick with this defensive combination
for too much longer, Dyson and Gray are both fit and raring to go
and they will always give their very very best for Town, we need
them restored to the side now.
Following the second goal, Tranmere seemed to go back into their
shells and were content to let Town attack whilst they soaked up
the pressure. Our attacking shortcomings must be legendary and Tranmere
probably knew they could play until midnight and still lift themselves
off the foot of the table. The half drifted to a tame close and
I was left to anticipate the wholesale changes Macari would make
during the interval to salvage something from this fixture.
Quite unbelievably, Macari must have been content with life and
a 2-0 deficit as no changes were made during the break whatsoever
and the game continued in the same vein, with Tranmere happy to
let Town have most of the possession safe in the knowledge that
they would screw up any chances that came their way. When Ben Thornley
on the pitch this is usually a fairly safe bet and true to form
he completely missed the target from just 6 yards out, he did manage
to get a little closer with an effort a few minutes later but still
failed to trouble the ‘shots on target’ tally. The petulant winger
then contrived to get himself booked for dissent only moments later
and seemed to be blaming the referee for his own shooting failings.
It took until the 80th minute before Macari decided to change the
recipe by introducing Dean Gorré for Adie Moses to try to pep up
the attack. Too little too late? Yes it was and the game drifted
to an uneventful conclusion with only one other chance of note when
Delroy Facey surged into the penalty area only to stumble over the
ball when he was poised to shoot.
Before the game tonight we had as many as three games in hand
on some of the teams immediately above us in the table and although
these matches are all away from home if we could reap a reasonable
points tally from these games we could lift ourselves back towards
safety. However, this was the first of these games and having failed
to pick up any points at all we are under real pressure now because
the other 2 fixtures are both down at Selhurst Park and this is
not one of our traditionally happy hunting grounds.
We are now back on the bottom of the table after our good work
in December to breathe life into our season, and I wonder if Barry
Rubery will ever wake up and smell the coffee? This side is quite
clearly not good enough and even though our Chairman seems unwilling
to spend any more money on the squad he really ought to weigh up
how much the clubs revenues would fall in the second division and
consider a small investment now.
Tranmere 2 (Allison 1, Yates 36)
Position in table – 24th
Town – Vaesen; Jenkins; Lucketti; Moses
(Gorré 80); Armstrong; Heary; Irons; Thornley; Gallen; Facey;
Smith. Subs not used – Margetson; Gray; Dyson; Sellars.
Tranmere – Achterberg; Jobson; Hinds;
Parkinson; Koumas (Gill 80); Yates; Roberts; Allison; Barlow
(Taylor 72); Henry; Allen. Subs not used – Murphy; Challinor;
Referee – Trevor Jones (Barrow). Attendance