By Gerry Prewett.
When Bristol Rovers beat Tranmere Rovers earlier in the season they were looking to get their first 3-point haul of the season and to score their first goal.
It took Rovers 38 minutes to open the season’s account when Josh Hare crossed from the right and Jonson Clarke-Harris rose above his marker to head back across goal and just inside the far post.
Soon after half-time Tranmere’s task became really tough when Corey Blackett-Taylor was shown a straight red card for irresponsibly raising an arm into Ollie Clarke's face. Things got even worse for Mickey Mellon’s men when Oliver Banks collected a second caution for a foul on Luke Leahy just before the hour mark.
With Tranmere down to nine men Tyler Smith made sure of the points from the penalty spot after 88 minutes, sending goalkeeper Scott Davies the wrong way after he was brought down by George Ray.
That result was somewhat indicative of the Wirral sides struggles this season. They have not recorded back to back victories so far and currently have gone, 9 games without victory, have picked up just two points in that sequence and have not scored in their last four games.
Their latest game was a 2-0 loss at home to Portsmouth on Saturday. Kenny Jackett’s in-form side were in front with 13 minutes gone when Ronan Curtis’ free-kick from the left found the head of Sean Raggett who diverted beyond Scott Davies in the Tranmere goal.
Tranmere went agonizingly close three minutes later as Corey Blackett-Taylor’s effort fell into Andy Cook’s path, who flicked towards goal, however goalkeeper Alex Bass saved with his feet on the line.
Portsmouth scored their second goal on the counter attack five minutes after the interval, through Ryan Williams’ low drive which crept into the net to find Davies’ bottom right-corner. Davies was again tested soon after, this time he was forced to hold onto former Gas player Ellis Harrison’s glancing header from point-blank range.
Speaking after the game Micky Mellon said, “I try to be honest and give my opinion and it’s only my opinion, but I thought we were the better side first half.
I thought we looked the team likely to score but to get undone by a free-kick like that is just ridiculous. But the game lasts 90 minutes, I know that, and they get a second. I don’t know if the keeper can do better but a disappointment couple of moments have cost us.”
“We defended poorly again, we don’t give ourselves a chance if we give away goals like that. There were a lot of lads who gave good performances but to lose goals like that that when we did at the stages of the game that it was in would be tough for anybody. “
“I can use them as an example. How well did they defend and threaten in different situations? It’s tough for anyone to get over because they are soft goals, incredibly soft and it’s not something we’ve just started to do. It’s been all season. People say fix it, but believe me we did everything we can. We work hard on it. Maybe we’re working too hard on it and making it too much of a focus.”
The Gas’ first game against Tranmere took place as long ago as 12 December 1931 as the Birkenhead team ran out 2-0 winners at Prenton Park in an FA Cup tie.
It was 36 long years before the teams crossed one another again, this time in the League and the honours were shared with a 3-3 draw in the Wirral. Alan King, Joe Pritchard and Kenny Beamish scoring for the Merseysiders and a Ray Mabbutt double and a goal from Bobby Jones for the Gas.
Rovers’ best victory over the Prenton Park outfit took place on 30 September 1969, when they ran out 3-0 winners at Eastville. Robin Stubbs scoring twice and Harold Jarman with the other goal. The 3 goal margin was reversed later in the season on 17 April 1970 as Frank Gill (3), Kenny Beamish and Jim Hinch netted for the home team with Carl Gilbert scoring twice for the away team, to provide a 5-2 scoreline.
Rovers last League visit to Prenton Park was on 8 March 2011 and they picked up only their third win in 22 matches. Dave Penney had been sacked on the Monday, and the player-manager position was taken on by Stuart Campbell, who was given the perfect start to his tenure. Chris Lines scored the only goal, blasting home from the edge of the penalty area after a poor clearance. Tranmere mustered few chances, the best falling to John Welsh, who saw his strike deflected over the crossbar.
Overall the Gas has the better of the results from the 32 games played with 16 victories to Tranmere’s 10. The games are rarely high scoring affairs, in the 25 games since Tranmere’s 5-2 thrashing of the Gas in 1969/70 season; no side has scored more than 2 goals. The aggregate number of goals in those games is 43, less than 2 per game!
Team news from Tranmere is that Kane Wilson and Calum Woods who both came off during Saturday’s match against Portsmouth and is yet to be known if the pair will be considered for the game.
Corey Blackett-Taylor made his return to the starting line up against Pompey, as did George Ray, and both will be available for selection. Ollie Banks, Mark Ellis and Evan Gumbs are the absentees for Mellon, whilst Peter Clarke's fitness will be assessed ahead of the game.