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Is the squad strong enough to challenge for promotion?

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Tranmere Report

By: Dan Humphrey
Date: 20/12/2000

On a cold day on the Wirral, in possibly the coldest ground, besides Blundell Park, that I have ever been to, two of the division's more unfashionable sides lined up in a December 'relegation battle'.

Tranmere were missing the suspended Clint Hill and injured Dave Challinor - their best defensive pairing. Comparatively, the Mariners were missing Peter Handyside, Bradley Allen, Alan Pouton, amongst others. Most of all we were missing the loveable Livvo, the kind of player who may just have terrified Tranmere on this sort of occasion. Before kick off we speculated that a 4-5-1 would suit us today, Nielsen alone upfront, a midfield packed with Willems, Campbell, Coldicott, Burnett, Donovan. Little did we know that Coldicott too was injured.

The biggest surprise was when Richard Smith started the game. Like spotting an Englishman in the Chelsea lineup. Akin to a Peter Handyside goal. That rare. Town's XI was Coyne/ Macca, Fostervold, Groves, RSmith/ Willems, Campbell, Burnett/ Donovan/ Nielsen and Jeffrey.

The subs bench: Butterfield, Croudson, DSmith, Bloomer, Gallimore. Not a single striker. What if one of the front men got injured? What if... we could end up with Groves and Jeffrey upfront!! AAAHHHH!!! Terrifying....

As it happened, although Tranmere had recently acquired Tommy Myrhe, the Everton and Norway keeper on loan, (a class player), they were as mediocre as Town on the day.

The first half was pretty dull. Tranmere demonstrated why Hill at centre half is their top scorer. Their front men Allison and Taylor were poor. Scott Taylor deserves special mention for missing the first decent chance from 6 yards out. We'd only just finished laughing/sighing with relief, when a goalmouth scramble saw Koumas, I think, have a shot, which hit Taylor on the back of the head and ballooned over!

Meanwhile Town were at a slight disadvantage. Whereas Nielsen made some runs, Jeffrey had a habit of heading every Coyne clearance up in the air or through to Myrhe. Donovan lulled around, not sure if he was a third striker or in a free role. It was evident that Willems and Campbell weren't comfortable with this system, not knowing who to pick up as Tranmere's flexible system allowed their midfield to roam.

In the first half 3 Town players stood out - McDermott played admirably against the threat of Welsh international Gareth Roberts, especially since Macca was often outnumbered when Rideout/Koumas/Taylor/Parkinson helped Roberts out. Little did we realise that Macca too was injured as early as the first minute.... he hid it well!

Richard Smith was solid, especially since it was his first game back and he was marking the manmountain Wayne Allison, who gave him a torrid time last year here.

But for me Town's key man was Wayne Burnett. He played a bit deeper than the other midfielders, cleaning up, neat passes, vital challenges. If only Donovan had made an impact, it would have made a nice little diamond formation.

What else? Well 15minutes in and Town lost Fostervold through injury. He fell to the floor in pain following one of Taylor's misses. And Knut indicated to the ref that he'd been elbowed. The ref just ignored him. Goal kick. Gallimore came on, and fitted in well with most of the team's performance - average.

The report continues in the 2nd half

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