Tranmere Rovers are looking to extend their unbeaten league run at home against Carlisle United, who will be battling to avoid their fourth consecutive defeat. Rovers haven’t lost a league game since 13th September.
Despite the stark contrast in form, both teams have the same points, with the same number of games played. For Tranmere, the Prenton Park clash could be another step towards pushing to the top of the playoff positions. For the Cumbrians, this is about steadying the ship and halting a run of poor results.
Tranmere have steadily made their way up the league since defeat to Bradford City last month, and now unbeaten in 10 games. A combination of standout performers and consistency has allowed them to put their run together, but Rovers have drawn their last two games against Harrogate Town and Rochdale, who sit 21st and 22nd in League Two, respectively.
The visitors haven’t been on such good form. They’ve put in mixed performances in their three losses. They showed effort and desire to narrowly lose 3-2 against league leaders Leyton Orient, whilst only having 10 men for most of the game. But they were below par against fierce rivals Barrow, in the Papa John’s Trophy, and even worse in a 2-0 loss to Stockport County on Tuesday night.
The last meeting
It was a bad-tempered affair the last time these two teams met with two red cards for Tranmere, nine yellow cards, and a booking for each manager.
Paul Simpson complained after the game last year, about the home fans’ behaviour. He said: “I don’t ever remember being involved in a game where it was as fiery and as hostile. The crowd, and the stewards; I don’t know why they’ve even got the high-vis jackets on. They do absolutely nothing. Our bench was getting proper verbal abuse. Today was horrible, what my bench had to go through.”
(Paul Simpson speaking after the game in April)
The game ended 2-2 with Tobi Sho-Silva grabbing a freakish 97th minute equaliser. Jordan Gibsons long-range effort, it hit the post straight into the path of the substitute to head-in.
The captain, Kane Hemmings, and Elliot Nevitt have been the talisman for the Wirral-based team this year, combining for 12 league goals and assists.
But the one player who Carlisle fans may fear, and most is Tranmere goalkeeper Dynel Simeu. On loan from Southampton, he was with the Cumbrians for the second half of last season, and quickly became a fans favourite. The 20-year-old kept five clean sheets in eight of his starts, with a goal and Match awards to match.
Carlisle’s goals and assists have mainly come from two players. Kristian Dennis has seven league goals, with Jordan Gibson providing six assists.
Two of the other standout performers have been senior newbies, who know the club so well. Paul Huntington and Owen Moxon both went to the same school in Carlisle and were part of the club’s youth system before going in quite different directions. Huntington went on to play for Preston North End for 10 years, whilst Moxon was dropped from the youth team at 16 and continued playing football at lower levels. They both re-joined their boyhood clubs this summer and have flourished in the squad since then.
Carlisle will be without the influential Ryan Edmondson through suspension. But Gibson should be back for the reverse fixture in the FA Cup next weekend, at Brunton Park. Tranmere will be looking to take advantage of a team beset ny injury and suspension problems.