Tranmere Rovers’ 2-0 defeat to Carlisle has halted their league momentum and ended an unbeaten seven game streak. The result leaves them 11th in the table, three points behind Carlisle who now sit just inside the playoffs.
Adam Tiffen was at Prenton Park to analyse what we’ve learned from the Super White Army’s defeat to the Cumbrians.
1) Too much reliance on the front two to create chances
Captain Kane Hemmings leads his side in both goals (four) and assists (three) this season, which on the face of it seems like a positive. But it shows that he’s having to do a lot of the work on his own. Tranmere’s squad has 11 total assists so far in the league. Carlisle’s Owen Moxon and Jordan Gibson (who didn’t play through suspension) have 11 between them.
Rovers struggled to find teammates with their crosses, completing six out of 26. Paul Huntington coming back into Carlisle’s team was a massive help for them, defensively. But even so the home side have struggled to consistently get the ball to the skipper, and Elliot Nevitt, in good areas.
2) Substitutions made no impact
Micky Mellon made two changes in the game, with Chris Merrie being replaced at the half by Jon Nolan, and Nevitt was replaced by Jake Burton just after 70 minutes. You couldn’t tell changes had been made. There was no difference in intensity in midfield, or up front. Neither of them looked to get on the ball and really affect the game. It was just a mirrored performance of the first half.
The lack of impact from the bench shouldn’t be solely pinned on these two. It’s been an ongoing problem. Mellon spoke in the post-match interview about how in the last few games they haven’t been able to liven things up from the bench. It’s something they’ll need to fix quickly.
3) Some defensive frailties
In a recent, and dominant, victory over Crewe, Louis White praised the centre-half pairing of summer additions Jordan Turnbull and Dynel Simeu.
In this game, Carlisle exposed some ways you can get at this backline. Moxon and Callum Guy often picked up the ball in the middle of the park, and were able to play quick over-the-top balls to Taylor Charters and Jack Stretton. This is how they scored the opening goal.
They also won a lot of knockdowns and second balls when passes were played high and wide, challenging the aerial ability of Josh Dacres-Cogley. This stretched Tranmere’s defence, leaving space for Kristian Dennis and others to be found in the box, or on the edge of the box. This could end up being a blueprint for other teams to use if it’s not addressed.
4) What a difference six months makes
At the back end of last season, Simeu was part of a core of players that kept the Cumbrians in the football league. Now, on his first meeting with the side since his move to the Wirral-based team, it was quite a different story. There were boos most of the time when he was on the ball, and ironic shouts from the away end whenever one of his passes didn’t find a white shirt.
His pass accuracy was atrocious, but defensively he looked the best out of a bad bunch, in fairness to the 20-year-old. He didn’t get dribbled past once, and he wasn’t massively at fault for either goal. In fairness to the travelling fans, not all of them got involved in the chants of: “Simeu, what’s the score? Simeu, Simeu, what’s the score?”
5) Tranmere may have a long way to go
The Super White Army have had some early playoff hopes hurt by the defeat on Saturday. A performance like that, against a team who could well be around where they want to be, won’t be doing any wonders for the confidence of fans. You could hear some of the angry reactions from the crowd from some of the pitch side footage.
This game could be a blip, and definitely shouldn’t be reigniting any calls for the manager to be replaced. It does show they might not be at the level they’d want to be at considering we’re a third of the way into the season.