Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Chris Parker
8 October 2023
The trip to Birkenhead didn’t get off to the best of starts when departure was delayed due to a flat tyre! Was it a sign of things to come?
Straightforward journey and then a visit to Tranmere Trust’s large, tented Fanzone serving an array of draft beers including some from a local brewery. The new Fanzone is still under construction, looks very impressive but like many other projects has had delays due to materials and general volatility of the construction industry.
Had a good chat with home fans, one of whom pointed out we were the only team they had played from the second division down to non-League. We came up with several others that we thought we had faced in each of those four tiers. Bristol Rovers, Stockport, Southend and Wrexham came to mind; there well may be others?
On to the game. Social media had been demanding Paul Hurst switch to two up front and the manager obliged, pairing Danny Rose with Donovan Wilson who had made a great impression as a super sub recently. It certainly looked like a 4-4-2 to start with but Rose also began to drop a little deeper.
Initially I thought Tranmere had slightly the better of proceedings before taking the lead through Morris. It was very easy. A run from deep, a controlled touch past a static defence and a simple finish under Eastwood. Was the scorer left by Conteh?
Town responded well, winning more ball in midfield and enjoying a spell of neat passing. Some fans became agitated with our passing, imploring we lump it forward as that was “why we were playing two up front”.
Town had what looked like, from the far end, a very strong penalty claim when Wilson nicked the ball before the Tranmere defender swung a leg and made contact. The officials were unmoved. There was a further incident when Wilson went to move onto a through ball before being poleaxed by the keeper who came out of his box, got to the ball first but wiped out the striker in the process. You could argue whether it was excessive force, etc but one thing it wasn’t was a foul by the striker! No prizes for guessing the decision.
After passing across the back and with nothing on further forward, the ball was played to Eastwood who chipped it to Efete advancing down the left. A couple of passes later and a deflection from a defender, Danny Rose ran on to the ball to the right of goal and from an extremely tight angle clipped it in to the far corner of the net. A truly wonderful finish perhaps made easier with the home keeper charging out to meet our white-toothed striker.
Shortly after the equaliser Wilson had to leave the field and was substituted by the much-maligned Rekeil Pyke. Town were now more in control, the home team attacks were sporadic at best and lacked any sort of genuine threat.
Just before half time Town took the lead when, following a good cross from the advanced Mullarkey, the ball fell to Pyke whose sweetly struck and powerful shot sped past the keeper and into the corner. Interesting that both goals had come from getting the full-backs further up the pitch, something I would like to see more of.
I felt Town were the better side for most of the second half without taking the game by the scruff of its neck and pushing home the advantage.
Pyke had a great chance to increase Town’s lead when Clifton crossed from the right and the striker rose well to power his header down towards the goal. Sadly it was saved by the legs of keeper McGhee. A foot either side and we would have been clear.
On the hour Tranmere grabbed an equaliser when Jennings ran on to a quality cross and headed past Eastwood. The former Town loanee was the home team’s best player on the day, operating between the striker and midfield, finding pockets of space throughout.
Again Town were physically dominant in the closing stages but despite McGhee saving well from Eisa, and some last ditched blocks, Town couldn’t force the winner. Pyke gave Yarney, their centre-back a torrid spell, leaving him with cramp and a bloodied nose. The necessary shirt change meant he finished the game wearing an unnumbered white t shirt from Primark.
A strange performance as no player really stood out on the day. Rodgers did well, Andrews was decent and the boo-boys targets of Efete and Pyke were two of our stronger performers.
Disappointing to hear a few boos at the end, it wasn’t a stunning away performance but it was another away point on the board. Interesting to read the Tranmere message board and the thoughts of the home team fans. The majority felt we were dominant, especially in midfield, and they were grateful to take a point.
If we can get a win at home to Accrington on Saturday it will be seven points from nine. I would take that. Certainly not a team in crisis nor a time for managerial changes in my opinion.
I would like to see us retain the two strikers model, even if one, from time to time, drops a little deeper. Maher once fully fit would bring more solidity to the back line but it is all about opinions, I guess.