It’s game number two of the week here at Stonebridge Road and with the visit of Tranmere Rovers, it’s certainly one that whets the appetite and is the kind of fixture we have all looked forward to while battling to win promotion from the South.
I was as disappointed as I’m sure you were to let Tuesday night’s game slip away from us. We certainly had the chances to get something from the 90 minutes: we looked back at the stats from the match analysis and we had more passes, more attacking in their half than they had against us, double the attempts on goal and treble the corners! Obviously they’re just statistics and you don’t score goals or win points through statistics, but it’s all about turning those little bits into goals. That’s key for us at the moment, it’s what we’re impressing on the players… to get better at those key moments in a game and, quite simply, put the ball in the net when we’re on top.
I’d like to welcome everyone associated with Tranmere Rovers here today and their manager Micky Mellon. For whatever reason they haven’t started too well but I’ll be genuinely shocked if they aren’t in the top two by the end of the season. Micky has an excellent track record at this and higher levels.
You can certainly draw some comparisons between Tranmere at the moment and us last season. Our start then was very similar to Tranmere’s now but we started to click into gear from mid- to late September and climb the table. Then we did so under a weight of expectation and our visitors perform week in, week out, in this division with the same expectation that comes with being the biggest or most fancied side among the 24.
But the season’s only 10 games old and it’s a very open league. Every week, after we come back in at the end of a game, I see an odd scoreline, with teams in form or expected to win suddenly crashing to an unfancied side. So both ourselves and Tranmere are in that zone where our starts might have been disappointing but we both have enough quality and belief to get some wins on the board and then that changes the whole complexion of things.
Sean Shields missed out on Tuesday having pulled a stomach muscle. It’s nothing too major, but this game is probably too early for his return.
It’s probably been a while since you had an update on Bradley Bubb — I’m pleased to say he’s doing really well in his rehabilitation. He’s been doing plenty of running, little bits of ball and speed work and some exercises focusing on change of direction, nothing too strenuous just yet, but it’s all progress. I’d expect him to be looking at a November return, maybe late October, but he might need a month elsewhere to get back to the level he needs to be at. The last thing we need is to bring him back straight into this division and have people judging him on his first couple of games, when he’s been out for six months. If he gets a month somewhere, scores some goals, then we can start to see the benefits. We do miss him, he’s a powerful player who can hold the ball up and get goals out of nothing.
Your support and noise despite Tuesday night’s reverse was something we were grateful for and with several hundred Tranmere fans expected today, your singing will be all the more vital for us. We want to get back up that table as much as each and every one of you do. We stick together on and off the pitch as a squad and it means everything if we can take the fans with us as well, whether we’re winning, drawing or losing. You can have no doubts that the winning is all everybody here is focused on.