Brighton and Hove Albion vs. Tranmere Rovers match preview

Zola looking to continue good form on the south coast
Midweek league fixtures return this week as Tranmere Rovers quite ludicrously have to make the long trip south to Brighton on Tuesday night.

Rovers will be looking to win their third away match in succession and keep up their run of five games without a defeat, although a point would without doubt be a decent result against a team who could be challenging for a play-off place come May.

Brighton and Hove Albion team profile:

Formed: 1901

Ground: The Withdean Stadium

Manager: Dean Wilkins

Nickname: The Seagulls

Season Finish 2006/07: 18th (Coca-Cola League One)

Previous Meetings:

Tranmere and Brighton last met on the third weekend of the season, with Rovers running out 2-0 winners at Prenton Park.

Hopes of a victory were high for Ronnie Moore's side after a 2-0 away win at Gillingham seven days previous, but come half time the scores were still level despite Tranmere putting a large amount of pressure on the visitor's defence.

The deadlock was finally broken with 78 minutes on the clock as Chris Greenacre scored for the third successive league game, heading in a deep Chris Shuker cross at the far post.

Shuker then scored himself as Ronnie Moore's side secured the win on 90 minutes, with the winger catching 'keeper Kuipers off his line was a special 35-yard lob from the right-hand touchline.

Vital Stats:

Tranmere Rovers haven't won three successive away games since the 2004/05 season, when Brian Little's side beat Torquay United (2-1), Huddersfield Town (3-1) and Colchester United (2-1) between September 25th and October 23rd 2004

Tranmere have won just three times in fifteen trips to Brighton, with the Seagulls picking up eight home wins

Rovers have won four out of the last five meetings between these two sides, keeping clean sheets on three occasions

Brighton have won all of the previous three meetings in February between these two teams

Tranmere have scored thirteen times in fifteen away games against Brighton, with the Albion netting on 23 occasions

On This Day:

2005: Brian Little's Tranmere draw 1-1 at home to Colchester United with Eugene Dadi scoring the Tranmere goal

2002: Rovers beat Northampton 2-0 under Dave Watson in Division Two at Prenton Park

1990: John King's Tranmere pick up a 3-1 Division Three win over Reading

On February 12th, Tranmere have played eleven previous games, picking up five wins, three draws and three defeats. In these games, they have scored thirteen and conceded nine goals.

The Form Book:

Brighton last 6 home games: WDLWLD
Tranmere last 6 away games: WWLLLL

Brighton and Hove Albion's home record has been fairly inconsistent this season as they come into this game with two wins, two draws and two wins in their last six games.

Dean Wilkins' side started their six match sequence with a decent 2-2 home draw against promotion chasing Carlisle United before losing 2-0 against another team chasing promotion, Nottingham Forest, at the Withdean Stadium.

Alex Revell then scored a hatrick, including a 90th minute winner in a 3-2 win against Bournemouth before flopping out of the F.A. Cup in the second round against League Two strugglers Mansfield Town with a 2-1 defeat.

Brighton then drew 1-1 with Huddersfield Town before winning their most recent home game against struggling Crewe, with two goals from Murray and a strike from Buffers securing the southern side a 3-0 win.

Other impressive home results for Brighton include wins over Millwall (3-0), Cheltenham Town (2-1) and Southend United (3-2).

From thirteen home league games this season, Brighton have picked up a total of 22 points from an available 39 thanks to six wins, four draws and three defeats.

Notable away league results for the Withdean side include wins against Hartlepool United (2-1), Swindon Town (3-0) and Bournemouth (2-0).

Until recently, Tranmere's home record didn't make for very good reading for Rovers fans, but two successive away wins have changed that somewhat.

Tranmere started their six match sequence with an undeserved 1-0 defeat to Luton Town before following this up with another perhaps unlucky defeat at Gresty Road as Crewe beat Ronnie Moore's side 4-3 after Tranmere had had captain Ian Goodison sent off for a tackle near the half-way line.

In their next away game, Leyton Orient were flattered by a 3-0 win over Tranmere, again after Rovers had had a player sent off, this time Shane Sherriff, before Tranmere crashed out of the F.A. Cup with a 1-0 defeat away to Hereford in a Third Round replay, although quite how Tranmere lost that game remains a mystery.

However, Tranmere turned their away form over three days later when an Antony Kay header was enough to secure Tranmere a 1-0 win away to Millwall in League One before Rovers travelled to Leeds and won 2-0 at Elland Road after putting in a superb display against the Yorkshire club, with goals coming from Jennison Myrie-Williams and Ian Moore.

Other notable away results for Tranmere this season include wins away to Gillingham (2-0), Carlisle United (1-0) and Southend United (2-1).

From fifteen away league games this season, Rovers have picked up 19 of an available 45 points thanks to five wins, four draws and six defeats.

Impressive results at Prenton Park for Tranmere include wins against Luton Town (2-1), Carlisle United (2-0), Huddersfield (3-0) and Yeovil Town (2-1).

Double Hit:

Tranmere Rovers' all time leading scorer Ian Muir spent time on loan at Brighton during the 1990's, but was never as prolific with the seaside side as he was with Tranmere.

Muir started his career at Queens Park Rangers where he scored two goals in two games before moving to Birmingham on a free transfer in 1983. At Birmingham, striker Muir managed just two goal-less appearances before moving on to Brighton, again on a free transfer.

Here, Muir was no more successful, not managing a goal in four appearances before moving on to Swindon Town on a months loan in January 1985. Here Muir made two appearances and again failed to score.

However, a move to Tranmere Rovers in January 1985 was the place to kick-start his career. Joining John Kings' side on a free-transfer, Muir made 393 appearances for Tranmere in ten years at the club and netted a brilliant 180 goals.

Muir left Prenton Park in 1995 having helped Tranmere steam up the leagues from League Two as it is now to on the brink of the Premiership. His 180 goals is still a club record.

Injury meant Muir's last few years at Tranmere saw few appearances and in June 1995, Muir moved back to Birmingham, aged 32, for a fee of £125,000. However, injury again troubled Muir and in the next five years he made just 27 appearances for Birmingham, Darlington and Nuneaton, scoring four goals in the process before retiring, aged 37, in 2000.

One To Watch: Glenn Murray

Striker Glenn Murray joined Brighton for a fee of £300,000 from high flying League Two side Rochdale during the January transfer window where he had been in prolific form.

Murray started his career with Carlisle but scored just six goals in 58 games [although he did only start eleven games] for the Cumbrians between 2004 and 2007.

Whilst at Carlisle, Murray spent two loans spells away from Brunton Park, firstly at Stockport 2006 where he made eleven appearances and scored three goals and then Rochdale between October and January of last season, where he made fourteen appearances and scored four goals.

His form whilst at Rochdale was enough to cause Rochdale to sign the player and he signed for a nominal fee on January 4th 2007.

The six foot tall striker went on to make 46 appearances for the Spotland side and he formed a useful partnership with former Rovers player Chris Dagnall before Dagnall tore his cruciate knee ligaments not long into the 2007/08 season.

22 goals in those 46 was enough to convince Brighton to pay £300,000 for his services at the back end of January and in his three games for Brighton, Murray has continued to score, netting twice in the 3-0 win over Crewe on February 2nd.

Murray, who wears the number 17 shirt for Brighton, is a natural finisher in front of goal and his natural pace and strength help him to get round the back of defenders. The 24-year old has the ability to score goals from both in and outside the area.

Around League One:

Over the nexy few days, there is a full fixture list in not only Coca-Cola League One but the whole of the Football League, with a number of key fixtures taking place through the week.

Tranmere travel to Brighton with the Seagulls, who were only recently up in the play-offs, now languishing in 13th place in League One. With 38 points, they are only two points from relegation but they have played at least one game less than everybody else in the league.

Tranmere meanwhile have the chance to either cement their place in the play-offs or push up as high as third in the table, should results go their way.

Leyont Orient are only one point and place behind Tranmere and the O's, who drew 0-0 with Rovers on Saturday, have a tricky test at Brisbane Road against 20th placed Crewe Alexandra who came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with League leaders Swansea City on Saturday.

Leeds United, who were held to a 1-1 draw away to Northampton on Saturday, are now three points behind Tranmere in eighth place and they have a very tough game against Nottingham Forest at Elland Road on Tuesday night.

Forest, who beat Millwall at home at the weekend, are third in the League One table but they are just two points ahead of sixth placed Tranmere and the Tricky Tree's still four points behind second placed Doncaster who make the long trip south to Bournemouth who, despite entering administration on Friday, hammered Luton Town 4-1 in the League a day later.

Without a doubt, the other big game of the day in the League One is at the Liberty Stadium where League leaders Swansea City take on in form Walsall.

Swansea had their lead at the top of League One cut to eight points on Saturday after drawing with Crewe but Walsall are still fifth and only two points ahead of Tranmere. A home win would therefore do Rovers very nicely at the Liberty Stadium.

Other notable fixtures see fourth placed Carlisle take on Huddersfield Town at Brunton Park, with only United's home form keeping them in the promotion reckoning, whilst Oldham Athletic look to continue their impressive away form as they travel to Bristol Rovers.

Team News:

Calvin Zola managed to play 90 minutes and score against Leyton Orient on Saturday following his injury meaning he should be fit to play again whilst the only absentee's for Rovers will be wingers Chris Shuker and Steve Davies who are still carrying long-term knee injuries.

Jones' Prediction: Brighton and Hove Albion 1-2 Tranmere Rovers

There is no doubt that this will be a tough match for both sides and a point or better for Tranmere would be a good result, especially if they manage a win against Millwall on Saturday.

Brighton are a decent side but have hit a slump of late and could well be low on confidence. If Tranmere go to the Withdean and take the game to the Seagulls, much like they did against Leeds last weekend, then they can most certainly pick up the win against Dean Wilkins' side.

Brighton are not a particularly tall side in midfield which could help McLaren and Jennings who have been in great form of late whilst Zola's physical presence up front for Tranmere will, as ever, be difficult for the Brighton defence to handle as he has been in sharp form recently.

Tranmere will have to watch the Brighton strikers, especially recent signing Glenn Murray who joined from Rochdale in the transfer window, but recently Tranmere have been keeping clean sheets and hopefully the same can happen on Tuesday night.

Only around 200, if that, Tranmere fans are expected to travel to the game (as of 1.30pm on Saturday 125 tickets had been sold for the Rovers end of the "ground") but as usual they will be very vocal, no matter how far away from the pitch they are. Hopefully they can do Ronnie Moore's side proud and go home happy.