Bristol Rovers vs. Tranmere Rovers match preview

Zola could return as Tranmere look to extend unbeaten run
In-form Tranmere Rovers face a stern test this weekend as they take on Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Ground in Coca-Cola League One.

Although currently unbeaten in seven games, Tranmere will be up against a side in even better form, the team who last beat Rovers in the league and also booked their place in the FA. Cup Quarter Finals last weekend with a 1-0 win over Championship side Southampton.

Bristol Rovers team profile:

Formed: 1883

Ground: The Memorial Ground

Manager: Paul Trollope

Nickname: The Pirates/The Gas

Season Finish 2006/07: 6th (Promoted via Play-Offs) (Coca-Cola League Two)

Previous Meetings:

When Tranmere and Bristol Rovers last met, The Super Whites put in one of their poorest performances under Ronnie Moore as they were defeated 2-0 at Prenton Park.

Paul Trollope's side, who reached the Football League Trophy final last season before being defeated by Doncaster Rovers at the Millenium Stadium, took the lead after just twelve minutes against Rovers, with Andy Williams hitting an excellent shot into the back of the net after being set up by Rickie Lambert.

Former Rochdale player Lambert was to turn provider in the second half, as he doubled The Gas' lead on 58-minutes. A long throw in bobbled around in the Tranmere penalty area before Lambert hit it home, effectively killing off Tranmere's hopes of a come back.

On the night, Tranmere were as poor as they have been in a long time, with the midfield and strikers failing to create chances in front of goal and then the defence slipping up on more than one occasion. The defeat continued Tranmere's run which saw them without a win in 2008.

Vital Stats:

This Saturday's trip to Bristol will be the first time Tranmere have played at the Memorial Ground

Tranmere won the Football League Trophy final against Bristol Rovers in 1990, with Ian Muir and Jim Steel scoring the Rovers goals

In ten away trips to Bristol Rovers, Tranmere have won just two games whilst they have lost eight

All but two of the 21 league meetings between these two teams have come in what has effectively been Division Three in English football

Tranmere have scores just five away games against Bristol Rovers, with the Pirates scoring 15 times

On This Day:

1994: John King's Tranmere draw 1-1 with second placed Leicester City at Filbert Street, a result which kept Rovers in the Division One (now Championship) play-off places

1991: Tranmere beat Grimsby Town 1-0 in Division Three

1990: Rovers hammer Blackpool 4-2 in Division Three as John King's side stay in second place in the table

Tranmere have played twelve games on February 23rd, picking up five wins, three draws and four defeats. In total, the have scored 16 and conceded 18 goals on this day.

The Form Book:

Bristol Rovers last 6 home games: WWWWDD
Tranmere last 6 away games: DWWLLL

Bristol Rovers come into this game in stunning home form having not lost any of their last eleven games at Memorial Ground, a run including seven wins and draws or victories against teams from higher oppositions.

In the first game of their six match sequence, Bristol held an inform Walsall to a 1-1 draw at the Memorial Ground before drawing 0-0 with Fulham in an F.A. Cup third round replay, eventually beating the Premier League side 5-3 on Penalties.

The draw with Fulham has been followed by four straight victories on home soil for Bristol Rovers, with three of them coming in the league.

First Paul Trollope's side edged a 3-2 win over Port Vale before Hinton and Lambert scored in the 2-0 win over struggling Cheltenham.

A 1-0 victory over Oldham followed, a result which certainly helped Tranmere, before Ricky Lambert scored a late winner for the Gas in their last home game, a fifth round F.A. Cup tie against Championship side. This game was watched by a crowd of 11,920.

Other impressive home results for the Pirates this season include a 3-0 win over Carlisle United in the league and a 5-1 drubbing of Rushden and Diamonds in the Cup.

This season, Bristol Rovers have a total of 21 home points from an available 42 thanks to five wins, six draws and three defeats.

Notable away results for Rovers include victories away to Tranmere Rovers (2-0), Oldham Athletic (1-0) and Southend United (1-0).

Tranmere Rovers are now unbeaten in their last three away games and they will be looking to extend that run this weekend in Gloucestershire.

In the first match of their six match sequence, Rovers lost a thrilling encounter 4-3 at Gresty Road against Crewe before travelling to Leyton Orient on a Tuesday night and undeservedly losing 3-0 a week later.

This result was followed by an F.A. Cup defeat to Hereford United as Tranmere were knocked out on a replay at the third round stage 1-0 by their League Two opponents before they embarked on their current unbeaten run.

Firstly, a late Antony Kay goal secured Tranmere a 1-0 win away to Millwall before Rovers picked up a superb 2-0 win away to Leeds United at Elland Road, with Jennison Myrie-Williams and Ian Moore netting the Tranmere goals.

In their most recent away game, Tranmere drew an uneventful match 0-0 at the Withdean Stadium against Brighton on a Tuesday night.

Other impressive results away from Prenton Park for Tranmere include wins over Carlisle (1-0), Southend (2-1) and a 3-0 thumping of Bradford City in the F.A. Cup.

Tranmere have picked up 20 of an available 48 points away from home, thanks to five wins, five draws and six defeats.

Notable home results for Tranmere include wins over Huddersfield Town (3-0), Carlisle United (2-0), Luton Town (2-1) and Yeovil Town (2-1).

Double Hit:

Tranmere Rovers hero "Sir" Steve Yates started his career with Bristol Rovers and made his debut for the club in 1988 after being a trainee for two years.

The defender, who could player all across the backline, made 197 appearances for the Pirates between 1988 and 1993 but failed to score for the club.

In 1993, he moved on to Queens Park Rangers, then a Premiership club and managed by Gerry Francis and he shortly made his debut against Liverpool.

Yates was to stay with QPR for six years as he made 135 appearances and scored twice for the club before joining Tranmere on a free-transfer in the summer of 1999.

Yates was made club captain by manager John Aldridge and would go on to become a terrace legend with the club, based on just one game.

The defender made 113 appearances for Tranmere and scored seven goals as he played in two F.A. Cup Quarter Finals and the Worthington Cup final for the club in 2000 and 2001.

His most famous moment without doubt came on January 27th 2001 in an F.A. Cup Fourth Round match against Everton for Tranmere Rovers.

Tranmere won the game 3-0 at Goodison Park, with Yates, playing at left-back due to the absense of Gareth Roberts, scoring two headers, one in either half to help John Aldridges' side to win the game. The day was shortly nicknamed "St. Yates" day by Tranmere fans.

In the same F.A. Cup run, Yates also netted goals against Portsmouth in a third round 2-1 win and Liverpool in a 4-2 defeat at Prenton Park in the Quarter Final.

In 2002, following Tranmere's relegation to Division Two the previous season, Dave Watson decided not to offer Yates a new contract and he moved on to Sheffield United where he would play for a season before joining Huddersfield in 2003.

Yates stayed with the Terriers until 2006, playing 51 times before having spells with non-league sides Scarborough, Halifax and then helping Morecambe into the Football League via the play-offs for the first time last season.

At the end of the 2006/07 season, Yates retired from professional football ages 37. With the Merseyside Masters fast approaching though, there are calls from Tranmere fans for him to play in the White shirt once more.

One To Watch: Paul Lambert

Former Rochdale and Stockport County player Rickie Lambert has set League One alight so far this season, with some stunning long range strikes.

Lambert has played a large majority of his career in the North-West, starting his career in the professional game with Blackpool after being born in Liverpool.

He made three appearances, all as a substitute, for the Tangerines between 1998 and 2000, before signing for Macclesfield Town on a free-transfer in March 2001 after being out of the game for nearly four months following his release by Blackpool.

Lambert stayed with the Silk men for just over a year, scoring ten goals in just over 49 appearances for the club before joining Stockport County in April 2002 for a fee of £300,000.

In his first full season with the Hatters, Lambert was playing in League One after Stockport won promotion in the season Lambert signed for the club.

Eventually, Lambert would go on to play 110 games for Stockport, the team believed to have "the most terrace chants in the Football League", netting on nineteen occasions in the process.

However, Lambert was to leave Stockport for Rochdale on a free transfer during their relegation season back down to Coca Cola League Two.

It was whilst with the Dale that the midfielders profile really began to rise. He was employed not only as a midfielder but as a striker too, and this became a position which Lambert played well in League Two.

Lambert went on to play 68 games for the club, netting on 28 times as he was not only employed as a midfielder but a striker too.

In August 2006, on the final day of the transfer window, Lambert left Rochdale for Bristol Rovers for a fee of £200,000. He won promotion in his first season with the club and has now played 88 games, scoring 25 goals.

The Rovers number nine can play in midfield or attack and is known to score the spectacular goal. He is a dead-ball specialist, getting a number of his goals from set-pieces, including the winner against Southampton in the F.A. Cup last weekend, although his shot was deflected into the net.

Although he may not be blessed with pace, he also plays the role of a target man well, winning a number of headers from his height of 6'02.

Around League One:

There are two Friday night fixtures in League One this weekend, both of which Tranmere will be taking an interest in.

Firstly, table-topping Swansea take on cash-strapped Luton at the Liberty Stadium. Swansea can extend their lead at the top of League One to fourteen points before Saturday's fixtures whilst Luton are now nine points away from safety in the League One relegation zone and look set to be playing in League Two next season.

The other fixture sees Northampton travel to Hartlepool and with Hartlepool set to travel to Prenton Park in three weeks, this is sure to be a game Rovers will take note of.

Back to Saturday's games, and a win for Tranmere against Bristol Rovers can see them move up to third in League One should results go their way. The Gas meanwhile can all the way from seventeenth to tenth with a win, although plenty of results would have to go in their favour.

Two promotion contenders clash at Brisbane Road where seventh placed Leyton Orient take on Nottingham Forest, with a draw probably the best result Tranmere can hope for as Forest look to pull away from Ronnie Moore's side and Orient look to over take them.

Swindon Town are at home to Walsall in another game that interests Tranmere, with Walsall just two points behind Rovers in sixth and Swindon looking to push up towards the play-offs.

Fourth placed Carlisle are at home to Doncaster, with second placed Donny having not played a game for almost two weeks after their match with Leeds last weekend was postponed due to a frozen pitch.

Leeds take on Crewe at Elland Road whilst at the other end of the table Millwall take on Port Vale and Bournemouth face Cheltenham.

Team News:

Calvin Zola could sit out the match for Ronnie Moore's side after missing last Saturday's win over Millwall with a thigh strain, but otherwise the only injury worries for Tranmere are long term absentee's Steve Davies and Chris Shuker who have knee injuries. However, striker Chris Greenacre will sit out the game after he picked up his fifth yellow card of the season in the 0-0 draw at Brighton February 12th.

Jones' Prediction: Bristol Rovers 2-0 Tranmere Rovers

Sadly, I just can't see Tranmere picking up anything from the match. Now matter what form they have been in recently, Bristol Rovers have been better, and the only reason the Gas are so far down the league table is because they have played less games than everybody else, with their F.A. Cup run resulting in a number of League One fixtures getting postponed.

If Zola doesn't make the game, Tranmere will really struggle because striker Greenacre also misses the match meaning Rovers will lack fire power upfront. With Curran not being able to play in midweek after the reserve at Fleetwood Town against Blackpool game was postponed, the striker lacks sharpness and this could effect his finishing ability.

Winger Jenninson Myrie-Williams will be up for the game though as he comes up against Bristol Rovers , a big rival of course of his parent club, Bristol City, whilst if Jennings and McLaren can continue to perform as they have in recent weeks then Tranmere should be able to create chances.

The pitch though, which is not in the best condition, will effect McLaren's passing ability, with a number of bobbles and bumps effecting Southampton's performance against the Pirates last weekend in the F.A. Cup.

Tranmere will need to stand strong and playing the long ball may therefore be an option, but only if Calvin Zola makes the game as he can win the ball when it is in the air.