Hartlepool United vs. Tranmere Rovers match preview

Ian Moore looking to score against his former club
Tranmere Rovers will need to pick up their away form if they are to be real play-off contenders to come May, and this needs to start as soon as possible.

With Rovers taking on struggling Hartlepool United in League One at Victoria Park on Tuesday night, they have the ideal chance to grab at least a point and keep themselves in the play-off race ahead of another away game on Saturday.

However, Rovers have struggled in recent years, not only at Hartlepool, but also in Tuesday night away matches, and they will be hoping such form doesn't continue as the promotion race heads quickly towards an exciting climax.

Hartlepool United team profile:

Formed: 1881

Ground: Victoria Park

Manager: Chris Turner

Nickname: The Monkey Hangers

Season Finish 2006/07: 15th (Coca-Cola League One)

Previous Meetings:

When Tranmere and Hartlepool met earlier in the season at Prenton Park, Rovers picked up their first win of the 2008/09 season thanks to a stunning first half strike from Craig Curran.

The goal came on 23 minutes when a long clearance by Chorley was flicked on by Sonko to Curran on the edge of the area. WIth his back to goal, the young Tranmere striker brought the ball down with his first touch before turning and smashing the ball into the bottom corner, way out of the 'keepers reach.

It was a goal worthy of winning any game, and so it proved, as Tranmere managed to hold on to their lead, beating off any Hartlepool pressure, with Ian Goodison in particular in outstanding form as he played his first match of the season.

Hartlepool did come close though, Chorley brilliantly clearing a Liddle shot when a goal seemed certain whilst Liddle was again denied just before the break as Danny Coyne expertly saved with his legs.

Tranmere had the ball in the net for a second time after the break but Curran's goal was ruled out for offside whilst Goodison and Sonko also came close in the final thirty minutes.

Hartlepool put pressure on the Tranmere defence, but ultimately their best chances had come in the first half and they had failed to take any of them.

Vital Stats:

Tranmere have scored just twice in their last five trips to Victoria Park

In 55 meetings between the two sides in Hartlepool, Rovers have picked up fifteen wins and lost on 27 occasions

The result of the first match when these two teams have met has been the same result as the second time around over the last three couplets of matches when these teams have met

All of the 105 league meetings between these two sides have come in the bottom two divisions of the Football League

Hartlepool have netted 95 goals against Tranmere in 55 home games against Rovers, with the Wirral side netting just 61 times

On This Day:

2004: Brian Little's Tranmere lose 2-0 away at Swindon, with the Rovers squad firmly focussing on their F.A. Cup Quarter Final tie with Millwall

2001: Tranmere have their annual bad result at Crewe's Gresty Road, with the Alex beating Rovers 3-1 in Division One

1996: Tranmere pick up a surprising win at Boundary Park, beating Oldham Athletic 2-1 in Division One

Tranmere have played nineteen previous fixtures on March 3rd, picking up eight wins, four draws and seven defeats. In these nineteen matches, they have scored 26 goals and conceded on 24 occasions.

The Form Book:

Hartlepool last 6 home games: LDDDLW
Tranmere last 6 away games: LWLLDL

Hartlepool's home form this season has in general been dissapointing and indifferent, and it is this inconsistent form that is to blame for their poor league position, as they they find themselves languishing in the bottom half of League One.

They started their six match sequence with a 2-0 win over Northampton Town with Joel Porter scoring both goals for the Monkey Hangers, but since they are without a win on home soil.

Next up for the Victoria Park side was an F.A. Cup fourth round home tie against West Ham United of the Premier League, and the League one side succumbed to a 2-0 defeat against the Hammers, Behrami and Noble netting both goals within minutes of the half time break.

Back in league action, and Hartlepool got their first of three consecutive home stalemates as they held to a 2-2 draw by Carlisle United, coming from 2-0 down to claim a point from the match, before in their next outing at Victoria Park they again drew 2-2, this time with Walsall.

A third successive 2-2 draw followed in Hartlepool's next home match against table topping Leicester City with Monkhouse scoring a 90th minute equaliser for the Monkey Hangers, before in their most recent home game Hartlepool lost 1-0 to struggling Leyton Orient.

Other impressive home results for Hartlepool this season include wins over Southend United (3-0), Huddersfield (5-3) and Cheltenham (4-1), as well as a 3-1 League Cup win over West Brom and a 2-0 F.A. Cup win over Stoke City.

From seventeen home games this season, Hartlepool United have picked up 25 of an available 51 points, thanks to six wins, seven draws and four defeats.

Notable results away from Victoria Park for Hartlepool this season include wins over Peterborough United (2-1), Walsall (3-2) and Carlisle United (1-0).

The Monkey Hangers come into this game in fifteenth place in League One, having picked up 40 of an available 102 points from their 34 games, thanks to ten wins, ten draws and fourteen defeats.

Tranmere Rovers' away form this season has, as has been the trend in recent years, been very poor, with the Prenton Park winning just four matches away from the Wirral this season and should they miss out on a spot in the play-off come May, then you need to look no further than Rovers' form away from home soil as to their reason for failing to finish in the top six.

Ronnie Moore's side started their six match sequence with an undeserved 2-1 defeat in the regional semi final of the Johnstone's Paints Trophy at Scunthorpe, on-loan Middlesbrough defender John Johnson scoring a last minute own goal to send Tranmere out of the competition.

In their next away match, Tranmere picked up a point as they drew 2-2 at Hereford United on Boxing Daythough Rovers twice led the match through goals from Eddie Sonko.

Rovers had to wait until January 17th until their next away match due to the postponement of two games, and again Tranmere were on the end of an undeserved defeat as they lost 1-0 to Millwall at the New Den before in their next away match they led 1-0 against Crewe, only to lose 2-1 to the struggling side, then bottom of the league.

Tranmere have had two away games since the Crewe game, and they started with a 1-0 win at Colchester thanks to a header from Ryan Shotton, Rovers' first away win since October 18th and their first Tuesday night away league win in nearly three years, before most recently Tranmere travelled to Southend and lost 2-1, with the Shrimpers scoring a last minute winner to secure the three points.

Other impressive away results for Tranmere this season include wins against Huddersfield Town (2-1), Carlisle United (2-1) and Leyton Orient (1-0).

Rovers have played fifteen away games so far this season and picked up just fifteen of an available 45 points, thanks to four wins, three draws and eight defeats.

Notable results at Prenton Park for Tranmere Rovers this season include wins over Northampton Town (4-1), Carlisle United (4-1), Leeds United (2-1) and Scunthorpe United (2-0).

Tranmere come into this game in ninth place in the League One table but just two points [at the time of writing] off the final play-off spot, having picked up 52 of an available 99 points from their 33 games so far. They have achieved this thanks to fifteen wins, seven draws and eleven defeats.

Double Hit:

Liverpool defender Godwin Antwi has had dissapointing and unsuccessful spells on loan at both Hartlepool United and Tranmere Rovers, with Antwi most recently playing for the Prenton Park outfit earlier this season.

20-year old Antwi was born in Ghana, but holds a Spanish passport after beginning his career with Real Zaragoza in Spain.

In August 2005, he joined Liverpool as a promosing youngster, but is yet to make an appearance for the Merseyside giants. However, Antwi was an integral part of the 2006 Liverpool F.A. Youth cup winning side, along with Tranmere's midfielder Charlie Barnett.

At the end of the 2006/07 season, Antwi spent time on loan at Accrington Stanley when he made nine appearances before joining Hartlepool United on a season long loan for the 2007/08 campaign.

Playing mainly at centre-back, but also out of position at right-back, Antwi made 34 appearances for Hartlepool, scoring just once in a 2-1 win over Doncaster. However, Antwi's number of appearances were limited whilst at Victoria Park due to injury.

In July 2008, Antwi joined Tranmere Rovers on loan until January 2009. However, he was the subject of much critisism immediately as mistakes cost Tranmere dearly in his first two games for the club, away to Swindon and Grimsby.

Again, Antwi featured mainly at right-back for Tranmere but his form was poor and during his five month spell at Prenton Park, he made just seven appearances before returning to Liverpool on January 1st.

Since returning to Liverpool, the 20-year old has gone out on loan again, this time to Hereford United, where he has already made three appearancse and impressed The Bulls' fans.

One To Watch: Andy Monkhouse

Tricky winger Andy Monkhouse has been in fine form for Hartlepool United so far this season, scoring seven goals which have made him one of the clubs leading scorers so far this term.

The winger started his career with Yorkshire club Rotherham United where he played under current Tranmere manager Ronnie Moore and was part of the clubs meteoric rise up the Football League.

Coming through the youth system at Millmoor, Monkhouse made his debut for Rotherham during the 1998/99 season and over an eight year spell with the club, he went on to make 147 appearances, although nearly half of these were as a subsitute. He also scored thirteen goals for the club.

However, finances at Rotherham resulted in a mass exit following the clubs relegation to League Two at the end of the 2005/06 season.

Monkhouse joined Swindon on a free transfer but made only eleven appearances, scoring twice, for the club. He joined Hartlepool on an initial loan spell in November 2006 and after impressing during his eight games for the club, he joined the Monkey Hangers on a permanent deal, just seven months after joining Swindon.

Now 28, Monkhouse has become a central figure for Hartlepool, making a total of 93 appearances and scoring 16 goals for the club during his two spells there.

Of those 16 goals, seven have come this season, whilst he has also got a number of assists, with his crossing and passing from the wing crucial to Hartlepool's attacking play.

Monkhouse, who wears the number eleven shirt for the Monkey Hangers, is a good crosser and passer of the ball, whilst his close control is also very good.

Around League One:

There are once again some key fixtures in League One this week as the promotion race continues to heat up towards it climax in May.

The biggest fixture of the week takes place on Monday night, when Oldham Athletic host Leeds United at Boundary Park in front of the Sky Sports fixtures.

Tranmere will be hoping for a draw in a game that could see Leeds move into fourth place above Oldham with a win. A win would put United five points clear of Tranmere, having played a game more, whilst Oldham would move eight points ahead of the Wirral club and could finish the evening in third place.

In Tuesday nights action, table topping Leicester City, who scored a 97th minute equaliser to draw with MK Dons on Saturday, host eighth placed Stockport County and Rovers will be hoping that the Foxes can win the match, with Tranmere and County currently level on points in the table.

Second placed MK Dons are away to struggling Northampton Town whilst third placed Peterborough, who have had a few indifferent results of late, including a defeat at home to Southend on Saturday, are away to 21st placed Leyton Orient, a game the Posh will be expecting to win as they look to close the two point gap between themselves and second place.

Fifth placed Millwall have a tough away test at revitalised Southend United whilst Scunthorpe, who slipped out of the play-offs into seventh place at the weekend following a 3-2 defeat at Leeds, are at home to eleventh placed Walsall.

Scunthorpe are now just one point ahead of Tranmere in seventh, though they have played a game less, whilst eleventh placed Walsall are six points off Rovers' total of 52.

Tenth placed Huddersfield Town, currently four points behind Rovers, are at home to Colchester United whilst at the other end of the table Swindon take on Cheltenham Town in what will be a tense local derby.

A win for Tranmere on Tuesday then could see them in the play-offs by the end of the evening, should results go their way, and with one of Oldham or Leeds certain to drop points, and Stockport facing a tough away trip, a win for Rovers would be huge in their quest for promotion.

Team News:

The biggest fitness doubt for Tranmere Rovers ahead of this game is Danny Coyne, with the goalkeeper still struggling to kick due to a troublesome ankle injury picked up three weeks ago at Colchester. Should he miss out, John Achterberg will once again start in goal for the Prenton Park side, with the Dutch goalkeeper celebrating his testimonial year at the club.

Tranmere go into this game again without strikers Chris Greenacre and Craig Curran who are both struggling with long term injuries. Bas Savage will also miss out with a foot injury picked up against Swindon on Saturday, meaning Terry Gornell could start, whilst Ian Goodison is expected to sit out a one match ban picked up due to his sending off against Swindon.

Jones' Prediction: Hartlepool United 1-1 Tranmere Rovers

With two away games in the space of four days, I'm sure Tranmere would settle for four points from an available six, and getting a draw at Hartlepool on Tuesday would be a good way to start.

Hartlepool's home form this season has been inconsistent, but they have remained hard to beat, with only a handful of defeats all season.

They have however drawn a large amount of games, and with Tranmere not picking up many away wins this season, again, a draw looks the most probably result.

Rovers though do have the weapons to attack Hartlepool, with Andy Taylor looking back in fine form after an impressive display on Saturday and Antony Kay grabbing another goal.

Injury to Bas Savage will see him miss out, but Terry Gornell could start upfront and after scoring his first senior goal [for Tranmere] ten days ago and putting in a good performance as a substitute on Saturday, the young striker should be full of confidence and may well grab another goal.

With Ian Goodison expected to miss the match, Gareth Edds should come into the Tranmere team in central midfield, with Antony Kay dropping back to centre-back in a 4-4-2 formation, though Ronnie Moore could play Ian Moore on the right wing or Paul Henry in central midfield in a 4-5-1 formation.

Another option for the Tranmere boss would be to select Eddie Sonko on the wing instead of playing Terry Gornell, and playing Chris Shuker just behind loan striker Ian Moore.

Personally, I think Rovers would be better suited to playing an attacking formation and going for the win. If they are to be in the play-off shake up come May then they need to start winning more away games and send out a message to the teams around and above them.

If they go to Hartlepool to attack them then they are much more likely to pick up at least a point than if they go to Victoria Park for a draw and just let the Monkey Hangers come on to them.