Oldham Athletic vs. Tranmere Rovers match preview

Moore returns to Oldham in search of crucial play-off points
Their unbeaten run came to an end last weekend but Tranmere Rovers will still be going into this weekends game at Boundary Park against Oldham Athletic full of confidence as they look to make it five away games unbeaten.

Ronnie Moore returns to a club where he is strongly disliked for the tactics he used when managing there only a few years ago and he wil be hoping for a first victory at Boundary Park since leaving the club, but Oldham will of course be no easy fixture, with the former Premier League side only a handful of points behind Tranmere in the League One table and looking to overtake their rivals.

Indeed, a fierce rivalry has built up between these teams, but not because of locality or on the field matters like most rivalries. Tranmere and Oldham dislike each other due to the fierce comments by Oldham fans towards Ronnie Moore and Tranmere in general, particularly on internet message boards, something which Tranmere fans have responded to. Therefore, expect a fierce game on Saturday, both on the pitch and in the stands.

Oldham Athletic team profile:

Formed: 1899

Ground: Boundary Park

Manager: John Sheridan

Nickname: The Latics

Season Finish 2005/06: 6th (Coca-Cola League One)

Previous Meetings:

Tranmere Rovers played Oldham at Prenton Park on November 6th this season in Coca Cola League One, and for the fourth time in recent years, the game ended 1-0, unfortunatly to Oldham.

Rovers though were never really in the game as they put in a poor display, with Danny Coyne keeping them in the game on a number of occasions as he made saves from the likes of Smalley, Davies and Eardley.

The visiters left it late to score though, as they got the winner in the 95th minute. Poor marking on the right allowed a cross to come into the Tranmere box where Davies hit the ball home, although about three other players were just waiting for the ball, sending the Oldham fans mad.

Vital Stats:

The last four games between these two sides have all ended 1-0

Tranmere's record league win came against Oldham on Boxing Day 1935 as they beat the Lancashire side 13-4

Tranmere haven't won at Oldham since March 4th 1997, with eight journeys to Boundary Park coming since

Both of Tranmere's last two wins in Oldham have come in March

Rovers have won just eight of 38 trips to Boundary Park, with Oldham picking up 21 home wins

On This Day:

2003: Rovers, managed by Ray Mathias, pick up a 2-1 home win over Crewe in Division Two, with Jason Price and Ian Sharps scoring the Tranmere goals

1997: Tranmere lose 3-2 away to second placed Wolves in Division One

1980: Rovers draw 2-2 with Scunthorpe United in Division Four

Tranmere Rovers have played nine previous fixtures on March 8th, picking up three wins and two draws to go with their four defeats. They haved scored ten and conceded twelve goals on this day.

The Form Book:

Doncaster last 6 away games: LDWWWL
Tranmere last 6 home games: DDWWLL

Oldham are currently without a win in their last two home games as crowds at Boundary Park continue to drop below unprecednted levels.

The Latics started their six match sequence with a dissapointing 1-0 F.A. Cup defeat at home to Huddersfield Town, this after knocking Everton out in the previous round.

The match was played in front of an impressive 12,458 fans at Boundary Park, but just 4,701 turned up for their next home game, a very good 2-0 win over Carlisle United, with McDonald getting both Oldham goals.

Two more successive wins followed, as firstly Oldham beat Gillingham 2-1 at Boundary Park before sending Yeovil Town home empty handed after goals from McDonald, Peltier (o.g.) and Davies secured a 3-0 win for John Sheridan's side.

They are however without a home win since, with a 2-2 draw at home to Swindon followed by a dissapointing 1-0 defeat against Hartlepool United on Tuesday night.

Other notable results at Boundary Park for Oldham this season include wins over Swansea City (2-1), Crewe Alexandra (3-2) and a 4-1 League Cup success over Mansfield Town of League Two.

Oldham have a total of 21 points from an available 51 home points this season, as their seventeen home games have seen five wins, six draws and six defeats.

Impressive results on the road for Oldham this season include wins against Tranmere Rovers (1-0), Walsall (3-0), Bournemouth (3-0) and a shocking 1-0 victory away to Everton in the F.A. Cup third round.

A look at Tranmere's six match sequence on the road shows that they are currently unbeaten in four on the road but have won two, drawn two and lost six of their last six away journeys.

Rovers started their six match sequence with a 3-0 defeat away to Leyton Orient in a re-arranged League One game before then going out of the F.A. Cup with an undeserved 1-0 defeat at Edgar Street against Hereford United in a third round replay.

Ronnie Moore's side followed this with two victories though, as firstly they picked up their first away league win since October with a 1-0 win at Millwall on January 19th thanks to a late Antony Kay strike before Tranmere travelled to Elland Road and earned a magnificent 2-0 win.

Two draws have followed, as Tranmere firstly made the long journey south to Brighton on a Tuesday night and drew 0-0 before they drew 1-1 at the Memorial Ground against Bristol Rovers, despite playing over half the game with only ten men after the dismissal of Steven Jennings.

Other notable results on the road for Tranmere include wins against Carlisle United (1-0), Southend United (2-1) and Gillingham (2-0).

Tranmere have picked up 21 of an available 51 points away from home, thanks to five wins, six draws and six defeats.

Impressive home results for Tranmere include wins over Carlisle United (2-0), Huddersfield Town (3-0), Millwall (2-0) and Bournemouth (3-1).

Double Hit:

A great number of players have played for both Oldham Athletic, with current Oldham players Reuben Hazell and John Thompson having both played for Rovers whilst Ronnie Moore managed Oldham before joining Tranmere.

Another player to have played for both clubs is current Tranmere striker Calvin Zola who had a loan spell at Oldham from Newcastle United in the 2003/04 season.

Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Calvin Zola made his first step on the football ladder as he joined Newcastle United in his teens after being spotted playing football by Bobby Robson.

Zola though failed to make a first team appearance for the Geordies, and in August 2003 he joined Oldham on a season long loan deal.

The striker played 28 games for the Latics in that season, scoring seven goals, and his performances were enough to convince Tranmere managed Brian Little to sign him on a permanent basis after his contract at St. James Park expired.

Now 23, Zola has experienced a whole host of problems since joining Tranmere, including a visa problem in his first season with the club and a long list of injuries.

This season though, Zola has really started to flourish, forging a good parnership with firstly Chris Greenacre and lately Ian Moore.

His goals per game ratio is not great as he has netted just eighteen times in 101 games for the club, but five of those goals have come this season alone.

Other players to have represented both clubs include current Crystal Palace defender Clint Hill and midfielders Nicky Henry and Wayne Gill.

One To Watch: Lee Hughes

After spending three years in jail, former West Brom striker is back in professional football and has been hitting goals for the Latics this season.

Hughes started his career at Kidderminster before earning a £350,000 move to West Brom in August 1997. This was to be his first spell with the Baggies and he netted an impressive 86 goals in 176 games for the club before joining side Coventry City in August 2001 for a fee of just over £5,000,000.

Hughes stayed with the Sky Blues for just one year, netting 15 goals in 44 games, including a hatrick in a 6-1 win away at Crewe, before re-joining West Brom in 2002 for £2,500,000.

Two years later, having scored thirteen more goals in 60 games, Hughes career appeared to be cut short as he was sent to prison for a driving offence.

However, three years later, Oldham signed the striker on his release from jail. Now 31, the Birmingham born striker started to revive Oldham's season as he began to get match fit, netting seven goals in one six game spell in December.

A natural goalscorer, Hughes has netted eight times in twenty-one games for Oldham this season, including a hatrick against Millwall.

Standing at 5'10, Hughes isn't tall but possesses good pace and strength and will score goals should he be given decent service.

Around League One:

After losing to Hartlepool in midweek at Boundary Park, Oldham Athletic now cannot overtake Tranmere should they beat Rovers on Saturday.

A win for Tranmere can push them eight points clear of Oldham and could put them level on points with Walsall who take on Northampton Town at the Bescott Stadium, should the Saddlers slip up. Rovers will also be looking to maintain, if not extend the one point gap between themselves and the chasing pack of teams looking for that final play-off spot, including the likes of Leyton Orient, Leeds and Southend, whilst Oldham can move to just two points behind Tranmere if they win this fixture.

Elsewhere, there are a number of other exciting fixtures in League One this weekend. Swansea City warm up for the visit of Tranmere on Tuesday night with a home game against Millwall on Friday, with a win extending Swansea's lead over Doncaster Rovers at the top of League One to 14 points, until Saturday at least.

The ever improving Millwall meanwhile can move four points clear of the relegation zone as Kenny Jackett returns to his former club, and with the club occupying the final relegation spot, Gillingham, playing away to Hartlepool, Millwall will be looking to extend that gap.

Brighton are away for the first time in four weeks after five consecutive away games, and their fans and staff have the lovely prospect of a ten hour car journey north ahead as they take on Carlisle United. Brighton can move into the play-offs with a win, but a lot of results would have to go their way for this to happen, whilst Carlisle, who have a very strong home record, will be looking to overtake Doncaster and move back into the final automatic promotion spot.

Doncaster though are at home to bottom club Port Vale and only a win will be acceptable for Sean O'Driscoll's side whilst fourth placed Nottingham Forest will be looking to close the gap between themselves and Doncaster as they take on Crewe at Gresty Road.

Leyton Orient have a tough home game against Huddersfield, whilst Leeds will be going in search of what they see as a certain three points as Gary McAllister's side take on Bournemouth at Elland Road.

Team News:

Ronnie Moore is without wingers Chris Shuker and Steve Davies as they continue their rehabilitation from knee injuries whilst Steven Jennings sits out the second game of a three match ban. Ronnie Moore otherwise has a full squad to chose from and it is possible that he could make two changes from Saturday's defeat to Doncaster, with Ahmed and Zola pushing for starts.

Jones' Prediction: Oldham Athletic 0-1 Tranmere Rovers

Ronnie Moore will have his side well up for this game as he goes back to his former club. The Tranmere boss has recieved an unending amount of abuse since leaving Boundary Park and is sure to get some more on Saturday, and on that basis Moore will have his players fired up and ready for this game.

A perfect scenario would have Ian Moore scoring the winner for his dad against the club he so nearly signed for before joining Tranmere, and if Rovers play like they did against Bristol Rovers that is possible.

The pitch at Boundary Park is not the best which will surely effect Paul McLaren's passing game but Tranmere should try and use this to their advantage by starting striker Calvin Zola upfront.

Jennings will once again be missed but Ahmed starting instead of Mullin could perhaps lessen the effect of not having the industrious midfielder.