Tranmere Rovers vs. Carlisle United match preview

Rovers need match winners to fire in search of return to form
For once, Tranmere Rovers aren't playing either of Huddersfield or Walsall on Boxing Day, as this year the Super White Army entertain high-flying Carlisle at Prenton Park on December 26th.

Since bringing in former Cheltenham manager John Ward, Carlisle have been in fine form and Tranmere will be looking for a crucial win against a team they have already beaten this season as they look to kick start their season.

The Blues though come in to this game having had an extra few days rest than Tranmere, after their home match against Swansea City last Saturday (when Rovers were playing Luton) was postponed due to a frozen pitch.

Carlisle Team Profile:

Formed: 1904

Ground: Brunton Park

Manager: John Ward

Nickname: The Blues

Season Finish 2006/07: 8th (Coca-Cola League One)

Previous Meetings:

Tranmere Rovers are still the only team to have won at Brunton Park in the league this season, other than Carlisle of course, after they picked up a 1-0 victory against the Blues on September 8th.

Craig Curran was the scorer of the Rovers goal, this after he had replaced Calvin Zola early on who had limped off with a hamstring injury.

Rovers took the lead in the 42nd minute and the move leading up to the goal began in their own penalty area. A Carlisle corner was cleared up towards Chris Greenacre near the half way line, who, after collecting the ball, delivered an inch-perfect pass to Chris Shuker on the Carlisle left.

The former Manchester City man ran on to the deft chip and after a slip from a Carlisle defender had allowed him some extra seconds, Shuker crossed to Craig Curran at the far post who vollied the ball home to give Tranmere the lead.

This would ultimately be the only goal of the game, a reverse of the scoreline in the same fixture last year. However, Carlisle did pressure forward late on and only some terrific saves from Danny Coyne, in particular one brilliant save from Carlton's attempted lob.

Vital Stats:

Out of 36 meetings between the two sides at Prenton Park, Tranmere have nineteen wins compared to Carlisle's eleven, whilst there have been a further six draws

Carlisle have kept a clean sheet against Tranmere in three of the last four meetings between the teams

Rovers have netted 78 times in 36 home league games against the Blues

In nine out of the last eleven meetings between the two teams, at least one side has kept a clean sheet

In their history, Tranmere have scored four or more goals on seven occasions at Prenton Park against Carlisle, with three 6-1 wins


On This Day:

2000: Tranmere win 2-1 away to Huddersfield Town on their way to relegation from Division One

1994: Rovers, then managed by John King, win 3-1 against Derby County at Prenton Park

1935: Tranmere hammer Oldham Athletic 13-4 at Prenton Park, still the clubs record victory, with Robert "Bunny" Bell netting on nine occasions and missing a penalty

In all, Tranmere have played 64 games on Boxing Day, winning 19, drawing 20 and losing 25. They have scored 93 goals and conceeded 109. They have played a fixture on Boxing Day every season since 1983/84.

The Form Book:

Tranmere last 6 home games: WLLWDD
Carlisle last 6 away games: DDLDWL

Whilst Carlisle's home form has been absolutely superb this season, with just one defeat in nine league games at Brunton Park, they have failed to yet make a big impression on the road.

In their six match sequence, United have only picked up one win in six away games, including a defeat to League Two opposition in the F.A. Cup.

First, Carlisle lost 2-1 away to Yeovil Town before picking up a vital three points in the promotion race away to Southend, with Joe Garner scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win in the second half.

The Cumbrians then drew 0-0 at Luton in yet another long away trip before getting knocked out of the F.A. Cup by Grimsby Town thanks to a strike from former Tranmere player Gary Jones.

Since getting knocked out of the cup, Carlisle have drawn 2-2 away to Brighton and Hove Albion before drawing at Northampton Town with the same result on December 8th.

Other notable away results for the Blues include wins over Bournemouth (3-1) and Huddersfield (2-0) in the league as well as a 1-0 win away to Bury in the Carling Cup.

From ten away league games, Carlisle have picked up three wins, five draws and two defeats, meaning they have collected 14 points from an available 30.

Notable home results include fantastic wins against promotion contenders Leeds United (3-1) and Leyton Orient (1-0) as well as a 4-0 thumping of Millwall.

Tranmere Rovers have not been in particularly great form at Prenton Park either, with just two wins in their last six games on home soil.

In the first match of their six match sequence, Tranmere drew 1-1 with Crewe before the Tranmere fans had to endure a dire 0-0 draw at home to Walsall.

These two draws however were followed by a 3-0 victory over Huddersfield and it looked as if Tranmere could be back on the right tracks.

However, two defeats without scoring followed, as Tranmere lost to Oldham Athletic (1-0) and Swansea City (1-0) with the goals coming in the final moments of each game.

Since though, Tranmere have picked up a decent 3-1 win against a terrible Bournemouth side in poor conditions at Prenton Park, with Zola, Greenacre and Jennings getting the Tranmere goals.

Other notable home results for Tranmere include wins over Brighton and Hove Albion (2-0) and Luton Town (2-1).

From ten home league games, Tranmere have three defeats, three draws and four wins, meaning they have picked up 15 points from an available 30.

Notable results on the road for Tranmere include wins over Gillingham (2-0) and Southend United (2-1) in the league as well as a 3-0 demolition of Bradford in the F.A. Cup.


Double Hit:

Defender David Raven represented Tranmere during the 2005/06 season before joining Carlisle United, then in their first season in League One.

Raven started his career with Tranmere Rovers a youngster before joining Liverpool at the age of 14. Originally an attacker, Raven converted to a defender whilst at Anfield and he made four appearances for the Reds in his time there.

In January 2006, Raven fulfilled a life long dream as the former Tranmere Rovers season ticket holder joined the club on loan and made his debut in a 1-0 defeat at home to Barnsley.

Raven went on to make eleven appearances for Tranmere, all in the league, under manager Brian Little before returning to Liverpool at the end of the season when his loan spell expired.

As Brian Little left the club, his chances of signing for Rovers permanently appeared to dissapear and in July 2006, having been released by Liverpool, he signed for Carlisle United on a free transfer.

The 22 year old has now made 62 appearance for the Cumbrian side, but is yet to score for the club. Playing at either centre back or right-back, Raven is still with Carlisle and could stand in the way of his former club and team mates from winning come Boxing Day.

One To Watch: Joel Garner

Striker Joe Garner signed for Carlisle United from Blackburn Rovers in the summer for £140,000, a clue record fee.

Garner was a youth team graduate at Blackburn, but never made an appearance for the Lancashire club.

In January 2007, Garner joined Carlisle on loan until the end of the season, and made 18 appearances for the club, scoring five times.

In the summer, he made his switch from the Premiership club to Carlisle permanent and his formed has been superb ever since.

So far, the Carlisle number 14 has scored 10 goals in 22 games this season for the Blues, including goals in all four of his last four outings against Brighton, Swindon, Northampton and Leyton Orient.

Garner, who signed for Carlisle only the day before the 2007/08 season kicked off, has electric pace and is a natural finisher in front of goal. He can score from outside the box but a number of his goals see him race pst defenders before slipping the ball past the 'keeper or poaching goals from inside the area.

Around League One:

As ever there is a full list of fixtures on Boxing Day in League One, as the Christmas fixtures continue to come thick and fast. With only one point seperating the top four and only nine seperating the top twelve, this period could shape the rest of the season for some teams.

Starting with the Tranmere vs. Carlisle game, and United can move to the top of the League One table if they beat Rovers, should results for Nottingham Forest, Swansea City and Leeds United all go their way.

Rovers meanwhile lie four points off the final play-off place in twelfth place and will be looking for a win to both boost confidence and their points tally ahead of Saturday's game against Cheltenham.

Table topping Nottingham Forest face a tricky test at Boundary Park against Oldham Athletic, with Oldham able to move above Tranmere should they win following their 1-0 win away to Southend on Saturday. Forest meanwhile will be looking to build on their 2-0 win against Port Vale at the weekend and maintain their place at the top of the table, which they hold only because of a better goal difference over Swansea City, who didn't play last weekend as their game against Carlisle was postponed.

Swansea themselves are at home against Cheltenham, a team who Tranmere play on next Saturday, and will be looking for the win to push them ahead of Nottingham Forest. Cheltenham meanwhile could be bottom of the table come 5pm on Wednesday, or out of the relegation zone, depending on how their results go.

Leeds United, now third in the table and within reach of top spot, face Hartlepool United away whilst Southend have a tricky trip to Gillingham following their home defeat to Oldham at the weekend.

Port Vale go in search of a crucial win against Walsall, who now occupy a play-off place whilst Doncaster Rovers host Northampton whilst Leyton Orient travel to bottom of the table Bournemouth.

Team News:

Paul McLaren and Antony Kay return from one match bans for Tranmere, but that is where the good news could end regarding the return of players. Ben Chorley is still doubtful with an infection whilst Gareth Taylor (knee) is also a doubt. John Mullin has picked up a hamstring injury and will miss the game whilst Steve Davies (knee ligaments) will once again sit out the match.

Jones' Prediction: Tranmere Rovers 2-1 Carlisle United

With Antony Kay and Paul McLaren returned Tranmere will be a much stronger team. It will be harsh on Paul Henry if he is dropped from the starting XI but McLaren adds a lot to the team with his passing ability whilst Kay is strong in central defence and should replace Shane Sherriff there.

At Luton, Tranmere didn't play badly and it was only an error from Coyne that meant they undeservedly left empty handed. What is required is the wingers, Shuker and possibly Myrie-Williams or Sherriff, getting more crosses in to the box for the strikers and Rovers will then start to score more goals, which is what has troubled them in recent weeks.