Tranmere Rovers vs. Crewe Alexandra match preview

Can Shuker continue good form and push Tranmere upwards?
For the second time in only a handful of weeks, Crewe Alexandra make the short trip to Prenton Park as Steve Holland's out of form side take on Tranmere Rovers in Coca Cola League One.

After a first home league win in over a month on Tuesday, Tranmere will be looking to push on and pick up another victory on Friday against Crewe, a result that would push them into the play-off positions ahead of the rest of the League One fixtures over the weekend.

Crewe Alexandra team profile:

Formed: 1877

Ground: Gresty Road

Manager: Steve Holland

Nickname: The Alex/The Railwaymen

Season Finish 2006/07: 20th (Coca-Cola League One)

Previous Meetings

Tranmere and Crewe's last meeting came only eighteen days a go, when the two sides met at Prenton Park in the Johnstone's Paints Trophy Northern Section Second Round.

Tranmere edged what was a poor match, played on a Monday night to ensure both sides international players could feature before heading off on international duty, winning the game 1-0 thanks to a strike from Chris Shuker

The first half had been a poor one, with very few chances to either side, although former Rovers striker Calvin Zola had what was without doubt the best chance for Crewe in the whole match.

Striker Zola found himself put through on goal on a one-on-one with goalkeeper Danny Coyne, however, the shot from the ex-Newcastle player was weak and straight at Coyne.

Tranmere picked their performance up in the second half but they left it late to secure the win, with substitute Chris Shuker netting with a shot that was heavily deflected from inside the penalty area.

Vital Stats:

Tranmere have played host to Crewe on 65 occasions, picking up 37 wins and sixteen draws

Rovers have lost just one of their last seven home matches against Crewe

In 65 home matches against Crewe, Tranmere have scored a staggering 134 goals, with Crewe netting just 68 times

Tranmere have played Crewe at home in October on nine previous occasions, and have not lost any of those games

Fixtures between Tranmere and Crewe has been one of the most common in the clubs history, with this being the 129th matches between the two sides

On This Day:

1998: Tranmere hammer Crewe 4-1 at Gresty Road under the management of John Aldridge

1995: Rovers pick up an excellent result in a League Cup tie away to Birmingham City, with John King's side getting a 1-1 draw

1953: In Division Three North, Tranmere beat Crewe 1-0 at Prenton Park

Tranmere have played seventeen previous fixtures on October 24th, picking up five wins, two draws and ten defeats. In these seventeen matches, they have scored twenty-eight goals and conceded thirty-four.

The Form Book:

Tranmere last six home games: WLWLLW
Crewe last six away games: LLLDLL

Tranmere's home form this season has been bitterly dissapointing, with just three home league wins from six matches, as well as two cup victories on home soil.

Their six match sequence began with a 1-0 win over Accrington Stanley in the Johnstone's Paints Trophy, with Edrissa Sonko scoring the only goal on the night, before Rovers lost 1-0 at home to Oldham, although they were unlucky to have a Steven Jennings goal incorrectly ruled out.

In their next home match, Rovers lost a thoroughly exciting game against Colchester United 4-3, with both sides scoring some stunning goals, before Tranmere beat tonights opponents Crewe 1-0 in the next round of the Johnstone's Paints Trophy.

A 3-1 defeat next time out against Millwall was thoroughly dissapointing for Tranmere, as Rovers put in a dismal display and deserved to lose, before goals from Savage and Sonko were enough to secure Tranmere a 2-0 win over Cheltenham Town on Tuesday night.

In their other two home league games, Tranmere picked up wins over Hartlepool United (1-0) and came from behind to beat Northampton Town (4-1).

Coming into this game, Tranmere have picked up a total of nine points from an available eighteen in their six home matches, thanks to three wins and three defeats.

Notable away results for Tranmere include wins over Huddersfield Town (2-1), Carlisle United (2-1) and Leyton Orient (1-0).

Ronnie Moore's side come into this game in ninth place in the League One table, two points off the final play-off position, having picked up nineteen points from an available thirty-six in their opening twelve games, thanks to six wins, one draw and five defeats.

Steve Holland's Crewe are hardly in inspiring form coming into this game, having picked up just one away point all season and results on Tuesday night saw them slip to the foot of the League One table.

They started their six match sequence with a 5-2 defeat at Elland Road against Leeds United, although both of Crewe's goals came in second half injury time, before the Alex travelled to Anfield for a League Cup Third Round tie, only losing the match 2-1.

Their only away point of the campaign so far came in their next match when they drew 0-0 away at Bristol Rovers before Tranmere beat The Railwaymen 1-0 in the Johnstone's Paints Trophy Second Round.

A heavy 3-0 defeat at Scunthorpe United followed just five days later before in their most recent away game, Crewe lost 3-2 in a crucial match against Yeovil Town, another team battling against relegation this season.

Crewe's only other away games this season have also ended in defeat, losing 4-2 at Carlisle United and 2-0 at Hereford United.

In Coca-Cola League One so far this season, Crewe have picked up just one point from an available eighteen away from home, thanks to one draw and five defeats.

Notable home results for Crewe this season include league wins over Walsall (2-1) and Colchester (2-0) as well as League Cup wins over Burnley (2-0) and Bristol City (2-1).

The Alex come into this game bottom of the League One table, having picked up just eight points from an available thirty-six in their opening twelve games, thanks to two wins, two draws and eight defeats.

Double Hit:

As well as having Calvin Zola on their books, another player who has played for Tranmere and is currently at Crewe is defender Chris McCready.

The defender started his career with Crewe, where he was a graduate of the ever successful Crewe academy, and after making his debut during the 2000/01 season, McCready spent time out on loan with Hyde United.

After this three month stint away from Gresty Road, McCready finally made the break through into the first team under manager Dario Gradi.

The defender stayed with Crewe until 2006, making eighty appearances for the club, although he always struggled to maintain a place in the side due to a terrible run of injuries.

In July 2006, McCready signed for Tranmere Rovers, becoming one of Ronnie Moore's first signings at the club, joining on a free-transfer with a one-year contract.

The defender was a near ever present for Rovers that season, playing 47 games in total, including 42 league games, and scoring once, the goal coming in a Friday night 3-1 home win over Millwall.

However, after just a year at the club, he left, re-joining Crewe, the place where his heart had always been.

Since re-signing for the Alex, McCready has made a further fourty games, scoring three goals, although injuries have again prevented him from making as many appearances as he should have.

Now aged twenty-seven, McCready is a key part of the Crewe defence, although injury has kept him out of the side since mid-August.

One To Watch: Michael O'Connor

Northern Ireland international midfielder Michael O'Connor is a key part of the Crewe Alexandra midfield, and has been with the club for his entire career.

He was spotted by Crewe scouts playing football in his native Northern Ireland and was quickly signed up by the Alex when he was only a teenager.

O'Connor made his break through to the Crewe first team at the age of just eighteen as he came on as a substitute replacing former Tranmere player Gareth Taylor in a Championship match.

Since making his debut in the 2005/06 season, O'Connor, now 21, has gone on to make 73 appearances for Crewe, of which fifteen have come this season.

As well as this, the youngster made his debut for Northern Ireland earlier this season as he played in his countries 0-0 draw away to Scotland, coming on as a substitute after 58-minutes.

Another thing that he has added to his game this season is goals. In his previous seasons with Crewe, O'Connor had scored just twice, but this year he is one of the clubs leading scorers, with four goals already, of which two have come in the league.

A tidy, creative midfielder, O'Connor, who wears the number eight for shirt, is the stalwart of the Crewe midfield and a central figure in most of their moves. Indeed, most things, attacking or defensive, go through the youngster.

Around League One:

A win for Tranmere this Friday night would move them up to sixth place in the table ahead of Saturday's fixtures, meaning, for the first time this season, they would be in the play-offs. A win for Crewe meanwhile could lift them as high up the table as nineteenth.

There are plenty of exciting fixtures in League One, as ever, on Saturday also, with a number of teams beginning to pick up momentum or looking to kick-start their season.

Without doubt, the most interesting fixture of the weekend should be at Glanford Park, where the table-topping Scunthorpe United take on Millwall, who are level on points witth Scunthorpe in the league, behind them in second place on goal difference only.

Third placed Leicester City are at home to Northampton Town, who, despite their excellent home form, just cannot reduplicate that form on the road, whilst fourth placed Leeds host Walsall, who are now a point behind Tranmere in the table.

Oldham, who have now slipped to fifth in the table, are away to Swindon, and a heavy win for Rovers and heavy defeat for Oldham this weekend could see Tranmere go ahead of their rivals on goal difference.

The final play-off spot is occupied by Southend, who have recently picked up some great results to push themselves right up the table, and they face a tricky away trip to twelfth placed Bristol Rovers.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the table, two relegation threatened teams meet at Huish Park where Yeovil Town take on Leyton Orient in a match that sees 21st take on 22nd in the table.

Team News:

Again, Ronnie Moore has only one definate absentee for this game, with Craig Curran still out with a stomach muscle injury. Charlie Barnett and George O'Callaghan both missed Tuesdays win over Cheltenham through illness, but both could return to the squad, meaning Gareth Edds could drop to the bench.

Jones' Prediction: Tranmere 3-0 Crewe

Ronnie Moore's side have no option other than to win this game. Crewe are in a terrible run of form and are certainly lacking in goals since the departure of Nicky Maynard in the summer. If Tranmere are to be in the play-off places come the end of the season, then they must beat teams like Crewe not only at home but away also, and here is their chance to complete half of the double over their North-West rivals.

Bottom of the table and low on confidence, Crewe have conceded seventeen goals in their six away league games so far this season, almost three goals conceded per game, and here is a chance for Tranmere to score plenty of goals themselves.

Rovers have the attacking presence to beat Friday's opposition and if Chris Shuker maintains his form from the last few matches, then he could well bag a couple of goals and assists for himself.

Two clean sheets in a row suggests that Tranmere are beginning to pull themselves together at the back and that will give the defence a great boost of confidence, whilst goals are now beginning to come more regularly at the other end of the field from Bas Savage.