Tranmere Rovers vs Hartlepool United Match Preview

Hartlepool United make the trip to Prenton Park this Saturday as Tranmere look to kick-start their season and push themselves back up towards the play-off places.

With history between the two sides, after Hartlepool beat Tranmere in the 2004/05 play-off semi finals, Tranmere will be looking for their first win over the Monkey Hangers since the second leg play-off victory over the side from the North-East, a game which Rovers won 2-0.

Ronnie Moore will be hoping his side can now go on a good run and push back up towards the promotion places and with Port Vale, Bournemouth and Swindon to follow the Hartlepool fixture, the Rovers boss will see this as a chance to pick up four consecutive wins and a maximum of twelve points.

Hartlepool United team profile:

Formed: 1881

Ground: Victoria Park

Manager: Danny Wilson

Nickname: The Monkey Hangers

Season Finish 2006/07: 2nd (Coca-Cola League Two)

Previous meetings:

Tranmere travelled to Hartlepool on a cold Tuesday night in December this season, and the Rovers side put in a dismal display as they lost 3-1 at Victoria Park.

Rovers couldn't have had a worse start to the match, as Hartlepool took the lead within the opening five minutes as Gary Liddle smashed the ball into the roof of the net from the edge of the area after Tranmere had failed to clear a corner.

On eleven minutes, the home side then doubled their lead as James Brown raced down the Tranmere right, beating Robbie Stockdale in the process, before slipping the ball past the advancing Coyne and into the net after breaking into the area.

Rovers rallied and had a few chances, with Mike Jones coming closest as he broke into the area but was caught in two minds as whether to shoot or cross, and eventually his effort was a bit of both and went right across the face of goal, just avoiding the out-stretched boot of Calvin Zola.

After half time, the away side pulled themselves back in the game. Chris Greenacre was fouled 25-yards from goal giving Rovers the chance to shoot from a free-kick. Shane Sherriff duly obliged as he stepped up and curled a wonderful free-kick over the Hartlepool wall and past the motionless goalkeeper into the top corner.

Ben Chorley then had a header cleared off the line as the momentum swung Tranmere's way but on 58-minutes Rovers shot themselves in the foot, with Andy Taylor under-hitting a back pass which Coyne and Porter both challenged for. Porter came off best and eventually slotted the ball into the empty net, effectively finishing off Tranmere's hopes of a win.

The result, a fourth consecutive away league game without a win for Rovers, saw Tranmere slip to twelfth in the table, when only two months before hand, nearly to the day, they had beaten Southend United 2-1 at Roots Hall to take top spot in Coca-Cola League One.

Vital Stats:

Tranmere are unbeaten in their last ten home games against Hartlepool, with their last home defeat to the Monkey Hangers coming on February 3rd 1984

In 56 home games against Hartlepool(s) United, Tranmere have picked up 38 wins, as well as nine draws and nine defeats

These two teams have met a total of 111 times in League and Cup

In a cup or play-off game between these two teams, the away side has never won [nine games]

Hartlepool have scored just once in their last five trips to the Wirral

On This Day

1997: Rovers draw 1-1 at home to Barnsley in Division One

1994: John King's Tranmere beat Stoke City 2-0 at Prenton Park to jump ahead of the Potters in the league table

1991: Tranmere beat Swansea City 2-1 in Division Three

Rovers have played fifteen previous fixtures on March 15th, picking up nine wins, three draws and three defeats. In these games they have scored 25 goals and conceded 17.

The Form Book:

Tranmere last 6 home games: LWDWWL

Hartlepool last 6 away games: WLDLLD

Hartlepool have hardly set League One alight this season with their away form, having picked up just one win in their last twelve away league games.

They started their six match sequence with a 1-1 draw at Sixfields against Northampton Town before they made the short trip south to Doncaster's new Keepmoat Stadium but came home empty handed after a 2-0 defeat.

A 2-1 away defeat to Southend United then followed, this despite Sweeney opening the scoring for Danny Wilson's side in the first half, before they earned a valuable away point at Cheltenham thanks to a 1-1 draw.

A disappointing 2-0 defeat at Dean Court against financially struggling Bournemouth, who are stuck in a relegation fight right at the bottom of League One, followed but in their most recent away game Hartlepool United picked up a valuable away win, with MacKay scoring a valuable second-half winner in a 1-0 victory away to Oldham Athletic.

Other notable away results for Hartlepool this season include wins away to Port Vale (2-0), Leyton Orient (4-2) and Millwall (1-0) as well as a 6-0 drubbing of Gainsborough Trinity in the F.A. Cup.

Hartlepool United come to Prenton Park having played eighteen away games this season, from which they have picked up a total of fourteen of an available 54 points thanks to four wins, two draws and a hugely disappointing twelve defeats.

Impressive results at Victoria Park for Danny Wilson's side this season include wins against Tranmere Rovers (3-1), Gillingham (4-0), Oldham Athletic (4-1) and Doncaster Rovers (2-1).

Tranmere Rovers need to get their home form back on track after their disappointing defeat last time out at Prenton Park in Coca-Cola League One.

Rovers started their six match sequence with a shocking 2-0 defeat against Bristol Rovers in League One before their home form picked up as they beat Yeovil Town 2-1 at Prenton Park.

A 2-0 win over Gillingham then followed three days later, with Calvin Zola and Paul McLaren netting the Tranmere goals, but two home wins were followed by a draw as Calvin Zola's early strike against Leyton Orient was cancelled out in the second half as Rovers drew 1-1 with the O's.

Millwall then made the trip to Prenton Park but were easily beaten 2-0 before Rovers suffered their first home defeat in nearly two months as Jamie Coppinger took advantage of a mistake from Antony Kay to rifle home a 25-yard drive and earn Doncaster Rovers a 1-0 win on the Wirral.

Other notable results for Tranmere on home turf this season include wins over Carlisle United (2-0), Huddersfield Town (3-0), Brighton and Hove Albion (2-0) and Bournemouth (3-1).

Tranmere this season have picked 31 points from an available 54 at Prenton Park after nine wins, four draws and five defeats from eighteen games.

Impressive results on the road for Ronnie Moore's side include wins away to Leeds United (2-0), Gillingham (2-0), Southend United (2-1) and Carlisle United (1-0).

Double Hit:

Tranmere's new signing Ian Moore joined Rovers from Hartlepool United during the January transfer window, with Gareth Taylor's departure to Doncaster freeing up enough money to allow Rovers to pay for Moore's wages.

Moore started his career with Tranmere Rovers as he came through the youth ranks with the club when John King was manager and his dad, Ronnie, was assistant manager.

The player made his debut in the 1994/95 season and went on to make 66 appearances and score thirteen goals in three years before joining Nottingham Forest for £1,000,000 in 1997.

Whilst at Tranmere, Moore had also spent time on loan at Bradford, where he failed to score, and the former England U-21 striker struggled at the City Ground too, as he netted only once in sixteen games for the Tricky Trees.

The Wirral born striker spent time on loan with West Ham whilst at Forest and in August 1998 he was on the move again, joining Stockport County for £800,000. He became a success with County, netting 23 goals in 104 games before moving on to Burnley and then Leeds, scoring 55 goals over a seven year stint with those two teams.

After his contract with Leeds expired at the end of the 2006/07 season, Moore joined Hartlepool on a free-transfer, but having netted nine goals in thirty goals for the Monkey Hangers, Moore grew anxious for a move closer to his Warrington home.

Just as he was about to sign for Oldham in the January transfer window of 2008, Moore received a text from his dad, Ronnie, the manager of Tranmere, asking him to sign for the club. Sure enough, a few hours later Moore became a Tranmere player and the second-coming was well and truly alive as he netted on his debut in a 2-0 win at former club Leeds.

Signing for an undisclosed fee, the 31-year old Tranmere number nine has now netted two goals in eight games since returning to the club who he supported as a boy.

One to Watch: Joel Porter

With ten goals to his name this season, Joel Porter has been further extending his profile with the club he started his career with in English Football.

Born in Australia, Porter, a striker, played for four Australian sides, including Melbourne Knights, where he scored 24 goals in 56 games, and Sydney Olympic before signing for Hartlepool in November 2003.

Before joining Hartlepool, Porter, looking for a club in Europe, almost move to La Liga and also had trials with Wigan and Sunderland in England but eventually moved to Victoria Park and Hartlepool, from where he has gone from strength to strength.

Part of two play-off campaigns in League One and one promotion from League Two with the club (as well as suffering relegation from League One), Porter is now in his fifth season with the Monkey Hangers and he has netted 40 goals in 153 games for the club, with ten of them coming this season, including one strike in Hartlepool's 4-0 win over Gillingham last weekend.

The Hartlepool number ten, who stands at 5'09, has decent pace and is a good finisher in front of goal, whilst he brings international experience to the team having scored four goals in six games for his country Australia.

Around League One:

Tranmere have the chance to push back up towards the play-offs this weekend as they take on Hartlepool. Now ninth after their impressive 1-1 draw with Swansea, three points could propel Tranmere back up to fifth place with a win, after Walsall and Leeds lost midweek, whilst Southend only drew with Nottingham Forest at home.

Indeed, Rovers are still only two points off the play-offs thanks to their point against Swansea, but there are now four teams on 53 points, Tranmere, Leyton Orient, Leeds and Oldham.

Should Hartlepool win on the Wirral this weekend, they themselves can move to one point behind Tranmere and can leap up the table to eleventh place.

Elsewhere in League One this weekend, a number of teams battling for promotion face tough fixtures. Brighton take on Doncaster Rovers at the Withdean Stadium and the Seagulls can go ahead of Tranmere with a win, whilst Doncaster will be looking to close the gap between themselves and Swansea City at the top of League One to three points.

League leaders Swansea have a tough away trip to inform Northampton, with Swansea's lead at the top of the table cut from eleven to six points in recent weeks, whilst Leyton Orient are away to another in form side as they take on Millwall in a London derby at the New Den.

Southend United face a tricky away test at Huddersfield Town, with Huddersfield losing away to Hartlepool midweek whilst Southend drew with Nottingham Forest, and Leeds United, who surprisingly lost 2-1 at home to Cheltenham in midweek, take on another team threatened with relegation, Port Vale, who beat Crewe in a local derby 2-0 on Tuesday.

One top six clash this weekend sees Nottingham Forest take on Walsall at the City Ground. Tranmere could do with a Nottingham Forest win here, as Forest are now five points ahead of Rovers but Walsall just two, and after Walsall lost 2-1 at home to Brighton in midweek, they will be keen to get back to winning ways.

Carlisle United, third, are away to Swindon Town in a game that could be tricky for a side who have struggled on the road this season, whilst Oldham Athletic, now level on points with Tranmere, have an away game against cash-strapped and relegation threatened Luton Town.

Team News:

Steven Jennings is back for Tranmere after his three-match ban, whilst Ian Goodison could return from the knee injury he picked up against Oldham Athletic. Steve Davies remains on the sidelines with his knee-ligament damage but Chris Shuker should return for Rovers after being due to play in the reserves against Burnley on Wednesday.

Jones' Prediction: Tranmere Rovers 2-0 Hartlepool United

This is the type of home game that Tranmere really should win, and I personally cannot see them doing anything other than collecting the three points at Prenton Park.

With the important Steven Jennings returning in midfield, Tranmere are a much stronger side, and the boost of having Chris Shuker fit and raring to go again as they push for the play-offs is vitally important.

The key for Tranmere is to use the wingers and attack with pace, as well as getting lots of balls in to the box for the strikers Moore, Zola and Greenacre, because in the last few games Tranmere really haven't been getting enough shots in on goal, mainly because of the lack of service from the wingers.

Myrie-Williams must learn to try and cross the ball earlier, and with Shuker returning, maybe this will make him perform harder, whilst hopefully Mike Jones will get another chance after netting his first goal against Oldham last Saturday.