Tranmere Rovers vs. Port Vale match preview

Shuker looking to help Tranmere promotion push
Tranmere Rovers have a chance to move back into the play-offs before any of the teams around them play this week, as they play Port Vale at Prenton Park on Thursday night.

The fixture has been moved to a Thursday to give both sides two days extra rest before the Easter Bank Holiday Monday fixtures, and both managers will see this as a chance to gain an advantage on the teams around them.

Indeed, Rovers are in good form at Prenton Park, other than the blip against Doncaster a few weeks ago, and only a win will do for Ronnie Moore's promotion hopefuls in front of what is expected to be a larger than average crowd at Prenton Park.

Port Vale team profile:

Formed: 1876

Ground: Vale Park

Manager: Lee Sinnott

Nickname: The Valliant's

Season Finish 2006/07: 12th (Coca-Cola League One)

Previous meetings:

When Tranmere and Port Vale met at Vale Park in December, Rovers made it three years with defeat in Burslem as the two teams played out a dire 0-0 draw.

The game, which saw John Mullin make his first start of the season, saw very few chances, with Luke Rodgers coming closest for the home side on 25-minutes as he smashed a free-kick from 25-yards against the post, only for the ball to roll across goal and away from danger.

Coyne was the most active of the two 'keepers, saving from Willock in the first half and Rocastle in the second period, whilst the closest Tranmere came was through a Jennison Myrie-Williams volley at the back post as he arrived in to the area late and unmarked to win Andy Taylor's cross.

Ultimately though, niether team could hit the back of the net in what was a poor game of football in a very cold Vale Park in December. To put it bluntly, there have been many more exciting games this season alone.

Vital Stats:

Tranmere have won 24 of 42 home meetings between these two sides, with Vale picking up ten wins to go with eight draws

Vale's win at Prenton Park last season was their first in eight games since a 2-1 success on November 8th 1997

Apart from the 2000/01 season, these two teams have been in the same division as the other since 1994/95

This is the third consecutive season Tranmere and Port Vale have played each other in March

Tranmere's last fixture on a Thursday was a 2-1 Boxing Day win over Huddersfield Town in the 2002/03 season

On This Day

2004: Rovers, managed by Brian Little, draw a dull game against Peterborough at London Road 0-0

2001: John Aldridge's Tranmere lose 2-1 away to Gillingham in Division One

1989: Tranmere beat Exeter 2-0 at Prenton Park in Division Four

Rovers have played fourteen previous fixtures on 20th March, picking up four wins, five draws and five defeats in that time. They have scored fifteen and conceded nineteen goals in those games.

The Form Book:

Tranmere last 6 home games: WLWDWW

Port Vale last 6 away games: WLLLLL

Up until their win last time on the road, Port Vale's run on the road had shown a record of nine consecutive defeats in the league and cup away from home.

The Valients started their six match sequence with a 2-0 defeat away to Swansea City who had been running away with the League One title until recently, before losing 3-2 away to Bristol Rovers in a close fought match.

Another 3-2 defeat followed ten days later as Port Vale lost at Victoria Park against Hartlepool United before suffering a 3-0 hammering at the hands of Millwall at the New Den.

Vale were then unlucky to lose 2-1 away to high-flying Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat Stadium, before Lee Sinnott's side picked up their first away win in over four months at Gresty Road on March 11, as goals from Harsley and Rodgers secured the Valients a 2-0 away win.

Other notable away results for Port Vale this season include their only other two away league wins, a 2-1 success at the Priestfield Stadium against Gillingham and 1-0 win away to Bournemouth, as well as a 2-0 away win in the F.A. Cup against Morecambe.

Bottom of the table Port Vale have picked up just three away wins this season, to go with two draws and fourteen defeats from their nineteen away games, meaning they have a total of eight from an available 57 points on the road this season.

Impressive home results for Port Vale this include wins at home to Millwall (3-1), Swindon Town (2-1), Cheltenham Town (3-0) and a 3-3 draw at home to Leeds United last time out, despite trailing the game 2-0 and 3-2.

Tranmere Rovers started their six match sequence at Prenton Park with a 2-1 win over Yeovil Town before defeating a disappointing Gillingham 2-0 on home soil just four days later.

A poor 1-1 draw against Leyton Orient followed, this after Calvin Zola had handed Tranmere the lead very early on, before Rovers returned to winning ways on the Wirral in their next home game with a 2-0 win over a very poor Millwall side.

Next up at Prenton Park was a huge game in the promotion race for Ronnie Moore's side as they took on promotion rivals Doncaster Rovers in Coca-Cola League One, but Tranmere lost the match in disappointing fashion, as an early error from Antony Kay allowed Jamie Coppinger to shoot from 25-yards and hand Doncaster a 1-0 win.

In their most recent home game, Tranmere were somewhat lucky to beat Hartlepool United at Prenton Park, with Chris Greenacre, a Nelson own goal and Shane Sherriff earning Rovers a 3-1 win.

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

This season, Tranmere have picked up 34 points from an available 57 at Prenton Park, thanks to ten wins, four draws and five defeats from their nineteen home league games.

Tranmere have had a number of notable away results this season, including wins away to Carlisle United (1-0), Millwall (1-0), Leeds United (2-0) and Southend United (2-1).

Double Hit:

One of the very few players who has "done them both" is former Rovers winger David Beresford, who finished his career at Macclesfield Town in 2006.

"Bezza" started his career with Oldham and made over 70 appearances for the club, as well as spending time on loan at Swansea, before moving to Huddersfield Town for £350,000 in 1997.

Beresford would stay at Town for four years, but made just 42 appearances for them, scoring three goals.

It was whilst he was with the Terriers that Beresford spent time not only on-loan at Preston, where he played six game in the 1999/2000 season, but also on-loan at Vale Park with Port Vale in 2000. The small winger made four appearances for the Valients, back then in League One.

At the end of the 2000/01 season, Beresford played for both Hull and Plymouth, signing for both on free transfers, as well as spending time on loan at Macclesfield Town before joining Tranmere in November 2003, then managed by Brian Little.

Beresford made 55 appearances for Rovers, of which around half were from the substitutes bench, and he scored four goals for the club, including increadibly a header against Bradford in an amazing 5-4 defeat as well as netting in Rovers 2-0 win against Hartlepool in the 2004/05 play-off semi-finals, the goal which put Rovers two up and level with the Monkey Hangers on aggregate.

At the end of that season though, Beresford joined Macclesfield. However, tragically his life was to be taken over as his wife caught cancer, and having made just 22 appearances for the club, Beresford, now aged 30, retired from the game to look after his wife.

One to Watch: Luke Rodgers

Port Vale signed pacey striker Luke Rodgers from local rivals Crewe Alexandra in January 2007, and if the striker could only become a bit more accurate in his finishing then he would be a top striker for the club.

Nonetheless though, Rodgers is a huge threat when he plays, with his devastatingly quick pace troubling defences at both ends of the League One table.

Starting his career with Shrewsbury Town, Rodgers stayed with at Gay Meadow for six years after making his debut during the 1999/2000 season. Born in Birmingham, the striker made an impact in the lower leagues, netting 73 goals in 204 games for the club before being signed for Crewe by Dario Gradi in July 2005.

His stay at Crewe though was a brief one, making just 39 appearances, of which twenty were as a substitute, for the Railwaymen, netting nine times in the process before joining Port Vale after an 18-month stay at Gresty Road for £30,000.

After a slow start at Vale Park, Rodgers has certainly made an impression for the club this season. Having now played 46 games for the League One strugglers, the twenty-six year old has scored fifteen goals, of which twelve have come this season.

Standing at 5'08, Rodgers is not tall, but his blisteringly quick pace always makes him a thorn in the side for any League One defence. The striker has netted in his last two games, scoring in the 2-0 win away to Crewe and the 3-3 draw at home to Leeds.

Around League One:

Tranmere's fixture is the only on Thursday night in Coca Cola League One and a win for Ronnie Moore's side will move them up to fifth, ahead of Southend and Walsall, although they will have played two games more than both sides. Rovers are currently seventh in the table but level on points with Walsall and two points behind Southend in fifth. A win for Vale meanwhile can move them off the bottom of the table and above Luton.

There are three fixtuers in League One on Friday, with Southend United played stuttering League leaders Swansea City at Roots Hall as they look to move ahead of Nottingham Forest in the table whilst Swansea look to extend the gap between themselves in Doncaster in second to nine points.

Doncaster themselves play on Friday night as they face a tough away game against Yeovil Town at Huish Park and will be looking to further close the gap between themselves and Swansea, whilst Tranmere could do with an away win at Sixfields where in form Northampton Town, now eleventh but just two points behind Tranmere after their 4-2 win over Swansea last weekend, take on Nottingham Forest.

The remaining League One fixtures are on Saturday, with the pick of them a tie between Leeds United and Walsall at Elland Road, a 5.20 kick off for television. Both sides are hoping for promotion but have struggled of late in the League, and Walsall can leave the play-off place they have occupied for a number of months this weekend if they fail to win. Leeds meanwhile are still two points off sixth place in tenth.

Another promotion clash takes place at Brisbane Road where Carlisle United take on Leyton Orient as they look to close the gap between themselves, Doncaster and Swansea, whilst a win for Orient could lift them back into the play-offs.

Team News:

Tranmere Rovers will once again be without Steve Davies as he continues his rehabilitation from his cruciate-knee ligament injury but Chris Shuker should feature once again after his return from his knee surgery. Rovers will most likely still be without Captain Ian Goodison as he continues his return from fitness following the knee injury he picked up at Oldham nearly two weeks ago, whilst Jennison Myrie-Williams could again miss out with an ankle injury.  The only other concern, Mike Jones (flu) should be fit for selection.

Jones' Prediction:
Tranmere Rovers 3-0

This is a game that Tranmere Rovers really should and perhaps have to win. Port Vale are a weak side, especially on the road, and if Ronnie Moore's side want to keep in touch with the play-offs, they must win this fixture.

To put it simply, Tranmere really should have more than enough to beat the Valients. With Jennings and McLaren now back together in midfield, Rovers have a strong central midfield partnership capable of breaking down the Vale front line and pushing forward to scored goals themselves, whilst Greenacre has now found some form and confidence thanks to a couple of goals in his last two games.

One problem Rovers could have is at centre-back, where Antony Kay and Ben Chorley have struggled to bond this season. Tranmere's worst form has come when these two have played together, although it is more likely the absense of Ian Goodison that has affected the pair, but with Chorley's aerial prowess and Kay's determination, speed and strength, the Tranmere back four should be able to cope with whatever the away side throw at them.