Tranmere Rovers vs. Southend United match preview

Rovers hoping Goodison can return and guide Tranmere to vital win
Just two days after taking to the field against Accrington Stanley for their F.A. Cup First Round replay, Tranmere are back in action at Prenton Park as they face Southend United.

The Essex side come to Prenton Park in a promising position in League One, and Steve Tilson's side will be looking for revenge over Tranmere, who did the double over them last season, with terrific wins at Prenton Park and Roots Hall.

Southend United team profile:

Formed: 1906

Ground: Roots Hall

Manager: Steve Tilson

Nickname: The Shrimpers

Season Finish 2006/07: 6th (Coca-Cola League One)

Previous Meetings:

Tranmere Rovers recorded an excellent double over Southend United last season, this despite finishing behind Steve Tilson's side in the League One table.

When the sides first met in October, Tranmere picked up a superb win at Roots Hall to put themselves top of the League One table.

The performance, which many believed to be Tranmere's best since away performance for many a year, saw Tranmere dominate from start to finish on their way to a 2-1 win.

Rovers took the lead on 30-minutes, with Ben Chorley scoring his first and only goal for the club (to date). A wonderful Tranmere passing move, seeing nearly every Rovers player touch the ball as it zipped around the field, culminated in a corner for the away side, who was smashed home on the half-volley by Chorley at the near post.

Southend equallised through Adam Barrett just before half time who vollied Hunt's cross through a crowd of players and into the goal, but after the break, Tranmere were back on top and in the lead on 55-minutes, as Gareth Taylor superbly headed home Paul McLaren's excellent free-kick.

It could, and indeed should, have been more for Tranmere, as Ian Goodison hit a shot at least a yard over the goalline, although nothing was awarded by the assistant. Tranmere though held on for an excellent 2-1 win.

The two sides didn't meet again until April, when Rovers pulled off another good win, this time beating the Shrimps 1-0.

With Tranmere's play-off hopes now all over, they were playing for pride only against a side who had already all but secured their place in the top six.

The game therefore was somewhat of a dead rubber and there was little excitement, with very few chances, as the Southend players in particular tried not to get injured ahead of their season finale.

Antony Kay scored the only goal of the game for Tranmere shortly after half-time. Playing in midfield, Kay finished off an excellent Rovers move as he headed home Shane Sherriff's superb cross.

Vital Stats:

Tranmere have lost just one of their last seven against Southend

In 22 home matches against Southend, Rovers have picked up 12 wins and six draws

This is the first season for over a decade when Tranmere and Southend have been in the same division for consecutive seasons

Rovers have kept four consecutive clean sheets at Prenton Park against Southend, a run dating back to the 1994/95 season

Tranmere have a record of played once, won once against Southend in November fixtures

On This Day:

2003: Rovers lose 2-0 away to Barnsley in League One

1997: John Aldridge's Tranmere win 1-0 at Valley Parade against Bradford City in Division One

1996: Tranmere draw 1-1 at home to Oldham Athletic

Tranmere have played eleven previous fixtures on November 15th, picking up eight wins, one draw and just two defeats. In their eleven fixtures, they have scored thirty-one goals and conceded fifteen.

The Form Book:

Tranmere last six home games: WWWWLW
Southend last six away games: DLDWWL

Tranmere Rovers are now on their best run of form at Prenton Park this season, having won four in a row and five out of their last four matches on home soil.

Their six match sequence started with a 1-0 win over Crewe Alexandre in the Johnstone's Paints Trophy, with Chris Shuker netting the only goal of the game for Rovers, before Ronnie Moore's side put in an awful display and lost 3-1 at home to high flying Millwall.

Since, though, Tranmere have tightened up their defence remarkably and have not only won all four matches since the Millwall game, but they have also kept clean sheets in each match.

Firstly, Ronnie Moore's side beat Cheltenham Town 2-0 and then a handful of days, dispatched of Crewe by the same scoreline, with both matches played in the league.

Two cup matches have come since, both against lower league opposition, with Tranmere reaching the Johnstone's Paints Trophy Northern Section Semi-Final with a 1-0 win against Morecambe, before beating Accrington Stanley 1-0 in an F.A. Cup First Round replace.

All this means that Tranmere have now played exactly 400 minutes, or six hours 40 minutes, of football since conceding their last goal at Prenton Park.

Other notable results at Prenton Park for Tranmere this season include victories over Hartlepool United (1-0) and Northampton Town (4-1), with striker Craig Curran scoring in both games.

Tranmere have so far played eleven home games this season, with eight wins and three defeats to their name. In the league, they have picked up a total of twelve points from an available twenty-one thanks to four wins and three defeats.

Impressive away successes for Rovers include excellent wins away to Huddersfield Town (2-1), Carlisle United (2-1) and Leyton Orient (1-0).

After losing 1-0 at MK Dons nearly two weeks ago, Tranmere are eleventh in the League One table with twenty-three points from their opening fifteen games.

Southend's form coming into this game is completely different to that of Tranmere, having not picked up a win in any of their last three away games.

They started their six match sequence with a 2-1 defeat against struggling Carlisle, a result that was one of John Ward's final wins for the Cumbria club, before Southend beat Crewe 4-3 in a thrilling match at Gresty Road.

A second consecutive win followed as Southend won 2-1 against another struggling club, Yeovil Town, before they drew 1-1 with high flying Scunthorpe United.

Another high scoring game then saw the Essex side lose again, this time 4-2 at Bristol Rovers, before they kept up their homes of a big F.A. Cup second round pay day alive, just, as they scored a last minute equaliser to draw 2-2 with Telford United.

Southend have picked up just one point from their other two away games this season, losing 5-2 at Walsall having drawn 1-1 with Millwall in their first away game of the season.

All this means that from their opening seven away league games, Southend United have picked up eight of an available 21 points, thanks to two wins, two draws and three defeats.

Notable results at home for Southend this season include wins against Peterborough United (1-0), Leeds United (1-0) and Swindon Town (2-1).

Steve Tilson's side come into this game in ninth place in League One with 25 points from an available 45, thanks to seven wins, four draws and four defeats from their opening fifteen games.

Double Hit:

Current Southend United defender Simon Francis played for Tranmere Rovers on-loan during the 2005/06 season, Brian Little's final year as Rovers manager.

Francis started his career with hometown club Bradford City and after a highly impressive debut, the right-back went on to make an impressive 26 league and cup appearances in his first season with the Bantams. He went on to make a total of 57 appearances for the club, scoring once.

After making a huge impression with the fans and management, Francis made a £200,000 move to Sheffield United in March 2004.

However, Francis always failed to break into the first team at Brammall Lane and he made just 15 appearances for the club before a loan move to Grimsby at the start of the 2005/06 season.

Francis' move was only for a month however, and after three appearances he return to Sheffield United. However, come November 18th 2005 Francis was on the move again, this time on loan to Tranmere and as he arrived the day before Rovers' away game at Scunthorpe where he made his debut.

The right back went on to make 17 appearances for Rovers under Brian Little and scored a brilliant goal on his home debut in the 2-2 draw against Swansea City from well outside the box.

After being released by Sheffield United following their promotion in the Summer of 2006, Francis signed a three year contract with Southend United.

Despite Southend's relegation, the right-back stayed with the club and has so far made 98 appearances for them, scoring on four times. He has great pace and a fantastic tackle and remains at Southend today.

One To Watch: Lee Sawyer

A tidy midfielder, Lee Sawyer is currently on loan at Southend United from Premier League giants Chelsea, where he has progressed through the clubs youth ranks.

Sawyer is yet to make an appearance for his parent club, but has played a central role in Southend's form so far this season, joining the club in mid-August and playing almost every game for the club since.

He has so far made twelve appearances and scored three goals for Southend, and although he was not permitted to play in the F.A. Cup by Chelsea last weekend, he has been a key player for the Shrimps this year.

Aged 19, Sawyer is still young and is a big prospect for the future. The Englishman has got a bright career ahead of him, with his 110% effort, excellent passing range and good vision key to his game.

Around League One:

As ever, there are plenty of interesting fixtures in League One this weekend, as a number of teams look to push on after two weeks without a league fixture.

Starting at the top of the table, leaders Leicester City face a tricky trip to Swindon Town, who today parted company with manager Maurice Malpas, whilst second placed Scunthorpe are away to Bristol Rovers on Friday night, with a win taking them top of the table.

Third placed Leeds, one point behind Scunthorpe and two behind Leicester, have a fiesty Yorkshire derby against Huddersfield Town, another managerless League One team, whilst Millwall host Stockport County, a team who have been in stunning form on their travels this season.

MK Dons and Peterborough, who hold the final two play-off places, travel to Hartlepool and Yeovil, whilst seventh placed Oldham, who Tranmere could over-take this weekend with a win, are away to Northampton.

At the other end of the table, two sides in the relegation zone meet at Gresty Road, where Crewe Alexandra take on Leyton Orient.

Team News:

Chris Shuker is a doubt for the match after limping off against Accrington Stanley on Thursday, whilst Craig Curran is still out through injury. Ian Goodison though could return to the side following a hamstring strain.

Jones' Prediction: Tranmere Rovers 1-0 Southend United

Tranmere have conceded just once in their last eight games, an incredible defensive record that any team would admire. Indeed, the only goal Rovers have conceded came in an unlucky 1-0 defeat away to MK Dons.

However, MK Dons are the best team they have come up against in those eight games, and Southend will provide another stern challange for Ronnie Moore's side this weekend.

Tranmere though are capable of picking up three points from this game, especially if their defence continues in such a mean mood and it is games that this which Rovers must win if they expect to be in a play-off battle come the end of the season.

Tranmere still though need to focus on attacking teams, especially at home, and should Ian Goodison return to the Rovers side, they may be able to do this as their will be less need to concentrate on the defence, whilst Tony Kay, should he move back into midfield, will add more attacking drive into the midfield.

Tiredness though could have a major effect on the game. Southend haven't played for a week, since their F.A. Cup game last weekend, but with Tranmere playing on Thursday, be prepared for a lethargic performance from the players in white.