Tranmere Rovers vs Walsall match preview

Prenton Park set for another night of Friday Night Football as Rovers look to cement top place
Friday night football makes its return to the Wirral this weekend as Tranmere Rovers take on in-form Walsall at Prenton Park.

The game is sure to be a tough test, with Rovers going into the game as league leaders for the first time in a number of years, whilst their midlands opposition come into the game on the back of a 4-0 home win against
Huddersfield last weekend.

team profile:

Formed: 1887

Ground: The Bescott

Manager: Richard Money

Nickname: The Saddlers

Season Finish 2006/07: 1st (Coca-Cola League Two)

Previous meetings:

The last time Tranmere and Walsall met was in the 2005/06 season, Brian Little's final year as Rovers manager and a season which ended in
Walsall getting relegated whilst Tranmere only narrowly avoided the drop.

At the Bescott stadium on Boxing Day, the two sides drew 0-0 as Rovers started a run which saw them go unbeaten until February. Steve Davies did have the ball in the net for Rovers after an initial shot had been saved, but the young striker, then in his first season with the club, had the goal ruled out for offside.

The fixture at
Prenton Park was not a happy one for Tranmere however, as they lost 2-1 against the Saddlers in front of a poor home crowd on a Friday night on the Wirral.

Traditionally, Tranmere have saved their best performances for Friday nights, however this evening saw for put out a dire display as the Saddlers, themselves in the relegation zone, picked up a vital three points.

The Visitors took the lead on 41-minute when Smith vollyed into the back of the net from the edge of the area following a mistake from Ian Sharps.

Chris Greenacre got Rovers level on 64 minutes as he reacted quickest to put the ball in the back of the net after Oakes had spilled Facey's initial shot, however on 72-minutes Walsall got the winner as Smith headed home from Kevin James' deep cross.

Vital Stats:

Out of 28 meetings between the two sides at Prenton Park, Tranmere have won 14

Rovers have 49 goals in 28 home games against the Saddlers

For both Rovers and Walsall, it has been an up and down time as far as League status is confirmed, with the two clubs only being in the same league for two consecutive seasons between 2004 and 2006 since 1980

Five out of the last eight games between the two sides have ended 2-1

The two sides first met in the 1921/22 season, a year when Walsall did the double over Tranmere

On This Day:

2002: Rovers lose 1-0 away to Chestfield, a ground where they have had success ever since

1999: Tranmere win 2-0 at home to Oxford United in the League Cup

1996: The Super White Army travel to Brammall Lane and draw 0-0 with Sheffield United in Division One

The Form Book:

Tranmere last 6 home games: DDWLWL
Walsall last 6 away games: WWWLLL

After a disasterous start for recently promoted Walsall, Richard Money (or Dickie Dosh as the fans like to call him) has managed to pick his side up and they come into this fixture lying tenth in the League One table on 14 points after three consecutive wins.

The Saddlers in fact managed just two points from their opening five league games, however they have won their last three away games and the game is set to be a test for both sides.

In their first away game of the season, Walsall lost 1-0 to high-flying Leyton Orient. However, this was followed by a poor 2-1 defeat away at Gillingham who themselves have had a poor start to the season and are currently without a manager.

Since the Gillingham defeat however, Walsall have picked up three consecutive wins away from home in the league. Their run started with a brilliant win away at Millwall when Fox and Deeney got the goals in a 2-1 win and they followed this up two weeks later with a 1-0 win away to Hartlepool when Paul Hall got a 90th minute winner.

In their most recent away league match, Walsall onec again picked up the three points as they got an excellent win at the Keepmoat Stadium against Doncaster Rovers, Fox, Bradley and Mooney getting the goals for Walsall as they were twice forced to come from behind.

Walsall have played two away games in the cup competitions, first losing 2-0 away to Swansea City in the Carling Cup First Round before losing 2-0 away to Bournemouth in the Johnstone's Paints Trophy first round.

From a total of five away league games this season, Walsall have earned nine points from an available 15 thanks to three wins and two defeats.

Notable home results for the Saddlers include a 4-0 demolition of Huddersfield Town in Coca-Cola League One and a 1-1 draw with Carlisle United on the opening day.

It's been an interesting start to the season for Tranmere, as they go into this fixture on a run of eight games without defeat in Coca-Cola League One.

Indeed, Tranmere's only league defeat so far this season was on the opening day and at
Prenton Park, as Dennis Wise's Leeds United came from behind to beat Rovers 2-1 on the Wirral. Since however, Tranmere have picked up two wins and two draws from their next four home league games.

Firstly, Rovers beat Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0 at
Prenton Park thanks to goals from Greenacre and Shuker, this result coming two week after the start of the season. Next Tranmere beat Luton Town at Prenton Park in their first Friday night game of the season. Rovers had been behind in the game, but late goals from substitutes Craig Curran and Antony Kay got Rovers the win.

These two victories have been followed by consecutive draws for Rovers at Prenton Park though, and they have been forced to work hard and come from behind to get the point in each game.

First, Rovers gifted Northampton two early goals at Prenton Park nearly two weeks ago, as they were forced to score two late second half goals through Shuker and Taylor to get a 2-2 draw, before only three days later Crewe Alexandra travelled to the Wirral and took the lead from the penalty spot in the 56th minute before Chris Shuker equalised for Tranmere just nine minutes later.

Tranmere have had one other home game this season, that coming in the first round of this seasons Johnstone's Paints Trophy. However, Rovers lost their game as Football League newcomers Morecambe travelled to Prenton Park and picked up a good 1-0 win.

From a total of five home league games so far this season, Tranmere have managed two draws, two wins and a defeat. They have picked up a total of eight points from an available 15.

Tranmere so far remain unbeaten on their travels in the league this season, and notable results include wins against
Gillingham (2-0), Carlisle United (1-0) and Southend United (1-0).

Double Hit:

There are a number of players to choose from when it comes down to those who have played for both
Walsall and Tranmere Rovers. One player who has achieved the accolade of playing for both teams is Jamaican winger Paul Hall, who is currently on the books at the Bescott Stadium.

Hall started his career at Torquay where he made 111 appearances in all competitions before earning a move to Portsmouth for £70,000 in 1993, three years after making his debut for the club.

The skillful Jamaican enjoyed himself at Portsmouth too, where he had one season as an ever-present and managed over 200 appearances for the club and scored 42 goals before moving on to Coventry for £300,000 in August 1998.

Hall found it difficult to get a game at Coventry however, and despite staying at Highfield Road for two and a half years, he made just 13 appearances for the Sky Blues, scoring one goal.

His time at Coventry saw him sent out on loan however and he spent time on loan at Bury, Sheffield United and West Brom, making 15 appearances and scoring once in total before a loan move to Walsall in March 2000.

Two games and a goal was all it took to convince Walsall to sign the player permanently, and indeed on March 23rd 200 Hall sealed a move to the Saddlers on a free transfer.

It was October 2001 though when Hall left Walsall having made 60 appearances for the club as he signed for Rushden where he would go on to make over 120 appearances before joining Tranmere in March 2004.

At Tranmere, Hall enjoyed great success and the Tranmere fans took to him immediately. He had good pace on the right-wing and could also play upfront and indeed in 63 appearances for the club, Hall netted 14 times from the wing.

However, after a contract dispute in 2005 after Rovers' play-off semi-final defeat to Hartlepool, Hall joined Chesterfield on a two-year contract and after his contract with the Spireites expired in the summer, he joined Walsall again where he has now played a further 11 games.

One to Watch: Clayton Ince

Instead of going for the obvious choice of Tommy Mooney, it is goalkeeper Clayton Ince who will be analysed in this preview.

A Trindidad and Tobagian international, Ince started his career at Delta Force and in September 1999 the giant goalkeeper moved to Crewe Alexandra, then in Division One (Coca-Cola Championship) for £50,000.

Ince stayed at Gresty Road until 2005 and started to make a name for himself as a goalkeeper with Crewe, making 137 appearances for the club in his six years there.

In 2000 he spent time on loan at Dundee and in July 2005, Ince moved to Coventry City on a free transfer, but made just four appearances for the former Premiership side.

He was on the move again then in July 2006 as he signed for Walsall on a free-transfer and has been the first choice goalkeeper with the club ever since, making 62 appearances for the club so far.

Noted for his excellent shot stopping ability, Ince does have a weakness of kicking but has a huge one-armed throw out which can easily pass the half way line when he lets rip.

Standing a 6 ft 3 inches, Ince has made 63 appearance for Trinadad and Tobago and has sharp reactions to help him make some good saves in goal. He wears, not so surprisingly, the number one shirt for Walsall.

Around League One:

Although Tranmere go into this fixture leading Coca-Cola League One, they are only ahead of Leyton Orient on goal difference and a defeat here could mean they slip out of the play-off places come 17:00 on Saturday, such is the tightness of the league.

Just six points seperate Rovers in first place on 19 points from Huddersfield in 14th place who have 13 points, and Walsall will be well aware of this as they look to push into the play-offs with a win on Friday night.

There are some other important fixtures in Legaue One this weekend though, spread out across four days with games being played on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday due to the international fixture list this weekend.

A relegation battle takes place at Priestfield where struggling Millwall visit Gillingham, with both teams currently managerless and Millwall lying bottom of League One.

Back at the other end of the table, there is a big fixture in the promotion race as Leeds United, now lying in twelfth palce and on 13 points take on Leyton Orient at Elland Road, with the O's looking to grab back first spot which they lost last week to Tranmere after they were hammered 5-0 by Swansea City at Brisbane Road.

Southend, now seventh after their defeat to Tranmere last weekend, take on 19th placed Crewe at Roots Hall whilst Yeovil host Carlisle in a 1:00pm kick off at Huish Park in what is set to be a highly exciting game with both sides having a chance of the play-offs come May.

Team News:

Rovers could again be without striker Chris Greenacre who missed last weekends win at Southend with an infected foot. John Achterberg is set to continue in goal as Danny Coyne is in the Wales squad and could indeed start for his country on Saturday due to an injury to number 1 Wayne Hennessy whilst long term absentee's John Mullin and Steve Davies will both be missing for Rovers.

Jones' Prediction:
Tranmere 1-2 Walsall