Tranmere Rovers’ League One slump continues with 1-0 defeat at Oldham Athletic
“It was a nothing game but we needed to get hold of it by the scruff of the neck. We got into some good positions and did not pick anybody out. We tried complicated balls instead of playing it simple, but to be fair to the lads they were trying to make something happen. It was a cheap penalty and I'm sure John Welsh is disappointed with giving it away. It took us a little bit of time to recover from that.” Tranmere boss LES PARRY in philosophical mood after the defeat on Saturday.
“Shefki Kuqi had gone a long time without scoring and had missed his last two penalties, but it says a lot about the guy that he stepped up for us and scored. It will always turn around for you if you keep putting in performances and keep working as hard as he does. We had a 19-year-old centre-back, an 18-year-old left-back and our central midfield pair were aged 18 and 20.” Oldham manager PAUL DICKOV pays tribute to his young players after Saturday’s victory.
IF TRANMERE don’t find a way to lift performance levels for games against teams in the bottom half of the table, then their long run of poor results is sure to drag them into the relegation zone over the next month.
Rovers have eight games coming up in March, six of them against bottom half opposition.
It looks like a defining phase in a campaign that’s been on a downward slide since the end of October.
On a number of occasions since the turn of the year, Les Parry’s team have left a convincing impression that they are capable of playing their way out of trouble.
A succession of positive performances against the division’s most powerful teams yielded some well-deserved draws and should have lifted confidence.
However, Saturday’s defeat at Oldham Athletic, following similar failures at Yeovil and Wycombe Wanderers, showed they are still falling short of playing to that potential when the points at stake carry a premium value.
They lost a game lacking in quality and excitement at Boundary Park to an Oldham team who were marginally better on the day.
As a consequence, the one point gap between the teams is now four points and Tranmere’s cushion above the relegation places is down to just two points.
The contest was settled by a penalty conceded by skipper John Welsh for the trip that ended Robbie Simpson’s twisting and turning antics on the edge of the box in the 48th minute.
The visitors had not looked much like conceding a goal at any point before that.
From the moment Shefki Kuqi converted the spot-kick, the most vocal element of Tranmere’s 582 travelling supporters began chants of “Parry out!” and scarcely let up for the remainder of the second-half.
In the cause of distracting and discouraging the Rovers players in their efforts to retrieve something from the game, those supporters were worth an extra man – to the opposition. Oldham, a little short of confidence themselves at the start of the afternoon, could hardly believe their good fortune.
Afterwards Parry acknowledged the fans’ right to voice their opinions but suggested it might have been more helpful if they had given the team as much support as they could during the game and kept the protest about the manager until the end.
The point was well made but invariably, the mentality of the mob is to act first and think through the consequences later.
You were left with the impression that some regarded Saturday’s demonstration as sport.
Experienced striker Enoch Showunmi said simply: “The fans were voicing their opinions but they can voice their opinions and help the team as well.
“Get behind the people here because at the end of the day this is what we’ve got.”
No-one in the Tranmere camp attempted to make the case that the supporters’ behaviour was to blame for another failure on the road and the 10th game without a victory since the turn of the year.
It is just that they were not a lot of help.
The bottom line is that Tranmere need their fans behind them over the coming weeks if they are going to find a way out this tight spot.
Oldham were having a little wobble of their own going into the game.
The absence of influential midfield players Dean Ferman and James Wesolowski has taken an edge off Paul Dickov’s team and they were hammered out of sight on their previous outing at MK Dons.
The Latics’ football in the opening 20 minutes suggested the manager had worked hard during the week and in attempting to lift confidence.
They played some neat passing movements, put a couple of long-range efforts close to the target and threatened when defender Jean Yves M’Voto saw his header blocked by Ian Goodison.
Tranmere Road rode out the spell and did an effective job of keeping Oldham subdued for the rest of the opening period.
The visitors did not make many sparks fly as an attacking force, all too often failing to deliver the right final ball.
But young striker Ryan Brunt found the strength and persistence to fight off two defenders on the edge of the box for a shot hit straight at goalkeeper Alex Cisak on 32 minutes.
Ten minutes later, defender Ash Taylor’s looping header from the edge of the box forced Cisak into a full stretch save.
The mood of the locals was lifted by an unexpected goal three minutes after the restart.
Welsh was content to shadow the tricky Simpson as the striker twisted one way then another just inside the left-hand edge of the box. Simpson’s third turn induced a tackle from Welsh that was a fraction late and there was little protest to referee Darren Sheldrake’s decision to point to the spot. Kuqi, who had failed with his previous two penalty attempts, almost burst the net with this one.
The setback knocked the wind out of Tranmere for a time. They should have conceded a second goal on 58 minutes when Filipe Morais found space behind the back of the defence on the right to set up Simpson, who tamely dragged his shot wide from eight yards.
Tom Aseyemi blazed an effort over on 62 minutes, M’Voto sent a header wide on the first bounce and a 25-yard free-kick by Morais deflected off Martin Devaney on the edge of Tranmere’s defensive wall and skidded against the right-hand post before bouncing to safety.
Parry introduced Showunmi and Andy Robinson midway through the second-half in the hope that the experienced pair, returning from injury, could create an attacking opportunity.
Tranmere’s best chance of the game duly fell to Robinson on 83 minutes after a Danny Holmes cross was blocked.
Robinson’s shot deflected off the boot of a defender and ran wide.
OLDHAM ATHLETIC (4-4-2): Cisak, Lee, M'Voto, Tarkowski, Mellor, Morais (Marsh-Brown 86), Adeyemi, Winchester, Taylor, Simpson, Kuqi.Subs (not used): Bouzanis, Smith, Reid, Diamond.
GOAL: Kuqi, pen 48.
TRANMERE ROVERS (4-3-3): Fon Williams, Holmes, Goodison, Taylor, Buchanan, Wallace (Robinson 64), Welsh, Weir (Labadie 73), Devaney, Brunt (Showunmi 64), McGurk. Subs (not used): Coughlin, McChrystal.
BOOKED: Welsh, Taylor.
REFEREE: Mr Darren Sheldrake (Surrey)