The 2-0 scoreline against Colchester on Good Friday perhaps didn’t do justice to the one-sided nature of the game where a heroic display by visiting keeper Shamal George kept the score down, and that win combined with results elsewhere means it’s now seven points separating City from fourth place and just two points up to leaders Forest Green, thumped 4-0 at relegation-threatened Barrow. With Jonathan Grounds back to fitness naturally this meant a defender got injured on Friday, and on this occasion the unlucky defender was Alex Hartridge, whose hamstring pinged leaving him likely to have to sit out the rest of the season. Cheick Diabate slotted back in for him and is likely to keep his spot at Tranmere with Grounds on the bench. Also close to a return is Sam Nombe, although he is unlikely to make the trip with the Rochdale match a more likely target.
A couple of months ago City were looking a decent bet for the playoffs while Tranmere looked like nailed on certainties for automatic promotion. However, since mid-February Micky Mellon’s side has registered just two wins and goes into Monday’s match outside the playoffs having failed to win any of their last five matches (albeit only one of those was a defeat). In that time their previously resolute defence has become more porous, keeping just one clean sheet. January signing Kane Hemmings has settled in well, scoring six times to be joint leading league scorer, while at the back a lot relies on 40 year old Peter Clarke, who remains a solid presence at the back and a goal threat from set pieces.
Tranmere, like Friday’s opponents Colchester, were one of just four sides to inflict defeat on City in the reverse round of fixtures when they visited the Park in December, taking advantage of an injury-riddled City side to win 1-0 through Elliott Nevitt, while Callum McManaman managed to last just eight minutes as a late substitute before seeing red. Tranmere’s defensive solidity on that day shone through with City barely registering a shot despite dominating possession. The side from Birkenhead also won last season’s fixture at Prenton Park through two penalties from Nugent and Lloyd, Randall having equalised before Lloyd’s spot kick winner. Those wins stretched Tranmere’s league head to head lead over City to 21 wins to 13, just five matches between the sides finishing level.
The match officials for this game will be:-
Referee: Chris Pollard
Assistant Referees: Abbas Khan and Oliver Bickle
Fourth Official : Billy Smallwood