I'd somehow forgotten that we'd beaten Tranmere 5-0 back in October (the intervening gloom must've seared it from my memory) and though I don't think we'll repeat that this evening, I feel that we'll win. They've got a couple of players who are pushing forty and I imagine two matches in three days might be too much for them so there's likely to be a few changes in their starting line-up. As for us, Watmore is injured but I don't know of any other issues that'll affect our side. I wonder what condition their pitch is going to be in as it sounded really bad even before the Man United match. If it's a quagmire, then close passes on the ground will be affected and lobbing high balls against massive defenders has rarely paid off for us recently. On an unrelated note, I'm a tour guide and was chatting to a young bloke from Brazil last night who told me how much he'd enjoyed 'Sunderland Till I Die' – he'd had the subtitles on though. Maybe he could start an SAFCSA branch in Botafogo? Anyway, will we keep a clean sheet for the fourth match in a row? I can't see that happening but my prediction is a 3-1 win for us.
When I got the team-news at 6.45, Ozturk was nowhere to be seen, presumably injured, but new boy Bailey Wright was starting. Other new signings Lafferty and Scowen were on the bench and I hoped the latter especially would come on later on and lash one in for us. I tuned into SAFSEE and remained confident of a win.
In the third minute commentator Gary Bennett said that Monthe clearly elbowed Wyke but he received no card and I hoped we wouldn't have another series of dodgy refereeing decisions. From the resultant free-kick Bailey Wright put in a decent header but it went over the bar, though it was good to hear him getting stuck in. The pitch had been covered to keep off the rain but the word 'bobble ' was used a few times and that told a tale. We won the first corner after ten minutes and Davies in goal missed it before Wright got his head on it again. Tranmere won their first corner a few minutes later but it came to nothing. The words 'wrestling match' had been used more than once, with O'Nien being in the thick of things, and we were clearly in for a tussle. By the half-way mark it had all sounded rather dull and both Wyke and Maguire had barely had a mention. The first card of the evening was soon awarded to Dobson after several Tranmere efforts of a similar or worse quality had gone unpunished by referee Coggins. We conceded a free-kick just outside our box when Wright fouled and McLaughlin palmed it away with his first real save of the evening.
Tranmere were going on the offensive more than us and after playing too many long balls we needed to get some passing together. As half-time approached it sounded a really scrappy game and we needed to make some serious adjustments for the second period. We couldn't do much harm by bringing the two new lads on sooner rather than later. There'd been little noise from the crowd and not surprisingly as there'd been precious little to shout about.
The first action of the second-half involved Lynch getting booked again for one of his trademark unnecessary fouls. I could hear our fans making a racket for the first time and we'd definitely upped our game – playing with some tempo, as Benno called it - in the opening twelve minutes of the half without creating a serious goalscoring chance. Just on the hour-mark we won a free-kick on the right of their box that Maguire took and next thing it was in the net though both Barnes and Bennett were unclear for a while as to who the scorer was. It finally transpired that Wyke had headed it in. Shortly afterwards I thought Morris had equalized but his shot was blocked. Tranmere made the first change of the match midway through bringing on a striker, Mullin, for the injured Ridehalgh and I wondered what plans Parky had. This sounded like the kind of game in which a physical player like Scowen could make his mark – even his name sounds tough. Monthe was yellow-carded, and about time too, to much cheering from a certain section of fans and that was just after a decent effort from Gooch had gone narrowly over the bar. With a quarter of an hour to go we still hadn't made any changes but Tranmere brought on another striker, Payne. Tranmere were shouting for a penalty when sub Gilmour hit the deck but good old Mr Scoggins was having none of it. With about five minutes left Monthe got a second yellow and walked the walk so justice was finally done. Scowen (The Rat as he was known at QPR apparently) finally came on right at the end for Maguire, who'd just been booked. I could've done without the five minutes of stoppage-time but we held firm as Tranmere pressed and it ended 1-0.
Nick Barnes described this as a scruffy 1-0 win and it certainly sounded like it but that's what we have to do to get out of this league. Three points, four clean sheets in a row and we're up to fifth. Bring on Pompey.