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Tranmere Rovers 1 v 1 Colchester United
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 8th September 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Tranmere 1 U's 1 - Durham's View
Monday, 10th Sep 2018 09:44 by Durham Exile

My third away match this season and another draw, but a point was the least that we deserved. Now I have previously ranted about the traffic conditions on the A1/M1 earlier this season when travelling to Nottingham and Mansfield but yesterday it was the sleepy market town of Kirkby Stephen that cost me a one-hour delay after the closure of the A66 due to essential repairs and maintenance. This meant that with further delays through Aintree my son and I arrived almost 30 minutes late for the game.

Worse still the turnstiles had been closed, but fortunately the car park is close to the Club Shop and a member of staff kindly walked us around the ground to the Cowshed where he banged on the double doors to alert the steward who let us in, where we gratefully took our seats amongst the faithful.

We did at least manage to purchase a programme unlike the poor supporter next to us who had failed to obtain one and I suspect that he would not have had time after the game to walk back to the Club shop before climbing aboard the supporter’s coach.

Now after the heavy morning rain, the pitch had a couple of standing water patches on the side of the Johnny King stand and towards the corner area where we were attacking in the first half. The weather faired up considerably, so much so that the afternoon saw some bright intervals and the ground quickly dried up helped by the groundsman’s plastic snow type shovel which he used to good effect at half time.

Anyway, our late arrival meant that we missed the warm up and therefore were unaware of the farcical decision to suspend captain Luke Prosser. U’s fans will have read the history behind this decision based upon incorrect identification of Jackson and Prosser last weekend by the referee.

This added to the long-term injury to Tom Lapslie, and Brandon Comley playing on the island of Montserrat in their international game against El Salvador which they unfortunately lost 2-1, meant that the U’s were forced into a couple of changes. I do not understand the decision to play Brennan Dickenson, who has a tight hamstring and he clearly looked uneasy during the game.

JM returning to his home town club and linking up with Micky (me old fruit) Mellon decided to play the following starting XI with Harry Pell captain in the absence of Prosser and Lapslie:


Eastman Kent Vincent-Young

Jackson Pell Wright Szmodics Dickenson

Nouble Norris


Ross Clampin Kensdale Gondoh Collins Mandron Senior

Sporting our new Away Camo shirts which I have to say are very smart and popular amongst the faithful, we took our seats and it was obvious that Tranmere had had the better of the first half. However, as the clock ticked over towards half time it looked as though we would reach the interval with parity. The league’s top scorer James Norwood had different ideas and struck the ball with some venom from the right-hand side of the penalty area and found the left-hand corner of the net passed the despairing dive from Dillon Barnes.

Even the goal failed to rouse the Kop end who were taunted with 1-0 and you still don’t sing by the faithful. I slumped into my seat during the interval wondering if it was going to be one of those days.

JM changed it up however and reverted to a 4,4,2 with Jackson moving to Right Back. From the outset of the second half Colchester were clearly the better team and looked more like Championship Contenders (yes, I really believe that we can win the League this season).

Whether Tranmere were unsure because they were attacking the Away end in the second half as opposed to their partisan Kop end, but they started on the back foot.

Our vantage spot allowed us to watch Colchester build successfully from the back. There appeared to be some niggle between Dickenson and Norris (which wants stamping on quickly) on more than one occasion where a misplaced pass or an overhit pass from one or the other was met with obvious frustration, but some of that might have been due to Dickenson’s obvious discomfort and Norris’s frustration with one or two decisions from the referee, notably a penalty shout, which on another day might have been given.

Eastman and Kent were imperious at the back and both Jackson and Vincent-Young were effective foils for those players higher up the pitch.

Special mention must be made of young Diaz Wright who operated in the centre midfield position and saw a lot of the ball combining with his defence and fellow midfield players and spraying medium and long passes both right and left for Dickenson and Nouble respectively. This was the best game that I have seen Frank Nouble play for the club. He was tireless down the flank and an effective foil for his strike partner. He put in some hard yards at both full back and outside left.

In Luke Norris we have a no-nonsense striker who looks the part and gives power and strength and the ability to strike the ball from distance. He proved yesterday that he has a fiery temper and when he went off it was a good decision from JM who feared that he might earn himself a red card otherwise. Nothing wrong with passion providing it is not misplaced or over stated.

Anyway, before we reached that point the U’s had commanded the second half and Pell had been involved in most of the action. He was injured whilst trying to get his head on a ball that was destined for the top corner before being headed over by the Rovers defender Jennings.

The goal came when Dickenson played a short corner and from the resultant pass he delivered an excellent cross which Keeper Davies palmed out to Pell who made no mistake keeping the ball down and scoring to the keeper’s right. Mellon (poorly in my opinion) blamed his keeper, but I think that it was Pell’s industry and placement that deserved the goal and not any action or inaction by the keeper. So, 61 minutes and parity reached.

Tranmere were stunned, but in fairness could have no complaint, they had been second best since half time. Nouble was just wide with a drive and Szmodics was also denied by Davies.

Now just as at Notts County, Tranmere have a player (McNulty) who could shed a few pounds or stones. This is in no way being unkind but factual. He was slow and ponderous on the ball and will cost his team goals over the course of the season. Yesterday they conceded their first home league goal to Colchester, but our play deserved more.

Mellon was first to make changes and introduced two substitutes on 76 minutes Mottley-Henry and Mullin for Smith and Stockton respectively. It looked to have done the trick when Barnes was forced into an excellent double save from Jennings and substitute Mullin. Dillon Barnes is fast becoming an excellent goal keeper. He doesn’t fuss, he is growing in confidence and his handling and shot stopping is very good and his dead ball kicks are more accurate. He also starts many forward moves from accurate throw outs from the back.

The tiring Dickenson was replaced by Senior on 81 minutes, and JM had also prepared Mika Mandron, but he was asked to sit down again until Norris was booked and then replaced him on 84 minutes. The partisan crowd booed the striker as he left the field, but it was a good decision from JM to replace a clearly angry Norris, who should in my view have won a penalty after a foul on him in the box.

I must have missed the board from the fourth official but apparently, we played an extra 5 minutes and despite our dominance we could not secure the three points. Colchester had 53% of the play, 9 shots, 3 on target and 7 corners. Tranmere had dropped their first home league points.

Table top seven:

Lincoln 7 16
Newport 7 16
Exeter 7 13
Carlisle 7 13
COL U 7 12
MK Dons 6 12
Swindon 7 12

We now entertain Cambridge United in the derby game next weekend before travelling north again to Oldham. Lincoln’s home defeat to Crawley yesterday demonstrated the old adage that any team can defeat any other in this league and so we must be at our clinical best next weekend against Joe Dunne’s side.

Our journey home was uneventful, and I can now look forward to booking the boundary Park tickets.

Up the U’s

Photo: Action Images

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