A dreadful first half performance from Chester saw Tranmere capitalise on defensive uncertainty to run out comfortable 2-0 winners. Steve Burr switched to a 442 formation for the match, but it was a familiar awful punching attempt from Worsnop (where he took out a better positioned Ben Heneghan mid flail) that allowed Tranmere to score after 5 minutes. From there we struggled, with retaining the ball again being an issue due to poor short passing and hit-and-hope long passing. Midway through the first half we missed as many tackles as we had shots in the game to allow Norwood to waltz through the defence and finish in the bottom corner. A second half debut for Sam Hughes saw us tighten up a lot and after Craig Hobson’s introduction we looked like we might trouble the scorers. Unfortunately John Rooney’s penalty attempt was saved and the game well and truly lost. Here are some thoughts on the match.
Christ. Whilst I don’t like criticising Worsnop (who pulled off an excellent 1v1 save in the second half) his attempts at coming for crosses this season has been dreadful. It needs sorting very quickly. As for the second: Mahon and Rooney shouldn’t have both gone in from the throw as one clever turn allowed Norwood to run at the defence. Sharps then shepherded him across the pitch well, but Shaw – who should have steamed in with a tackle – barely attempted to touch him, which gave Norwood room to cut back on the right, leaving Heneghan and Sharps with little chance. Perhaps the defenders could have done better, Mahon and Rooney should have organised themselves better, but that goal was Shaw’s fault. He provided woeful defensive cover all match and was shown up by the teenage Hughes when he came on.
As for Hughes, he did the job Shaw was supposed to be doing and is good in the air. It’s the first time I’ve seen him and, whilst he has a long way to go, I was pleased with his contribution. After an early yellow card I was a bit worried for him, but he put himself about, won more headers than he lost, and overall made us a lot more solid. I think his first touch could do with work as it put him under pressure once or twice, but on that showing I’d start him ahead of Shaw every time.
Once again Burr provided a head scratching selection. I understood why he tried Higgins at right midfield against Forest Green, but we’ve seen time and again that Kay isn’t a right back. Weirdly I thought Kay played his best game at right back for us – and he certainly put the effort in – but he just isn’t suited to the position. A back line of Hunt, Sharps, Heneghan and Higgins is the way forward. It’s the midfield that we need to get right. With confidence low and George still injured I’d stick with three in the middle against Grimsby (Hughes, Rooney and Thomson (if he’s fit?)), and play Hannah, Hobson and Richards as the front three. Peers should get in ahead of O’Hanlon (who, as a guy behind me kindly summarised ‘is no Ollie McBurnie’), Mahon and Chappel need to earn their starting spots back.
4. Pens and things
I thought the penalty we were awarded was actually harsh on Tranmere (though I was pleased to see a few of the players ruffling the hair of Hughes, whose header was the one blocked), as the guy’s hand was about a yard from Hughes’s head. The other two penalty/foul incidents were a lot more baffling however. In the first half O’Hanlon was fouled (as flagged by the assistant) around the box by the last defender, only for the ref to overrule it and give a drop ball, which he took so quickly we couldn’t contest it even if we’d wanted to. It was bizarre. The second half saw a large 6 foot plus centre half muscled off the ball by sub 6 foot Hannah, only for the centre half to handball it and the ref to meekly agree that there had been a foul from Hannah somewhere. Again, bizarre. Things could have been different if the ref had something approaching a consistent game, but it still doesn’t change the fact that we were awful and deservedly lost.
The one massive positive from yesterday was the huge away following that didn’t need bubbling. Hopefully Cheshire and North Wales police will take note.
Well, onto Grimsby on Tuesday. I said before the start of this four game run against all of the preseason favourites I’d take four points from the four games against Forest Green, Tranmere, Grimsby and Eastleigh. It starts Tuesday. I hope. COYB!