The Thursday Preview: Tranmere Vs Huddersfield
But a heady 18 match run, punctuated only by dual Cup defeats at Carlisle and Arsenal, have put the Yorkshire side four points clear of third place with only seven to play, Unlike Swindon, play-off disappointment has been used as a bridge and a side containing a raft of talented youngsters have truly sparkled since January 1.
True, some of those wins have been eked out – most notably a Vertigo-style clinging on to the ledge of victory after an early goal against lowly Bristol Rovers – but Town have largely been notable for the sheer verve of their play, a terrible injury to Anthony Pilkington notwithstanding. The reasons, as Charlie Johnson explains in his highly readable blog, are that “our squad play some of the best football I’ve ever seen a Town team produce and that we’re no longer run by a Rugby League loving dinosaur and that we are no longer managed by Stan Ternent.”
Indeed, Town bounced back from a flat stalemate with Swindon at the shockingly named Galpharm to scamper to victory against Notts County; Jordan Rhodes netting a double to take this tally for the season to 20 in all competitions. The Terriers’ strength is perhaps best illustrated by the bench for that match – Danny Cadamarteri, Kevin Kilbane, Alan Lee and Nick Colgan form a highly experienced line up of second choices for League 2 and that’s without taking into account an injury list that features Damien Johnson, Alex Smithies and Gary Naysmith.
On Saturday, the Pennines will be traversed and the Mersey Ferry booked for an away trip to Tranmere Rovers. The new year has also been productive for the Wirral side who at one point looked likely to occupy one of the four relegation slots. Some terrific wins have been recorded, including a 2-0 victory over Southampton and a 3-0 defeat of Sheffield Wednesday, famous triumphs over much larger clubs that echo the storied Nineties under John King. Rovers are now showing solid mid table form and are competitive against anyone – a situation that has launched them into a position that is still precarious but an improvement on before.
A highlight of the encouraging turnaround in form has been the emergence of Dale Jennings, a 17 year old wingside prodigy and author of one of the goals of the season against Plymouth – his League 1 Apprentice of the Year award was richly deserved. Despite Huddersfield’s fine run, I think they’ll have difficulty in this one and I’ll take the Mersysiders to prevail by a goal to nil.