Gary Brabin considers changes ahead of Guiseley test

It is perhaps a measure of how well Tranmere have done this season, or in the eyes of some fans, a perception of how far they have fallen, that Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Southport is being viewed in some quarters as two dropped points.

True, their 100% record for the campaign went up in smoke at the Merseyrail Community Stadium as Rovers were held to a stalemate after five victories in a row.

But it was enough to keep Gary Brabin’s side one point clear of Dagenham and Redbridge in top spot in the National League, an advantage they can extend against lowly Guiseley later today.
For that reason, that manager’s pleading that Rovers’ supporters do not panic about being pegged back by Andy Bishop’s side, as their start to the campaign could hardly have been better.

“We’re still unbeaten,” he said.

“It was a sticky game, but we’ve had good opportunities and we know we can be better than that, but we can’t be too despondent.

“Southport have shown they should be doing that week in, week out; for the club, themselves and the manager.

“But five wins and a draw out of the first six…it’s not too bad, is it?!”

Tranmere were far from their fluent best at the Merseyrail Community Stadium, with top scorer James Norwood particularly struggling to find himself in shooting positions.

Indeed, the first half was a bit of a none event, with an off target glancing header from Michael Ihiekwe the only real chance for either team.

After the break though, the game opened up, and it took only moments for Andy Cook to net his third goal of the season.

The ball fell to the striker in the penalty area after Southport failed to deal with a Connor Jennings cross, and he slashed powerfully into the roof of the net with an ominous swing of his left boot.

Unfortunately for Rovers, the lead did not last long, with Andy Bishop wringing the changes and benefitting from the results.

The Southport player-manager made three quick substitutes, and one of them, Louis Almond, netted the equaliser, slicing a cross from the right wing that looped over Scott Davies and fortuitously dropped in at the far post.
After a period of uncertainty, Tranmere rallied and they began to show a bit of the class that has put them top of the pile at this early stage in the campaign.

Cook had another chance, only for Tyrell Belford to beat his header away, whilst Jake Kirby saw his diving effort blocked by the in-form goalkeeper.

At the other end, Davies made an outstanding save from Jamie Allen, actually diverting away from danger with his head as he charged out and blocked from point blank range.

Rovers therefore had to settle for a point but they go again against Guiseley this evening.

The visitors lie bottom of the table and have lost all of their opening six games. It is a match Tranmere should win.

That manager knows that, but he is still expecting a tricky fixture.

“It’ll be another game where players will come and play to their maximum,” he continued. “They’ll make it tough for us.
“But that’s something we’re used to. We can’t disrespect anyone and it’s another game we look forward to.

“It’s tough, only having the one day of rest, but everyone’s in the same position. Everyone’s got the same programme.

“We just adapt to it and it’ll be interesting to see how everyone is after today.

“The players want to prepare properly, so we trained on Monday.”

Meanwhile, Brabin might make changes to his line up this evening for the first time in nearly a month.

The same eleven have started each of Tranmere’s last five games since the win over Barrow on August 9th.

Of course, any changes would have been harsh given Rovers’ form, with the manager pointing out you cannot rock the boat if things are going well.

But there appeared to be a few tired legs out there on Saturday, so Brabin might seize the chance to shake things up.

“I don’t want to use the word leggy,” he added. “I’ve said that to the players. It’s an excuse or a reason to lose your place in the team.

“But I certainly felt the three subs gave us a bit more impetus. We looked fresher and it gave us that little bit more drive.

“We need to get back to that.
“We’re not going to be a position where we’re freshening things up just for the sake of it though.
“We want to see if we can improve on today

“Adam Mekki, Liam Ridehalgh and Jake Kirby [all second half substitutes] definitely gave me food for though, but they have been in training too.
“They’re chomping at the bit to play, but we’ve done well. You can’t take anything away from the lads.

“But I thought our best period in the game was when we made those subs and it certainly gives us something to think about.”

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