By Peter Tscherewik
At the time of writing this, Tranmere Rovers have played 21 games in the Vanarama National League this season. Confidence was high when the campaign kicked off back in August, but hopes for promotion have faded slightly as we move towards the busy Christmas period.
Rovers were the runaway favourites to top the table come the end of the season with the bookmakers, but as it stands they are 11 points behind leaders Wrexham which is some gap.
In this article we will look into the statistical side of things, looking back at where the Super Whites were at this stage of the 2016-17 campaign.
Tranmere occupied the final playoff spot at this stage of last season (5th), and went into the 22nd match day unbeaten in their last seven games, (winning five, drawing two).
Confidence was very high as they saw off rivals Wrexham 2-0, and were consistently solid against high-flying sides such as Forest Green (2-2 draw) and Dover Athletic (1-4 win).
Although a lot of the teams’ success came against sides in the bottom-half of the table during this period, a lot of the results were high scoring wins. The momentum was well and truly flying within the camp as they scored 30 goals in their first 21 games, and conceded only 15.
If you compare that to how the Super Whites are fairing at the moment, they have only scored 21 goals, and have conceded 18. Goal-scoring has been the main problem for manager Micky Mellon, especially in recent weeks.
The last two weeks have been a nightmare for the Super White in terms of injury casualties. In the last two matches against Macclesfield Town and Gateshead, the club has only had one or two central midfielders available for selection.
Absences of Jeff Hughes, Ben Tollitt, Jack Dunn and more recently Liam Ridehalgh have all contributed to Rovers’ recent dip in form. It hasn’t gone unnoticed that Micky Mellon’s side have conceded a considerable amount of their goals in the latter stages of matches.
Tranmere should have returned back to Merseyside on Tuesday night with all three points, but conceded a 93 minute equaliser to Macclesfield Town. Even in the game prior to that, it looked like the team were about to earn a respectable point away at Gateshead before Ritchie Sutton put the ball into his own net with the last kick of the game.
In terms of clean sheets, Rovers had registered nine by this stage of the last campaign. It is surprising to see that Scott Davies has secured eight shutouts this season, especially when you consider that the side have conceded three more goals from those 21 matches.
Davies deserves an awful lot of credit when you realise how little goals they have conceded in comparison to other sides around them. 12th placed Maidenhead United have conceded 31 goals while eighth placed Woking have let in 28.
This period of the season is arguably the most important of the season for Rovers, particularly if they are to try and push on up the table towards those illustrious playoff places. 82 points were needed to finish in fifth place last season, (1.78pts per game) and Tranmere are currently producing 1.33 per game.
If Rovers continued to perform at the rate they are now, they would finish with only 61 points for the campaign. 61 points last season would put Tranmere in 11th place in the table, which is some way away from where the club would have aimed for at the start of the 2017-18 campaign.
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