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The Late, Late Show


That headline could refer to a couple more things than just the game…

I’m not sure if there’s much to say, or indeed write about, when it comes to Don’t Call Us Scousers 1 Don’t Call Us Franchise 1.

We went ahead, the second half came, and we defended so deep that we eventually ended up in Chester. And their last minute goal was exactly what they deserved.

And ourselves too.

Your editor has a copy of the Liverpool Echo on Sunday in front of me, and in their report they suggested Tranny’s own lack of firepower cost them a deserved three points.

Sound familiar?

There was a bit of a mitigation in the second half, which we’ll come onto in due course, but even that doesn’t excuse how we appeared to try and shut up shop for about 45 minutes.

It was almost as if the half-time talk was “don’t bother attacking lads, this lot are shit”. One day, we will learn that our record against the strugglers is relegation form…

It was a draw, but it felt like a loss. Perhaps worse, it felt so un-necessary, because with a bit more up front and a more attacking mindset, we would be sitting here this Monday morning basking in our first away win since Boxing Day.

That’s a pretty shit stat to swallow. And try saying that when you’ve had a few.

For us, and for this season remaining, it doesn’t really matter. We’re fifteen points off the drop zone, sixteen if you include goal difference. We are as good as safe before Easter, and if we win and the bottom two lose on Friday it’s goal difference that keeps it from being mathematically certain.

For those still clinging onto the faux sliver of light that is the playoffs, even if we’d left Prenton Park with all three points, we don’t look like a legit playoff chasing team.

We need firing power, and Tanner looks as far away from being that as ever. He just didn’t link up well with Akinfenwa at all, and it was no surprise he got yanked off.

Azeez did make a bit of a difference, but again he’s more a supersub role right now. You need more than that for a playoff charge – much more.

Even if we’re playing well and scoring goals for the proverbial fun, a seven point gap between us and the playoffs would be a tall order to begin with.

With a strikeforce that not only couldn’t score in a brothel but wouldn’t even know what one is? There’s only so many scabby deflections and OGs that a team can get away with…

Still, firepower seems to be our biggest issue, and it’s nice that we’re not in the shoes of Tranmere or Cheltenham right now. I don’t miss that particular feeling.

Plus points: We didn’t lose. Harrison and Beere playing. Akinfenwa’s goal. Didn’t play too badly in the first half.

Minus points: We didn’t win. Far too defensive in the second half.

The referee’s a…: Here is your mitigating factor for the second half display. When one of your players gets given offside for running onto a ball from your own half, you know the linesman absolutely hates you.

Seriously, just about every run into Tranmere territory was flagged for offside. Half of them weren’t even close. And we should have had a penalty right at the death, but I guess the brown envelope hadn’t reached the officials changing room by then…

Not that it excuses things, and if we were a bit more clued up we would have overcome it. But sometimes, you really can’t win.

Them: Fighting for their very Football League lives, and it showed. And to be honest, I don’t begrudge them their last gasp equaliser – they deserved it.

They do however remind me of how we were in THAT relegation scrap – there must have been moments when yet another chance of theirs went begging where they thought it wasn’t going to happen.

Not only in the game, but for their season as well.

The way they slumped on the floor after the full time whistle, they obviously thought they’d blown a good chance. It was certainly built up thus – full page rallying cries in the Echo from Mark “I’ve shagged Faria Alam” Palios, and this gem beforehand.

Although it has to be said, they didn’t seem too popular amongst those from the other side of the Mersey. Maybe that explains why on an international weekend, there were more empty seats than not.

Still, £15 to get in was very reasonable, and previous trips to sunny Birkenhead in the WFC era have been quite convivial. And it will be one of those trips that will be missed if they do face Wrexham and Chester next season…

Point to ponder: NA has got many brickbats about how negative his tactics can be at times – perhaps Saturday demonstrated his henchmen might be at least part of the problem?

This was the first time Cox and Bassey had taken charge, and it’s fair to say we looked no better. If anything, some of it felt like last season.

We definitely had the 11-men-in-the-box for their corners, which I guess is like zonal marking – only ever good in theory and unworkable on an actual pitch during an actual match.

True, whoever takes charge can only do so much, and there’s little influence when the players cross that white line, but if NA moved on and they both took temporary charge – I think we’d very quickly be looking for a new permanent boss.

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) I’m not saying the city of Liverpool milks the Beatles, but even their equivalent of the Oyster card is called “Walrus”. Seriously – their influence is everywhere, and it gives the impression of a city that looks back rather than forward. A bit like their football teams, really. 2) Genuinely forgot that Tranmere were in the League Cup final in 2000, and were pushing for the top flight. And you think Pompey and Plymouth have fallen from grace.

Anything else? We can start planning for next season now, without fear of going down or indeed going up. Considering it’s not even Easter yet, that’s very good progression.

As mentioned earlier, Harrison and Beere played, and we may see more cameos from them and the other youngsters before the full time whistle on the 2nd May.

They may start coming into their own next campaign, but we still need to get fresh ink for the transfer signing pen. While it won’t be nearly as dramatic as previous close seasons, we still need surgery.

Obviously, up front is something we must focus on. January onwards has proven how easy it can be to fail to replace a legitimate top scorer – especially when your replacement isn’t nearly as good as his parent club makes him out to be.

Whichever way you want to spin it, Tanner has pretty much flopped with us. All accounts suggest he only played well against Pompey, and on Saturday he managed to look even less likely to find the net than before.

So I hope we’ve put the Liverpool cup money in one of those 5% accounts with the TSB, and saved up for somebody who actually knows where the goal is. It won’t be cheap, but the alternative is the false economy we have now.

We won’t have Deji, and apparently the SLP is saying Millwall want Goodman back for next season. Still, getting in old hands with promising youngsters has worked pretty well, and there are enough of both kinds about to make sure this won’t be an issue next season.

Just as long as it’s not Dave Winfield.

This does beg a question for next season – assuming you-know-what gets the green light*, and we’re all buzzing our tits off, then that feel-good factor is going to focus on the field of play.

* – my gut feeling is that we’ll get it eventually, but something will end up delaying it to the point that it will still rumble on next season. I would go as far to say that I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up having to appeal it…

We’ve finally twigged that L2 is much of a muchness, and a few good results and consistency can propel you into the playoffs. Our issues this campaign have been obvious, but they are not insurmountable for next season.

What do we want next season? More of the same of what we’ve seen in 2014/15? A lot of it hasn’t been particularly entertaining, and there does seem a higher number than usual considering not renewing their STs.

A push towards League One? You would hope that’s the ambition, as I don’t think this fanbase are going to be content with the rest of their football watching lives in L2 mid-table purgatory.

The likes of Stevenage, Daggers, Crawley (yeah, I know) and Fleetwood (ditto) have been in the Franchise division, and in comparison we’ve turned up very late to that party.

No, we’re not good enough for the playoffs this year, but that doesn’t mean we should stop being ambitious in future seasons. On the field, we might be hitting a well-earned plateau, but as the AFCW era has proven, we don’t stay that way for long…

So, was it worth it? I got to see the Royal Liver building again. It’s very nice.

In a nutshell: Roll on next season.