My adopted Tranmere Rovers were in Portsmouth this weekend for their first away game of the 2019/20 season, and I was on hand to join the SWA on the south coast.
I’m a bit pressed for time this week to provide a complete rundown of my day like I usually do, so I’ve broken it down into quick categories:
Matt, the man responsible for my Tranmere affair, was making the journey from Birkenhead and agreed to pick me up from Bath on the way down. Our drive from the west country paled in comparison to the 260-mile effort the Prenton Park faithful had to endure – our trip in the car was a mere 2 hours (slightly longer with Portsmouth’s awful summer Saturday traffic).
When I climbed into Matt’s car he had a gift waiting for me; my first Tranmere Rovers home shirt, brand-new-in-bag directly from the club shop. I had finally made the decision to own one, completely won over by this year’s very clean and stylish design by Puma. It will be worn to all future Rovers game, that’s for sure.
Fratton Park, the charming and historically cosy home to Portsmouth since 1899, was our host for the afternoon. As soon as the fixture list was released I immediately targeted this match, so I was happy to make the trip to Portsmouth so early in the new season.
It was standing room only at the back of the visitor’s Milton End, packed together with the 689 travelling supporters from the Wirral. We spent the entire game being battered in the face by gale force winds – it was strong enough to make your eyes water. Despite being at the back, Matt and I found no respite from the punishing vortex, yet it did nothing to damper our enthusiasm.
Thanks to Tranmere’s young drummer our spirits were kept high with repeated rounds of Tequila, and all of the SWA were in fine voice throughout the entire day, clearly relishing their first away fixture since promotion to League One.
Oh, and apparently Will Ferrell was in the crowd too. We had no idea.
Sadly we didn’t have time to savour the delights Fratton Park had to offer. A McDonalds pit-stop on the drive down was the lone meal during the day, but two chaps stood to my right seemed to enjoy their Pompey pies at half time.
They smelled pretty good (the pies, not the men, you pervert).
Portsmouth ran out 2-0 winners on the day and were good value for their victory. To be honest, the scoreline could have been larger and Tranmere, despite having a few promising passages of pressure, were clearly second-best; Pompey always looked the stronger team.
Portsmouth’s first goal midway through the first half was a fantastic 30-yard volley by midfielder Ben Close, a really special hit into the top corner that you couldn’t help but admire. Their second goal came with fifteen minutes remaining , a scruffy close-range effort from captain Tom Naylor after Tranmere failed to clear a corner. It was a poor goal to concede and ended any hopes Tranmere had of gaining something from the game.
Micky Mellon’s tactics were difficult to comprehend from the beginning and didn’t bring him the results he might have envisioned. Summer signing Morgan Ferrier (the man with the unenviable task of replacing James Norwood) was pushed out on the wing, and Connor Jennings, a very effective winger, played through the middle instead. Both players looked uncomfortable and struggled to impose themselves against a stubborn Portsmouth defence. We couldn’t understand why Mellon didn’t swap them over.
It was a frustrating afternoon for the majority of the Tranmere squad but one man stood out – new loan signing Kane Wilson, who debuted at right back. The man from West Brom was alert all afternoon and looked dangerous overlapping down the right flank. He made a positive impression on myself and the fans around us with his impact.
Despite the result, Matt and I still enjoyed the day and I would gladly return to Fratton Park again. Micky Mellon and the supporters will be disappointed at Tranmere’s start to life in League One but it’s a long season, and there’s plenty of time left to right the ship. I aim to see a few more Rovers games before the end – hopefully results will be in our favour next time.