Tomorrow’s game represents an unwanted piece of club history for Tranmere Rovers as they line up for their first match in a competition no-one with a pedigree in the Football League wants to take part in. In Wrexham they’ll face a side which has a good pedigree in the FA Trophy.
With a win in the trophy in 2013 and another visit to Wembley last season, plus an appearance in the quarter finals in 2009, we regularly go deep into the competition, and with a manager who tasted victory in the Trophy at York, we’re likely to take it seriously again.
We haven’t lost an FA Trophy match since we crashed out rather embarrassingly at Luton in December 2013 in our first defence of the trophy. The loss was humiliating because The Hatters selected a second string side, while we played a full strength side but were still comprehensively outplayed. However, there are some circumstances of that game which we wouldn’t mind seeing repeated: Jay Harris was sent off for a second yellow card, and we’d be quite happy if he repeated that disciplinary transgression on Saturday!
There are some patterns around this fixture that you wouldn’t want to see repeated though. Our visit to Prenton Park in September 2001 was one of the more disastrous evenings the club has known. Staggering along in dreadful form at the wrong end of League One, we managed to hold out until half time, but with Dennis Lawrence having a particularly rough time we collapsed after the break and conceded five times! That 5-0 loss cost Brian Flynn, our longest-serving manager, his job.
Our two subsequent trips there have gone rather better though: we won there two years later, thanks to a Lee Jones goal and a spectacular Shaun Holmes strike, and the following season Chris Armstrong earned us a 1-1 draw.
We haven’t beaten Rovers in any of our last of our last four clashes, our most recent win being that victory in 2003, so if we fail to win at Prenton Park tomorrow we will have suffered our longest run in this fixture without victory.
Having already been knocked out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle, we will be hoping to avoid making some unwanted history tomorrow. We’ve never been knocked out of both cup competitions at the first attempt since we dropped out of the Football League.
In fact, to find the last time we’ve only played two cup games in a season you have to go all the way back to the 1928-9 campaign. Ironically, we were drawn at home in both the FA Cup and the Welsh Cup that season, but lost 1-0 to Carlisle and then 4-2 to Rhyl.
Ironically, after the cup heroics of last season, when we racked up 61 games, if we lose tomorrow we’ll play just 48 matches this season, the least since we took to the pitch just 45 times in 1948-9.