Wycombe ease past Tranmere into 1st place
BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 18: Tranmere's Kieron Morris is challenged by Southend United's Tim Dieng during the Sky Bet League One match between Tranmere Rovers and Southend United at Prenton Park on October 18, 2019 in Birkenhead, England. (Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images)

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I've been Toby Bowles, and I hope you enjoyed following this afternoon's events in the Sky Bet League One. I'll be back soon, but until then stay tuned for more EFL action on VAVEL UK.

FT: If Rovers really wish to solidify their position in League One, they are going to have to start getting some more service to the forwards. Hepburn-Murphy was isolated all match, unable to get into the game as his team were moving the ball too slowly and with little impetus. It was far too easy for Wycombe to defend against. 

FT: As for Tranmere, it was a day to forget. Micky Mellon will most likely be livid with his side, as - after already possessing a horrific record from set-pieces (worst in the division) - you would have thought that they would have made note of Wycombe's most aerially dangerous forward. But no, Akinfenwa was left completely unmarked in the box to head home.

FT: It was a professional, dare you say it title-winng performance form the Chairboys, who - after being gifted a 2-0 lead as a result of some dismal Tranmere defending - had the nous and adaptability to sit back and form an organised, resolute defensive wall.

Akinfenwa is often perceived as a comical figure, but his performance today was exemplary. The 37-year-old held the ball up so selflessly, his sheer physicality causing panic among the Rovers defence. And although his goalscoring rates have historically been quite low for a striker, the 'beast' was able to contribute with a calm and collected header into the bottom corner. 

Full time: Tranmere Rovers 0-2 Wycombe Wanderers

FT: Ainsworth's Wycombe Wanderers reclaim pole position after a comfortable 2-0 victory away at Tranmere. 

4 minutes of added time

90: There will be four additional minutes played at Prenton Park.

Tranmere chance

90: The ball breaks for Morris inside the penalty area who wastes arguably Tranmere's best chance all game with a feeble effort straight at Allsop.

Rovers profligate in possession

85: The match is visibly fizzling out now as the clock ticks away at Prenton Park. It would take a miracle for Tranmere to fight back, especially considering how slow and wasteful they have been on the ball.

Wycombe chance

81: Ofoborh sprays a rasping pass into Akinfenwa who  lays it into Freeman, but the winger whips his shot just wide of the far-right corner.

Final Wycombe substitution

78: Ofoborh on for Wheeler in a like-for-like switch in midfield.

Attack vs defence

75: Tranmere are controlling the ball now as they search for a way to break down this seemingly impermeable Wycombe defensive wall.

Tranmere chance

72: Blackett-Taylor dips a free-kick over the wall from 25 yards but the effort lacks pace and allows Allsop to get across his goal in time.

Wycombe substitution

63: Alex Samuel comes on for Scott Kashket. 

Wycombe looking to see out 2-0 lead

62: The second half has begun nowhere near as fiesty and action-packed as the first, with the Chairboys looking to sit back and not overcommit themselves going forward. Rovers have been poor in possession, unable to move the ball quickly and supply the likes of Hepburn-Murphy and Ferrier up top. 

Wycombe substituion

54: Nicholas Freeman replaces captain Matt Bloomfield, who passes the armband onto Joe Jacobson on his 500th appearance.

Wycombe chance

50: Bloomfield turns inside the box and strikes powerfully towards the near post, but Davies is equal to it.

Two changes for Tranmere

HT: It's a double substitution for Rovers at the interval as Ferrier and Blackett-Taylor replace Perkins and Ridehalgh. 

Half-time

HT: Those two Wycombe goals on the stroke of half-time could well be the killer blow in this match. Ainsworth's men were knocking on the door but it had seemed as though Tranmere would frustrate them with their resolute defensive wall until two negligent, careless pieces of defending gave Rovers a mountain to climb in the second half. Mellon will be irate.

Another goal for Wycombe ! Jacobson fires home from the spot on his birthday !

46: Potter tugs Wheeler to the ground from the corner, leaving Jacobson with an opportunity to double Wycombe's lead on his birthday. Straight down the middle. 0-2 Wycombe.

Goal ! Akinfenwa heads home for Wycombe !

44: Just as it looked as though Tranmere were dealing with the set-pieces, Jacobson whips in a free-kick from 35-yards and finds Akinfenwa, unmarked, who heads past Davies into the bottom corner. Abysmal defending.

Wycombe testing Tranmere with set-pieces

40: Jacobson's dead-ball prowess and the physical presence of Akinfenwa was always going to be an outlet for the Chairboys, but so far Rovers have managed to nullify the threat.

Wycombe chance

25: Akinfenwa does excellently to chest down a long ball for Wheeler, who fails to find the corner from the edge of the penalty area.

Wycombe beginning to settle game down

23: Ainsworth's men have begun controlling possession as the game settles down. Hepburn-Murphy has had a few bright touches but Rovers are generally lacking quality in the final third.

Wycombe penalty appeal

21: Kashket nips in front of Ridehalgh who appears to scythe the wingers legs down. Referee waves away appeals.

Wycombe chance

15: Thompson shifts down the byline inventively and fires a cross into Akinfenwa but, like Jennings, heads straight into the keepers hands.

Tranmere chance

10: A deliciously curled free-kick leaves Connor Jennings with a free header, but aims straight at Allsop.

Bright start from both sides

10: What initially appeared to be a 4-4-2 diamond is actually a     4-3-3 from Wycombe with Wheeler on the right in possession. End-to-end start to the match.

Tranmere chance

2: Hepburn-Murphy lashes the ball against the side-netting. Fast start from Tranmere.

Mellon urges his players to continue starting games fast

In his pre-match interview with Sky Sports, he said :  “We don’t save ourselves for the end, we start at a high tempo and grab the game from the start which we did the last time we played Wycombe.”

He continued: “We have  changed: we have started scoring goals early again now.”

15 minutes to go !

The players are warming up at Prenton Park as the fans begin to seep in.

Ainsworth hails adaptability of squad

He told Sky Sports: “ We feel we have the personnel to play different ways. The big man [Akinfenwa], he’s come in this season and been outstanding for us. Having Jack Grimmer’s excellent performances at right-back has also been superb for the team while Scott Kashket is always liable to get a goal.”

Subs: (Yates, Pattison, Smyth, Phillips, Samuel, Freeman, Ofoborh)

Team news: Wycombe Wanderers

Wycombe switch to what looks like a       4-4-2 diamond as midfielder David Wheeler comes in for winger Rolando Aarons.

Starting XI: Allsop, Grimmer, Stewart, Charles, Jacobson, Gape, Thompson, Wheeler, Bloomfield, Kashket, Akinfenwa.

Team news: Tranmere Rovers

Darren Potter replaces Neil Danns in midfield in a solitary change for Rovers from their last league outing against MK Dons. 

Starting XI: (Davies[C], Ridehalgh, Nelson, Monthe, Morris, Potter, Jennings, Caprice, Perkins, Hepburn-Murphy, Wilson) 

Subs: (Payne, Blackett-Taylor, Pilling, Ferrier, Ray, Maddox, Mullin)

 

If you could level one criticism at Wycombe this season, it is that they also lack a cold, clinical finisher. Adebayo Akinfenwa is without doubt their most famous player, a social media icon purely as a result of his unique, burly physical stature. The 37-year-old has featured in all of Wycombe's 16 league games this season, starting 11 times. The 'beast' is seemingly first-choice striker this season but, worryingly, has never netted at elite League One goalscoring rates.

Akinfenwa's highest goal tally for Wycombe is 17 from  back in the 2017/18 season when Ainsworth's side earned promotion from League Two. Last season, he made 36 league appearances but scored only seven goals and although he has already nearly reached that tally this season (with 5 goals), his figures are far from promotion-winning: something Wycombe should certainly be pursuing after their bright start to the season. 

Ipswich town have the aforementioned James Norwood, 3rd place Peterborough are spoilt for choice with Ivan Toney and Mohamed Eisa on 12 goals each while 5th place Fleetwood have Paddy Madden, on 10 goals. Not possessing an elite striker at League One level could well be Wycombe's downfall in the promotion race.

Both sides lacking serial goal scorers

The departure of talisman James Norwood in the summer was always going to leave a void in the Tranmere team, but their inability to replace him has made it all the more conspicuous. 

Tranmere have scored 20 goals this season: a respectable figure. The issue though, is that Stefan Payne - the centre-forward they signed from  Bristol Rovers in the summer - has netted only four of them, an inescapable disparity from the goalscoring records of Norwood who, across a four year period at Prenton Park, amassed an incredible ratio of almost one goal every two matches.

Tranmere, of course, do not have the requisite transfer funds to go out and recruit a proven, elite-level League One striker yet there are plenty of young forwards out there tearing their hair out for some first team action.  Rushian Hepburn-Murphy arrived on loan from Aston Villa in the summer but has also notched only three goals. Rovers may well have to utilise the loan market again come January. 

League One is a gruelling, unrelenting  league though. The games come thick and fast so there is no time to admire your work, and - in the case of Tranmere - a barren run of form could easily see you slip into the danger zone. Rovers can be thankful this season for the woeful Southend United, Bolton's points deduction and Bury's liquidation, but if they wish to solidify their position in League One for the long-term, home form will be key. Not just against other relegation candidates, but it is also important to make it difficult for the high-flying sides like Wycombe and Ipswich. 

The last meeting - on the 9th November - saw an action-packed 2-2 draw, with Tranmere's Keiron Morris firing home a brace to force the tie into a replay. Wycombe will be hoping for a win this time out, however, as it would boost them three points clear of Ipswich Town in 1st place.

Though - Sunday's result aside - both sides can currently consider themselves massive overachievers. Ainsworth has performed miracles to propell a Wycombe side with one of the lowest wage and transfer budgets in the division into the upper echelons of League One, while Micky Mellon has similarly defied the odds in overseeing back-to-back promotions at Prenton Park.

Gareth Ainsworth’s Wycombe Wanderers will be looking to extend their blistering start to the season tomorrow, in what will be their second of three clashes with Tranmere Rovers in the space of 11 days.

Pre-match build-up

Hello, and welcome to VAVEL UK’s live minute-by-minute match coverage and commentary of Tranmere Rovers vs Wycombe Wanderers. Sunday’s game kicks off at 12:00PM GMT, but until then you’ll have plenty of pre-match build-up and analysis from me, Toby Bowles. Make sure you stay following.
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