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In opposition: Sheffield United v Tranmere Rovers

12 December 2012

Sheffield United and Tranmere Rovers have arguably been the two stand-out sides in npower League 1 so far this term and they lock horns at Bramall Lane on Saturday.

Ronnie Moore's Rovers occupy top spot but the third-placed Blades could take over at the summit if they triumph and Doncaster Rovers, who currently sit second, fail to win their match.

It's likely to be an exciting afternoon in South Yorkshire and here, we preview the match with the help of a supporter from each club.



Name: Ian Rands.

Club: Sheffield United.

Number of years as a supporter: All my life, first game was 33 years ago aged 4.

Favourite moment as a fan: Probably Saturday May 5th 1990. United won 5-2 at Leicester City to secure a return to the top flight of English football for the first time in 14 years. An amazing day with at least 7,000 Blades fans officially at Filbert Street, in reality there were many more. Under Dave Bassett, United had secured back-to-back promotions, the second of which no one would have predicted at the start of the season. I have never known an atmosphere like it and even when we went 1-0 down early in the game, I don't think anyone believed we would lose.

Meanwhile, back in Sheffield, Wednesday were suffering unexpected final day relegation and we passed them on our way up. It had been a while since we had enjoyed Steel City supremacy and it was a real party atmosphere at the final whistle with two reasons to celebrate. The return trip up the M1 was a cavalcade of colour and noise, with horns tooting and people and scarves hanging out of windows.

How many games a season do you attend? I have a season ticket so I am at every home game. Unfortunately away games are rare events these days, but I have been reasonably regular in the past.

Where do you sit? On the Kop. I stood on the Spion Kop, prior to its redevelopment nearly 20 years ago and have had great central seats, halfway back, behind the goal, since it was redeveloped.

Name: Mark Ridgway.

Club: Tranmere Rovers.

Number of years as a supporter: 13.

Favourite moment as a fan: When I was first lured to Prenton Park, Rovers were busy upsetting any Premier League team they came across and ended up at Wembley. However, I was a little bit too young to appreciate the magnitude of that, so for modern times I'll say Stockport away in 2010. It was the final day of the season and survival was out of our hands, but we took up two stands of Edgeley Park, won 3-0 and sent Gillingham down instead.

How many games a season do you attend? Prior to going to university I had a season ticket and attended quite a few away games. It's now a case of whenever I can get home with a spare weekend.

Where do you sit? In the Kop behind the goal, it has the ability of sucking the ball in during a winter game under the lights.


What happened in your last match?

IR: We beat struggling Carlisle United 3-1 at Brunton Park. Coasting 2-0 at half-time without hitting top gear, we relaxed letting the Cumbrians back into it, with them twice hitting the woodwork before pulling one back. A scrambled third from Neill Collins settled our nerves near the end. It seemed rather symptomatic of our season in that we should have killed the game off and nearly paid the price. Too often this season, those kind of games have ended in two points dropped.

MR: We were disappointed to only draw with Portsmouth, but I suppose that shows how far we've come. Ash Taylor and Michael O'Halloran put us ahead twice but Pompey, spurred on by their chimes, levelled twice and whilst we threw about two kitchen sinks at them, we couldn't find the illusive winner.

Why is this game important?

IR: Both this season and last our results against the teams around us at the top have been far from great. This is a chance to start putting it right. There is also the added incentive of potentially hitting top spot, depending on Doncaster Rovers' result at home to Coventry City.

MR: Well all you have to do is look at the table, this is the kind of match all footballers should want to be involved in. It's probably the biggest game of the season in the league, in terms of standings anyway. An away win will give us a great chance of being top at Christmas, a home win and the door will open to United and Doncaster Rovers.

How do you see this game going?

IR: I see a tight game, probably a draw or a single goal victory for the Blades. Many teams have come to Bramall Lane to soak up the pressure and hit us on the break. Without the goal threat we had last season there are much more narrow margins in our results and we have paid the price several times. Five home draws in 10 speaks volumes. Add the fact that we will be missing our midfield creator in Kevin McDonald I don't see us creating a huge number of chances.

Tranmere's attacking verve may be stunted by injuries and form, but I expect Ronnie Moore to come to Bramall Lane with an astute game plan to get the best out of players like Jake Cassidy and Andy Robinson.

MR: I'm probably going for a draw. If we had a fully fit squad I'd have backed us as we've only lost once on the road this season and seem to be playing with more freedom away from Prenton Park. There's bound to be goals, with one of the league's leading marksmen in our side you'd fancy an away goal, but Sheff United are a strong side with some good players.

Who should we keep our eye on?

IR: In the absence of McDonald, our main attacking threat will have to be generated from wide positions and that places the onus on Ryan Flynn and Nick Blackman, both goalscorers against Carlisle last weekend. Blackman is a bit of an enigma, capable of brilliance and causing frustration in equal measure. Starting the season up front, he has since been moved wide right to accommodate Shaun Miller in a burgeoning partnership with Chris Porter. This hasn't stopped him continuing his scoring streak and he is our top scorer with 11 goals. In McDonald's absence, in the FA Cup tie against Port Vale, Blackman was our main attacking and creative threat and I see a similar scenario on Saturday, hopefully with Flynn in tandem down the other wing.

Andy Robinson is our main man, on his day he's as good as anybody in the league. With the ability to turn a game in an instant by pulling something out of the bag, he's won us games on his own this season. Add into the equation 11-goal Jake Cassidy, who is lethal in front of goal, and it's some partnership. MR:

Any memories of previous encounters?

IR: Games against Tranmere have been few and far between in recent times. The game at Prenton Park last August was the first encounter for 10 years. Matches prior to that were in a pretty dull period for United. My main memory is of an away trip in the mid/late 90's. I think the match ended in a draw, but we had a great, friendly drink, both sets of fans together, in a pub adjacent to Prenton Park beforehand.

Last season's fixture marked Ronnie Moore's first away game back in the Rovers' hot seat and it was a day to remember. The bookies were dubbing it as a home banker and Ched Evans put United ahead so it looked comfortable. However, we were a different animal under Moore and Lucas Akins headed in an equaliser in front of the travelling fans as Rovers claimed a vital point, and took two away from United who could have done with them come May.MR:

Score prediction?

IR: 1-1 or a 1-0/2-1 victory to the Blades in a hard fought game.

MR: I'll go for 1-1. I can't see both teams not scoring.

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