Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
Oldham Athletic go into this match off the back of shock news that Paul Scholes has left his role of manager after just 31 days in charge.
Scholes agreed to take the job on the terms that chairman Abdallah Lemsagam would not interfere with team selection – and it seems plausible that he left on those grounds.
It could also be that, having been used to being rewarded for his work with frequent victories at Manchester United, he found it harder to adapt to a slightly different type of challenge.
On the one hand, Oldham have scored at least once in all bar one of their seven encounters under Scholes and, in most of them, posed a threat going forward.
In Gevaro Nepomuceno, Callum Lang and Jose Baxter, they possess a very capable attacking trio with all of them technically gifted, even if the caretaker – whether that’s Pete Wild or Mick Priest – will need to decide between former Solihull Moors star Oladapo Afolayan and Manchester United loanee Zak Dearnley up top.
Equally though, they had conceded in every game under Scholes as well, which indicates that the balance is not quite right.
Way too much room between midfielders defence, Bury finding the pockets every time. #oafc
— Tim (@isabelleol) February 23, 2019
The 2-1 home loss to Northampton with Tranmere Rovers began February made their play-off hopes look very slim, but they have since won six of their seven league games, following Tuesday’s 4-1 home triumph over Grimsby.
This is primarily because they have diversified their goal threat. James Norwood scored in Friday night’s 1-0 win over Crewe – then extended his tally in all competitions to 27 on Tuesday – and there is no denying that the striker’s potent finishing and clever movement makes him central to Micky Mellon’s side.
However, Rovers are no longer the one-man team we saw over the winter period. Connor Jennings, who started the season playing on the left of a four-man midfield, has recently filled the previously empty void in the role of playing supporting striker; Jennings has scored three goals in his last four games and got two assists for Norwood in the 2-1 win at Port Vale before that run.
— Alexander (@Alexron_19) March 12, 2019
Equally, Ben Pringle has proved a fine addition since joining from Grimsby; the wide man was an excellent technician at League One level with Rotherham and, while it did not quite work out for him in the Championship, it is no surprise to see him bossing League Two.
Further back, the experienced David Perkins – a League One title-winner with Wigan in 2015-16 – has been a controlling influence in midfield next to ball-winner Luke McCullough.
Injuries to Steve McNulty and Sid Nelson have indirectly helped Mellon to find arguably his best centre-back pairing, with the streetwise Mark Ellis complimenting the athletic Manny Monthe, with the latter bagging in midweek.
Rovers look excellent value at Boundary Park.
Tip: Tranmere to win 23/10
Read Gabriel’s Championship preview here.