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So, You're Telling Me There's A Chance?

No. There are five.

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Posted: 29/04/19

By | Matthew Evans | @M_R_Evans1

mevans@deadlysubmarine.com

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Tranmere Rovers P — P Bury

As news of postponement circulated through the various social channels available to fans of both clubs, supporters, particularly those of Tranmere, could have been forgiven for fearing the worst. With the Prenton Park pitch deemed waterlogged, Mansfield Town, Milton Keynes Dons and Forest Green Rovers could compound the SWA's misery by winning their matches against Stevenage, Colchester and Crewe Alexandra respectively.

A win for each of the Stags, the Dons and the Green Devils would not only mathematically extinguish Tranmere's smouldering automatic promotion flame, but also heap pressure on Bury to win their game in-hand or face a final-day deficit in their own bid for an automatic position.

Super Whites and Shakers alike were about to experience an extraordinary afternoon of twists and turns, the earthquake of emotional volatility shaking the very foundations of Rovers' top-three ambitions.

As early as the second minute, Sammie Szmodics was sending Colchester United 1-0 up against MK Dons, initiating the first of three seismic shifts in the promotion landscape; a 2-0 loss for Paul Tisdale's side.

Over the course of proceedings elsewhere, Forest Green Rovers blew a 1-3 lead at Gresty Road to lose the game 4-3 in the eighty-ninth minute, whilst at Field Mill, a ninety-second-minute winner from Ilias Chair ensured Mansfield picked up no points at home to Stevenage.

With the final whistles blown, neither Tranmere nor Bury could have handpicked a more beneficial triumvirate of results.

Quite simply, Rovers now have a real chance.

POTENTIAL ACTUAL
Team Pld Pts Team Pld Pts
2. Mansfield 45 79 2. Bury 44 77
3. MK Dons 45 79 3. Mansfield 45 76
4. Bury 44 77 4. MK Dons 45 76
5. F.Green 45 76 5. F.Green 45 73
6. Tranmere 44 72 6. Tranmere 44 72
Figure 1 — Table showing the potential League Two standings as of 12pm on 27/04/19, and the actual standings as of 5pm on 27/04/19.

Actually, they have five.

When determining the meaning of the word 'chance', one will encounter multiple definitions that centre around five key areas; Possibility, Probability, Fortune, Risk and Opportunity.

Taking each of these themes in turn, one can explore the impact of Saturday's tide-turning events.

Possibility

CHANCE (Noun)
A possibility of something happening

Oxford Dictionaries, oxforddictionaries.com

At the start of the season, Deadly Submarine published predictions for the 2018-19 campaign in which Rovers were forecast a twelfth-place finish, a respectable top-half placing following a three-year absence from the EFL.

Very few would have been thinking of a play-off challenge and one could question anyone who claims they believed automatic promotion would be on the cards.

Yet here we are, approaching the penultimate game of the regular season and back-to-back promotions remains a distinct possibility for Micky Mellon's side. Within a minimum of two, and a maximum of five games, Tranmere could be a League One football club once again.

Probability

CHANCE (Noun)
The probability of something desirable happening

Oxford Dictionaries, oxforddictionaries.com

Naturally, sitting in sixth position makes the Super Whites fourth favourites to achieve automatic promotion, behind Bury, Mansfield and MK Dons (in that order). As the outside bet to obtain a top-three placing, the SWA know that the probability of succeeding is lower for themselves than it is for the other contenders, however this does not mean it cannot happen.

On the spin of the wheel, Rovers probably need a green zero, whilst the others seek a red or a black.

In the race for the play-offs, Tranmere have a backup option. One of six teams mathematically able to secure a play-off position, Rovers are favourites to obtain one of the two available openings.

Holding a Straight Flush, only Newport County can better Rovers' hand, and even if they are holding the requisite Royal Flush, Tranmere playing their own cards correctly will greatly increase the probability of a play-off berth as a minimum.

Fortune

CHANCE (Adjective)
Fortuitous; accidental

Oxford Dictionaries, oxforddictionaries.com

Over the course of a league campaign, there will be times when luck will conspire to alter the path to glory. Like every other League Two team, Rovers have endured their fair share of positive and negative fortune during 2018-19.

In need of January reinforcements, Micky Mellon brought several new faces into the Prenton Park fold. It was one of these recruits, Ishmael Miller, who suffered a season-ending injury after just twenty-nine minutes of his second game, a 1-2 home defeat to Swindon Town.

As the weeks progressed, Stephen McNulty, Luke McCullough, David Perkins and Mark Ellis joined Miller in the treatment room — big losses to Rovers' squad. The momentum of seven straight wins came to a crashing halt courtesy of a 2-0 reverse at Oldham Athletic, with just one victory in their last five outings.

Not that creditable draws at Newport County and Lincoln City should be dismissed — they are impressive results. But with key players being snatched away on a seemingly weekly basis as of late, the SWA would have been forgiven for thinking luck was not on their side.

On Saturday, the rains that rendered the Prenton Park surface unplayable also served to wash away much of the recent misfortune.

Watching from afar, Tranmere and Bury were helpless, leaving the fates of their rivals in the hands of Lady Luck. That all three results went the way of Rovers (and Bury) suggests fortunes may have turned for the SWA.

If they are to be successful, they will need them to.

Risk

CHANCE (Verb)
Do (something) despite its being dangerous or of uncertain outcome

Oxford Dictionaries, oxforddictionaries.com

As revealed earlier, whilst Newport can obtain seventy-three points, Tranmere require one point to ensure Exeter City cannot overtake them on goal difference.

However, Mellon's side must risk events playing out until the final day and take the game to Bury.

Although the squad is depleted through injury, players must risk tackles in order to stamp authority on the match. Even though the stakes are huge, the Super Whites need to take risks with the ball in order to open up a very good Bury team. They cannot be afraid of making a mistake.

Yes, a draw will guarantee a play-off berth, which would be an unbelievable achievement so soon after returning from the National League. But is that now enough?

Opportunity

CHANCE (Noun)
An opportunity to do or achieve something

Oxford Dictionaries, oxforddictionaries.com

Saturday's theatrics have prised open multiple doors of opportunity.

The first is the door that prevents a repeat of 2015, when Bury sealed promotion at Prenton Park. With the Shakers now safe in the knowledge that one point on Tuesday will guarantee automatic promotion in 2019, Rovers can have the opportunity to prevent history repeating itself if they can find a win.

They also have the opportunity to secure a play-off position with a draw, whilst a win puts a top-five finish in Tranmere's hands, greatly improving the likelihood of a play-off second-leg at home.

Finally, they have the opportunity to achieve automatic promotion. However unrealistic it may have seemed in August, however unlikely it may have appeared at noon on Saturday, a win against Bury will take the race to League One down to the forty-sixth and final regular season lap.

Conclusion

Therefore, when someone asks if Tranmere have a chance, one can reply “no”.

They do not have a singular chance.

As we have explored, by definition, they have five chances.

With forty-four games played, Rovers maintain the possibility of promotion. Whilst the probability of doing so automatically remains slight, they are favourites amongst the unconfirmed to secure at least a play-off berth. Results on Saturday indicate a change in fortunes after a series of debilitating injuries, leaving the SWA with no choice but to risk defeat to Bury. Admittedly, there remains the unlikely scenario where Tranmere finish eighth and miss the play-offs, but the rewards for seizing the opportunities set out before them mean this is a gamble worth taking.

If Tranmere beat Bury on Tuesday, the top of League Two will look like this:

Team Pld Pts GD
2. Bury 45 77 +25*
3. Mansfield 45 76 +29
4. MK Dons 45 76 +21
5. Tranmere 45 75 +16*
6. F.Green 45 73 +21
*Based on a one-goal margin of victory for Tranmere. Each total would decrease (Bury)/increase (Tranmere) by one for every further goal increase in margin of victory.
Figure 2 — Table showing the League Two standings should Tranmere beat Bury on Tuesday 30th April.

Rovers would be one point from an automatic promotion place with one game remaining.

Therefore, Tuesday's clash at Prenton Park assumes ultimate significance. Rovers must win or their dreams of snatching a top-three spot at the death will instead die themselves.

The original fixture garnered huge interest, a crowd of 10,000+ expected to descend on The Wirral. As events have transpired, that number may well be beaten on Tuesday night. It should be beaten.

It has been proven that when at their vociferous best, the SWA can influence the outcome of matches. Have influenced the outcome of matches. At 2-1 down in the National League play-off semi-final, the Kop roared the team to a 4-2 extra-time victory. At Wembley, 13,000+ Super Whites provided the platform for the extraordinary ten-man triumph.

This season, Rovers' home record ranks amongst the best in the division, including wins against champions Lincoln City and promotion contenders MK Dons. Tuesday night will be, hopefully, the last hurrah of a magnificent home campaign.

Yes, it's a school/work night. Yes, it may be more difficult to travel.

Notwithstanding, the lessons we learn about Rovers' eventual destination may well be worth any short-term inconvenience.

If you need further convincing about why you should be at Prenton Park on Tuesday, the preview written in advance of the original fixture date has been made available at the bottom of this article. Every single word remains relevant, perhaps even truer now than when it was published just three days ago.

This isn't 2015.

2019 is Tranmere's year.

MMSWA.

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