Ok, I’ve ended up writing more than I intened here, but this was a performance to savour. Maybe I’ve been a bit generous in places – you be the judge – but I’m just buzzing, tbh. Oh, and this is going to be ‘a thing’ for league games now.
Ryan Allsop 7.5 | Rocky’s biggest made his biggest contribution of the day as a person. I’m on about his reporting of homophobic abuse in the first half. Let’s eradicate that from our game. Now. Once and for all.
As a player, he had a busier day than normal – making five saves – but was still largely untroubled, with his most testing stops coming fairly close together in the second half. Precise as ever with his kicking, with his only ‘ooh err’ moment his urgent rush out of the box when Anthony Stewart probably had it covered.
Jack Grimmer 7.5 | He’d only missed one game, but it’s always a relief to have him back. If you hadn’t noticed by now, he’s having a fine first season in the quarters, and he continued where he left off today, looking composed in defence and linking up nicely with David Wheeler going forward. That said, perhaps lucky not be sent off for a reckless tackle.
Anthony Stewart 9 | There was no putting Tools back in the box today. Imperious yet again, winning 100% of his aerial duels and making a game-high nine clearances – almost twice his average. And as always, he did it in tandem with his right(left)-hand man. They seem to bring the best out of each other, and we’re all the better off because of it. A true partnership.
Darius Charles 9.5 ⭐| His best game since re-signing. I’m running out of words for this absolute phenomenon in our back four who Ainsworth has compared to United legend Paul McGrath. He’s got an arthrtic hip, for goodness sake! Five clearances, three shots blocked – including one which saw him more or less levitating to do so – and four interceptions defined an all-action showing (oh, and he wasn’t too far away from opening the scoring). Most importantly of all, though, he is a leader, an enforcer and an inspiration to those around him. I’d have no hesitation in giving him the armband.
Joe Jacobson 8.5 | The birthday boy was at it again on his 500th career appearance, doing what he does best. And I don’t just mean playing integral parts in the match-winning moments. His delivery for the opener was pure JJ and he dispatched the penalty as coolly and authoratively as you like, but he never looked in trouble defensively, winng 3/4 ground duels and continuing to bely his lack of pace by positioning himself expertly the majority of the time.
David Wheeler 7.5 | By my reckoning (correct me if I’m wrong), this is the first time we’ve seen Wheeler play the bulk of the game on the right of a midfield four. We’re used to his aerial dominance by now, but we were able to truly appreciate his play on the deck here. His passing accuracy of 81% was bettered by only his replacement Nnamdi Ofoborh, and he picked up and carried the ball nicely in boht halves. Had a few half-chances to bag himself a deserved goal too.
Curtis Thompson 7 | Not quite his usual omnipresent self but expectedly solid. Good variation of passing and looked threatening in the final third, most notably in the first half when he cut to the line, beat his man and floated in that delicious cross to create a big chance. Committed four fouls – the joint most of any player on the pitch – and ultimately booked for his troubles.
Dom Gape 7 | His heat map around the edge of our box for this one is scorching – but then it usually is. Won 13/21 overall duels, including a surprising 7/9 in the air. Flattened at one point but battled on like the Duracell Bunny-warrior hybrid he is. Dribbled past possibly too many times (four) for his liking but led both teams in tackles with six.
Matt Bloomfield 7.5 | Another warrior as we well know, that tackle (which probably would have been a red in the Premier League, such is the way the laws have gone) ultimately helped us get into position to take the lead. I’m not going to pretend I’ve ever been a massive Blooms fan, but he’s playing out of his skin this season and, once you really home in on the unglamorous role he plays, it’s hard not to heap praise upon him. Subbed on 54 after his customary whack, might well sit out Wednesday night.
Adebayo Akinfenwa 8 | Blades Analytics nailed the big man’s impact today – and in general.
He won 12/18 aerials and made Manny Monthé – a physical match who’s fared well against him in the past – look pretty ordinary. Took his goal in typical Beast fashion and produced a couple of key passes. 50 goals in 156 appearance for perhaps the greatest signing of our Football League era. What a bloke.
Scott Kashket 7 | Described like so by this neutral on Twitter, the Little Genius certainly made a nuisance of himself.
Only got one shot off, which was blocked, but he was unceremoniously manhandled both times he got himself into a goal-scoring position – neither of which resulted in a penalty as the League One officiating circus rolled into Birkenhead. Didn’t enjoy huge amounts of the ball – again, partly due to Tranmere’s cynicism – but moves about off it as unpredictably as a lost fly. A pain for any defence.
Nick Freeman (replaced Bloomfield, 54) 7 | Did his thing, enjoying a 100% success rate in duels and dribbles, and went close with an effort similar to that which struck the post against Lincoln. More impressivee tracking back and defending, though, mucking in to help the cause when protecting the lead, including making a couple of clearances.
Alex Samuel (replaced Kashket, 62) 6.5 | Brought on to tire – well, keep tiring – the Tranmere back line. Did a good job of that, drew a couple of fouls, and even got back to make two clearances. Would just be nice to see him make the odd run in behind and bag more deserved goals!
Nnamdi Ofoborh (replaced Wheeler, 78) 6.5 | Didn’t have much to do in his short stint but helped keep things solid as we closed in on victory. Most accurate passer (87%) even if he did only make ten.