TRANMERE BOSS : MAKE IT A PARTY
Mathias: Make it a Prenton party
Apr 29 2003,
Nick Hilton, Liverpool Daily Post
RAY MATHIAS wants Tranmere Rovers to turn tonight's re- arranged home game against Mansfield Town into a thank-you party for supporters.
Admission to Prenton Park is free for everyone, irrespective of whether they paid to see the original abandoned fixture last Saturday.
That could well encourage a bumper crowd into Prenton Park (kick-off 7.45pm) for Tranmere's final home game of the season.
Manager Mathias is keen to give those supporters a night of "victory and enjoyment" even if the game now holds no relevance to the play-off race.
He said: "I have said to the players that we owe it to the fans to keep going and try to win our last two games for them. The supporters have been tremendous this season and I would like to see them enjoy themselves so they can go away from Prenton Park looking forward to next season."
Mathias also wants Tranmere to carve out a small niche in the history books by becoming one of only two clubs to reach 80 points in a second division season and still fail to qualify for the play-offs.
Bristol Rovers finished seventh on 80 points in 2000.
It is the best consolation Tranmere can find from a promotion challenge that died as the players sat in the dressing room on Saturday while a drunken man lurched around the Cowshed roof outside.
His act caused the match to be called off for safety reasons and results elsewhere made
Tranmere's task in catching the top-six teams effectively impossible.
Mathias said: "There was disappointment on the faces of the lads in the dressing room on Saturday but everyone seems to have lifted themselves again. The response on the training ground today was very positive.
"We are still in the 13-game unbeaten run and we want to maintain the momentum, hopefully into next season."
With those sentiments in mind Mathias says he intends to start with his strongest side tonight, probably the line-up that reached the half-time interval on Saturday two goals up thanks to strikes from Iain Hume and Simon Haworth.
Mathias also hinted at a desire to keep the majority of the current squad together for next season.
He said: "We have two or three players in the side to sort out contract wise. We want to continue where we left off. The lads know which way we play and they know what our goals are.
"They have applied themselves superbly during this run. There isn't a more consistent team in the country at the moment. It's just unfortunate that we put together this run in an exceptional year for consistency among the top teams.
"I think it was a question of every team pushing the others and unfortunately we could not break into the top six.
"When I spoke to QPR's manager Ian Dowie last week he made a point of saying how our results were forcing their hand, putting pressure on them to win games. They responded well to that pressure. It's a pity our form came together just a little bit late in the season."
If an expansion of the play-off system to include teams finishing seventh and eighth had been introduced this season instead of next, as is now being proposed, Tranmere would still have a stake in the promotion issue.
But Mathias is against the idea of tinkering with the play-offs. He said: "I wont be happy to see it happen. The play-offs as they are have been working very well.
"But by going down to eighth you go a bit too far. The gap between the teams finishing third and the team finishing eighth is usually more than a dozen points. That would count for nothing after a couple of one-off games. I would prefer the play-offs to remain the way they are."
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