It's been a tough few months for Tranmere with injuries and suspensions derailing a solid start to the campaign but performances have been much-improved in recent weeks and now Saturday's trip to Wycombe might well be the catalyst for an upturn in results.
The Merseysiders have only won one in 13, a sequence that includes six away defeats on the spin, but they are one of the most imposing sides in the division on their day and we can't see the Chairboys coping with the physical demands that will be placed upon them if the visitors compete to anything like the standards they have set in their last two matches.
Les Parry's men have only picked up one point from games against Bournemouth and Huddersfield but, in truth, they were only a few bad breaks away from nailing a couple of trademark 1-0 wins. At Dean Court, they were undone by a wicked deflection and a wind-assisted cross that sailed over keeper Paul Rachubka. Last week, they were unhinged by Jordan Rhodes moments after the restart in a game they had dominated, although they did at least rescue a point against the Terriers.
So someone's got it coming and Wanderers look likely candidates after sinking to the bottom of the table with last weekend's 5-2 hammering at Brentford. That was Wycombe's fifth defeat in six matches, during which time they've conceded 17 goals and fired three blanks, and they must be more than a little demoralised by the sight of Chesterfield getting their act together so impressively over the past few weeks.
After several weeks hiding behind the embarrassment of the Spireites' 17-match winless run, the Chairboys are now in the spotlight and any desperate attempts to show they have another gear to slip into might only serve to expose just how weak they are, all at the expense of any lingering confidence.
In the meantime, we can only see Chesterfield going from strength to strength now that they've booked a date at Wembley in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy final and they have a wonderful opportunity to build on their good form with a fourth straight win at Carlisle.
The Cumbrians will be without their talisman Lee Miller after he was red carded for a rather innocuous challenge on Andy Monkhouse at Hartlepool last weekend and the three-match suspension was upheld on appeal during the week.
Greg Abbott insisted afterwards that had faith in his back-up strikers Paddy Madden and Jordan Cook to fill the void because it would destroy their confidence if he went straight into the loan market looking for an emergency replacement but the fact that the question was the first one on the lips of local reporters gives is some indication of how much United's attacking threat might be affected.
In any case, the Cumbrians aren't in great form. They were already 2-0 down at Victoria Park at the time of Miller's dismissal and failed to beat Walsall at home the week before that, so the case for Chesterfield at 4/1 is one that could be considered even if the former Middlesbrough man was leading the charge for the hosts.
2pts Tranmere to beat Wycombe at 9/5 (Ladbrokes)
1pt Chesterfield to beat Carlisle at 4/1 (Betfred, Totesport)Reuse content