TRANMERE could have a new and dangerous attacking weapon in their armoury in the long throws of Ryan Shotton – if the young defender can learn to control and direct them.
Manager Ronnie Moore and his coaching staff are beginning to see the potential in the prodigious distances Shotton can reach when he hurls the ball into the opposition penalty area.
Nobody at Prenton Park needs reminding of how the long throws of another young defender, Dave Challinor, helped to propel Tranmere through a string of famous giant-killing successes in cup competitions just under a decade ago.
In the hands of Challinor, the ball became a guided missile, targeted at strategically placed attacking players in the opposition box. Challinor learned to deliver his throws with such accuracy that they caused havoc among Championship and Premier League defences. The exceptional length earned the youngster from Bromborough a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
In the hands of Shotton, a 20-year-old on loan from Stoke City, the long throw is still a weapon under development.
Moore said: “I don’t think Ryan had realised how far he could throw the ball. In the (Johnstone’s Paint Trophy) game against Crewe on Monday night we had Ben Chorley on the edge of the six-yard box and he threw the ball right over Ben’s head.
“At the moment, with each throw he makes, Ryan is trying to get it further. He wants to think about it a little bit more, take some time to see where our players are, and not just go for distance for the sake of everyone saying: what a long throw he’s got!
“We need to use the throw to any pattern we can set up.”
Shotton’s throw caught Carlisle’s defenders by surprise during Tranmere’s 2-1 win at Brunton Park last Saturday. One bounced in the home penalty area and set up the chance for Ed Sonko to head the ball narrowly over the bar.
Moore added: “There is no doubt it can be a weapon. It’s a question of Ryan knowing where he is going to throw it and us putting bodies in where we want the ball to go. If he keeps on throwing it longer, we will have to put people behind the goalkeeper!”
The long throw represents an extra bonus from a young player making a positive impact at Prenton Park since beginning the loan spell from Premier League newcomers Stoke at the end of August.
Shotton, who spent most of last season on loan to Conference club Altrincham, has raised his game to League One standards in impressive fashion.
A succession of accomplished performances at right-back – plus one at centre-back – have also yielded three goals and encouraged Moore to extend Shotton was loan into a second month. The current term runs until the end of October.
Short-term loan regulations permit Rovers to keep Shotton at Prenton Park up to a maximum of three months – subject to agreement with Stoke and financial arrangements – which means they could potentially retain him until the end of November. After that, they would be obliged to return Shotton to the Britannia Stadium.
Moore has already expressed a wish to re-sign Shotton once the January transfer window opens, on a long-term loan running until the end of the season.
However, the manager acknowledges the danger that rival clubs will be taking notice of Shotton’s progress and may also take an interest in recruiting him.
In the short-term, Shotton figures among the alternatives Moore is considering to cover for the absence of Ian Goodison this weekend.
Tranmere go into the League One encounter with Millwall at Prenton Park on Saturday without their defensive strongman, who will be away on international duty with Jamaica.
Moore has the option of bringing in Godwin Antwi, the young defender on loan from Liverpool, moving Antony Kay back from his current midfield station to centre-half, or moving Shotton inside from right-back. The manager says he is also considering the claims of young centre-back prospect Luke Waterfall.
Winger Sonko also misses the Millwall game because of World Cup qualifying commitments with Gambia. Chris Shuker is likely replacement.
Shuker, battling to regain his sharpness and confidence after knee surgery earlier this year, came off the bench to notch Tranmere’s 85th-minute winner against Crewe on Monday night.
Rovers’ third-round tie in the northern section of the competition will be played during the first week of November.
Meanwhile, young Tranmere midfielder Charlie Barnett is being linked to a loan move to League Two club Rochdale. Barnett, 20, who signed from Liverpool during the summer, has been out of the first-team picture since playing in the first two games of the season.