TOMMY ROWE, one of the hottest young prospects outside the Premier League, stands in the way of Tranmere’s pursuit of a top-six spot at Stockport tonight.
The 19-year-old winger is reported to be attracting the attention of Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham after making his first-team breakthrough with County last season.
Rowe scored an injury-time winner at Hereford last Saturday as Stockport moved to within a point of Rovers on the fringes of the League One play-off zone.
Tranmere manager Ronnie Moore rates Rowe a significant threat and warns full-back Ryan Shotton to be ready for a big challenge at Edgeley Park (kick-off 7.45pm).
But Moore has a potential trump card of his own to play in back-to-form winger Chris Shuker.
Moore said: “Rowe is the young player everyone is talking about at this level. He is going to be a big threat and a tester for Ryan Shotton. If Ryan can keep him quiet it will go a long way towards us winning the game.”
Stockport manager Jim Gannon makes no secret of his confidence in Rowe’s ability.
He said: “Tommy has got everything. Physically he is a supreme athlete with Premier League fitness.
“Technically he is excellent and tactically he knows exactly how to play the floating winger role. I have told him personally that he has got a great future.”
Defender David Raynes said: “Tommy is the business.
“He has pace, power and an unbelievable engine. Plus, he scores goals. The boy is going places.”
However, Rovers can counter with the threat of Shuker, who made match-winning contributions to the victories over Leyton Orient, Cheltenham and Crewe over the last 10 days.
Moore said: “Shukes in showing that self belief again. We know that 20 minutes of Shuker’s running, crossing and shooting can win you a game.
“It took him a while to get over the run of injuries over the last year. When you have never had an injury before and then get three on the trot, they are bound to knock you. Now he has got that confidence again.”
Tranmere, unbeaten in four games on the road since a 3-1 defeat at Leicester in August, will draw some encouragement from Stockport’s less than convincing form that Edgeley Park.
County have won just one in six league games at home, relying on an away record of four wins and three draws to drive their push towards the promotion pack.
Moore said: “Like ourselves, Stockport can get nervy at home and we have to make sure we keep things tight and don’t give them a lift by giving away an early goal.”
Rovers have not conceded a goal since a 3-1 humbling at the hands of Millwall on October 11 – their only defeat in October so far.
Moore said: “The work we have done with back four, the midfielders and the wingers, getting them to tuck in, has benefited everybody.”
Moore is unlikely to stray far from the line-up or the 4-5-1 formation that is now working effectively in home and away games.
However, Gareth Edds is a doubtful starter with a groin strain picked up in the 2-0 win over Crewe last Friday.
Charlie Barnett is on standby to step into the Australian’s midfield role after making a brief but encouraging return to first-team action as a late substitute last Friday.
Moore says the 20-year-old Barnett is moving back into close contention for a first-team spot after losing his early-season place in the side.
Moore said: “When Charlie was brought into the game on Friday I was impressed with his first time touches and he was confident enough to take a free-kick when it was awarded. He has tremendous ability and it was good to see him looking like the Charlie Barnett we know.
“He made a big impression when he first arrived here in the summer and like all youngsters he had a little bit of a dip. It was rather major with him and a concern. But he listened and learned and got himself right.
“He understands now he has got to work as well as sit there and spray passes around. He has to get a sweat on as well. I think the penny has dropped and we will have a very good player.”