PROFESSIONAL footballers will tell you that certain kinds of defeats are best forgotten while other setbacks have a value that makes them worth remembering.
Tranmere’s home reverse to Millwall in October fell into the second category.
The scoreline read 3-1 to the visitors and the margin could have been a good deal wider.
Rovers were outplayed in every department but most noticeably embarrassed at the back. They were booed off by the Prenton Park faithful and called back in the following day by manager Ronnie Moore and the coaching staff to examine the details of what went wrong on a DVD recording of the game.
The performance still ranks as the most flawed of Tranmere’s season but the analysis that followed proved to be a rewarding process. Lessons were learned and applied, extra work was put in on the training ground and the team set about turning around a poor defensive record with a sequence of nine clean sheets in 12 games.
Moore called the Millwall game “an awakening”.
Full-back Andy Taylor remembers the aftermath as well as the game itself.
He said: “It made us determined to tighten things up because at that point in the season we were conceding far too many goals. I think we were averaging about two per game.
“We concentrated a little bit more on defending and we played a number of games with the 4-5-1 formation.
“To be fair it worked. The work on the training ground with the new formation paid dividends. We had a lot of clean sheets after the Millwall game. We made it difficult for teams to score goals against us and we ground out some good wins.”
However, as Tranmere prepare for the rematch with Millwall at the New Den this afternoon, Taylor can sense the change of emphasis on the agenda.
Moore acknowledges that if Rovers are to build on a promising position at the halfway point in the campaign, they must start scoring more goals themselves.
Taylor said: “We are now trying to concentrate on the attacking aspects of the team. We changed to a 4-4-2 formation in the last couple of games and we got a couple of goals in each of them.
“We do need to keep the good defensive record going because if we go back to conceding too many goals we are not going to win enough games.”
The New Den will be a tough place to square the circle. The Lions have won eight and drawn three out of 12 home games in League One so far this season, helping them to keep a foothold in the top six. Even so, Taylor can see no reason for Tranmere to be intimidated by memories of the October meeting.
Taylor said: “We were well below our best in the first game and that’s why we are not reading too much into what happened that day. If we up our performance and play as well as we can, we know we are capable of going to Millwall and getting a result.”
Taylor draws further encouragement from Tranmere’s form over the festive spell.
Rovers took seven points from wins over Brighton and Walsall and a 2-2 draw at Hereford before the cold weather knocked out the new year games against Colchester United and Peterborough.
“Seven points out of nine of the Christmas was a good return,” Taylor said.
“It’s given us a little springboard to go into the new year. It’s been strange, not having a game in a while because of the postponements. But we do feel we are in a position to kick on from here.”