The management team of John Barnes and Jason McAteer face the task of lifting hearts and spirits in the Tranmere dressing-room at Brunton Park this afternoon.
Rovers go into the League One encounter with Carlisle United on the back of four straight defeats, two of which, against leaders Charlton Athletic (4-0) and Leeds United (3-0) were worryingly emphatic.
McAteer, long on experience as a player but working as an assistant manager for the first time said: “It is our job to pick the players up now.
“They have been through a tough time. A few of them are really low and now it is about the coaching staff and the senior pros having a voice to lift them.
“It is our job to show them to stay positive and things will change -- because we all know in football things can change within a week.”
McAteer admitted the squad did not pass all of the tests put in front of them by a sequence of games against three of the stronger teams in League One and in the Carling Cup tie against Premier League giants Bolton Wanderers.
“It was always going to be a to tough 12 days for us,” McAteer said.
“When you look at the size of the budgets MK Dons, Leeds and Charlton have to work with, it was important for us that we could compete. Unfortunately the results did not go very well. The manner in which we got beaten was not really acceptable. The players understand that.
“It was especially difficult because Leeds and Charlton were on winning runs when they met us and played very well. There were some positive things to take out of the games but a few negative ones as well. We have been working on those negatives.”
McAteer added: “The most important thing is we go into the Carlisle game in a very positive manner after the week of hell we’ve just had. I keep on saying it is about keeping the players positive. We have to learn from what happened because there are a lot of difficult games coming up.”
Rovers added some strength and experience to their defensive resources this week when centre back Marlon Broomes signed a season-long deal with the club.
The former Blackburn and Blackpool defender had been working in training with Tranmere on a non-contract basis for the past month and played in the Carling Cup win over Grimsby in the first week of the season.
Broomes could well make his first League One start in a Rovers shirt at Carlisle as Irish youth international Gavin Gunning is due to finish his one-month loan from Blackburn.
Striker Michael Ricketts, who, like Broomes, has been working to build up his match fitness over recent weeks, could earn a starting place today after making substitute appearances in the last three games.
Tranmere will be looking for a first away win after defeats at Yeovil and Leeds while Carlisle are anxious to avoid a third successive home defeat.
The Cumbrians have a doubt over Tom Taiwo, a young midfielder on loan from Chelsea, who has an achilles injury. His place could be taken by player-coach Graham Kavanagh.
Defender Danny Livesey is expected to play despite a knee complaint and midfielder Marc Bridge-Wilkinson is back from a back injury and could be on the bench. New signing Richard Offiong made his full debut at Morecambe but may have to settle for a place on the bench. Manager Greg Abbott wants his side’s improving fortunes on the road to be repeated in front of home supporters.
He said: “Tranmere will be keen to get a win on the table after some tough games and results they won’t be pleased with. But we’ve got to take our away form into this home game.”
“I hope we can be the fifth strong opponent to beat Tranmere and crack on up this league.”
LENNY PIDGELEY is set to keep his place in the Carlisle side despite Abbott expressing his “disappointment” at the goalkeeper’s drink-driving charge.
Pidgeley was arrested in the early hours of Sunday morning on the A6 near Carlisle – hours after returning to the city after United’s 2-2 draw at Leyton Orient – and charged with driving while over the legal alcohol limit.
The former Millwall and Chelsea player, who joined Carlisle in the summer, will appear before magistrates on September 15.