TRANMERE must overcome a form of stage fright as they battle to halt a losing streak that has dropped them into the League One basement.
Manager John Barnes says his players are showing the qualities he wants on the training ground but losing their nerve when they play for points in front of an audience.
Rovers slipped to a fifth consecutive league defeat at the hands of Walsall last Saturday. While Barnes was happy with the commitment and desire shown by his players he added: “We still did not show the quality I know we have in possession.
“We are not playing well and players were not getting on the ball. I can’t remember us putting six passes together.”
Barnes, who is looking for his team to show more composure and better decision-making, said: “On the training ground we’ve got it. People are getting hold of the ball, shouting for the ball, playing one-twos, putting moves of 10 passes together and creating chances.
“But of course you get out in front of the crowd knowing that we have not been playing particularly well.
“That’s when the players have to be braver. We have to play through midfield rather than saying we have Michael Ricketts up front now so we have the option of hitting the ball up to him.
“Having a big striker does not mean we have to stop trying to pass the ball through midfield. We did not really do that on Saturday.
“Nerves play a big part and so does lack of confidence.”
Barnes says he is “baffled” as to why the confidence and cohesion Tranmere showed in early-season games has melted away over the last three weeks.
He said: “I can show the players examples of the MK Dons game, the Bolton game, the games against Grimsby and Gillingham and the pre-season game against Liverpool when they have done it.
“Against Leeds and Charlton we did not do it – but those defeats were no reason to believe we cannot do it. Carlisle and Walsall were not as strong as Leeds and Charlton, so why couldn’t we do it against them?”
Meanwhile, Tranmere face the prospect of losing goalkeeper Luke Daniels to injury this week.
Daniels, the 21-year-old on a season-long loan from West Brom has been Rovers’ star performer so far this season.