DEFENSIVE strength rather than extra firepower will prove the key element in Tranmere’s attempts to turn around a run of poor results, manager Les Parry believes.
Tranmere’s modest total of 20 goals scored in 20 League One games so far this season is just one goal better than the division’s lower scorers, Walsall.
But Parry maintains that the team’s loss of form over the last six weeks, with four defeats in the last five league outings, has more to do with leaking goals rather than scoring them.
Parry said: “I believe that success in this division is built on clean sheets for a team like us. A month ago we were still one of the lowest scorers in the division but we were up around the play-off places because we were keeping a lot of clean sheets. We stopped doing that. We would have had to score three goals to win last Saturday.”
Tranmere’s 2-0 defeat to MK Dons saw them slide down to 15th place in the table – six points adrift of the play-off zone and seven above the relegation places.
Eleven of the 23 league goals Tranmere have conceded this season were leaked in the last five games and Parry insisted: “If we keep clean sheets, we will get the chances to win games.”
He added: “I don’t want people to think we are not interested in scoring goals because we are. But it is no good improving our average from one goal per game to two per game if we concede three per game. However many you score, you have to concede fewer and we have to find a balance between the two.”
Tranmere’s attempts at tightening up at the back have not been helped by injuries: The loss of goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams to a broken hand, centre-back Ian Goodison’s lay-off with a hamstring injury or full-back David Raven taking two weeks out with a thigh injury.
Goals have been in short supply while Enoch Showunmi, Tranmere’s leading marksman last season with 13, fought off a succession of injury problems. The tall target man returned to the starting line-up against MK Dons but was limping towards the end.
Now versatile attacker Lucas Akins is facing several weeks on the sidelines after suffering an injury to his heel against MK Dons. Parry reported: “Lucas landed awkwardly on his heel. He’s not too sure whether he got a kick on it but he is on crutches at the moment, which is not encouraging.”
Tranmere will look to turn their fortunes around in a first ever visit to Stevenage on Saturday. They then play two Christmas holiday games at Prenton Park against Rochdale on Boxing Day and Bury on Friday, December 30.
Parry said: “There’s no doubt we have to do better in front of goal. We should have taken some of the chances we created against MK Dons.
“Our problem, all season, has been that we are creating opportunities and not putting them away. If any of our fans want to look it up they will find the stats that show we have had somewhere in the region of 240 shots and had around 170 shots against us.
“The chances to score goals have been there. We had two chances against MK Dons which finished up in row Z at the back of the Kop Stand. We have to do better than that.”
Parry says he has faith in the tactical model that brought Tranmere success in the early months of the season, which made a priority out of making it difficult for the opposition to play.
Teenager Cole Stockton was among the goals on his loan assignment with Vauxhall Motors at the weekend. Youth scholar Stockton scored twice as the Motorman pulled off a 4-4 draw against Kidderminster Harriers in the FA Trophy.