TRANMERE manager Les Parry hopes to reap the benefits of picking from a squad moving close to a return to full strength and health during the crucial month of March.
Rovers play eight games during the month, starting with today’s encounter with Chesterfield. They can at least start a hectic schedule with just one man, defender Mark McChrystal, booked for a lengthy stay in the treatment room.
Two long-term casualties, Enoch Showunmi and Andy Robinson, are in contention for starting places at the B2net Stadium this afternoon while two more, David Raven and Zoumana Bakayogo, should be back in the first-team frame within a week or two.
Parry has rarely enjoyed such a luxury since the early weeks of a season that turned into a struggle as the casualties piled up and the flow of points dried to a trickle.
“We are getting back to having the options we had at the beginning of the season,” Parry said. “It is good to bring loan players in and José Baxter, Paul Rachubka, James Wallace and Ryan Brunt have been fantastic for us. But there is nothing like having your own players to pick from.”
After enduring several weeks when Tranmere’s attacking options were limited to a narrow choice, or no choice at all, Parry is looking at multiple alternatives for the visit to the League One basement club.
Showunmi, last season’s leading marksman, has several reserve games under his belt together with a half hour substitute appearance in last Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Oldham. Creative attacker Robinson went through a similar comeback schedule.
Even so, Parry this week showed his faith in the talents of young prospect Brunt by extending the loan of the 18-year-old striker from Stoke City by a further month.
He also felt confident enough to release front man Mustafa Tiryaki on a month’s loan to Conference side Cambridge United on Thursday.
Parry admitted: “Yes, I do have a dilemma with Enoch and Andy coming back and playing at Oldham. They are both under consideration for Chesterfield.
“We are looking at if and where to fit them in and whether to change the system.”
Parry offered no clues to rival manager John Sheridan ahead of a game of heavy significance for both clubs.
Chesterfield remained anchored to the bottom of the table after suffering a 4-0 home defeat at the hands of leaders Charlton Athletic on Wednesday.
Tranmere travel in the hope of posting a first win in 2012 at the 11th attempt and improving on a dismal return of one point from the last nine away games in League One.
Parry insists his players, in low spirits after the defeat at Boundary Park, have lifted themselves and were “buzzing” in training this week.
Parry added: “Sometimes it is the players who are getting fit again who make a difference. Having Andy Robinson around makes the place buzz a little bit more with his humour and his antics. Having him around on match day helps us off and on the pitch.
“On the pitch we have missed him. He gives us that little bit of vision and guile. He sees an opening and he sees a pass.
“José Baxter came in, a similar type of player and did a good job for us but you miss your own. So having Andy back is fantastic.”
Parry says he does not expect Chesterfield to be downcast after the Charlton defeat. “They got turned over the other night but in the home game before that, they beat Sheffield Wednesday,” Parry said. “We take no notice of a heavy defeat for the opposition. Oldham had been well beaten in the game before they played us. If you go through the results, the teams that come off a hiding often got something from the next game. It is uncanny.”
Chesterfield manager John Sheridan insisted his team could take some encouragement from their seventh home defeat of the season. He said: “I was disappointed the game ended 4-0 because I thought we had a really good go in the first half and matched them. We were still in the game at half-time but the second goal killed us.”
McChrystal could be available for selection at Chesterfield. Then the centre back, troubled by a stomach injury, is to undergo a hernia operation next week.
Raven, who underwent a double hernia operation in December, is due for a first run-out with the reserves next week. Bakayogo, troubled for several weeks by a cyst in his leg, began his comeback in a Liverpool Senior Cup tie against Prescot Cables this week.
Tranmere defeated newly-promoted Chesterfield 1-0 at Prenton Park on the opening day of the season. The campaign has been a struggle for the Derbyshire team ever since. However, the Spireites have the consolation of a Wembley appearance in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final against Swindon Town to look forward to on Sunday, March 25.