Tranmere Rovers can take confidence from cup win, says Danny Harrison ahead of league opener against Leyton Orient
DANNY HARRISON reckons Tranmere have given themselves a well-timed boost in confidence this week after turning a tricky start to the season into a winning experience.
Rovers went into Tuesday’s Capital One Cup tie at Chesterfield troubled by concerns over injuries and a shortage of central defensive cover.
They emerged with a 2-1 extra time victory that demonstrated the team’s collective strength and showcased the qualities of Ben Gibson, a 19-year-old centre back who signed on a month’s loan from Middlesbrough hours before kick-off.
Better still, the victory earned Rovers a potentially lucrative second-round tie away to Premier League giants Aston Villa.
Midfielder Harrison believes the events have put Rovers on the front foot going into the opening game of the League One campaign against Leyton Orient at Prenton Park this afternoon.
“Winning the cup tie at Chesterfield was a great start and it gives us a good springboard going into the Orient game,” Harrison said. “We were the better team for most of the night on Tuesday and deserved the victory.”
Harrison added: “To be drawn away at Aston Villa in the next round is great in a lot of ways. It’s going to give some of the younger players who don’t have the experience of big games a chance to play against a Premier League club. And for this club’s finances is brilliant, it’s the perfect draw all round.
“But the cup is a distraction we can put aside now. It is all eyes on the league. We need to get off to a good start.”
Harrison, who graduated into the professional ranks after progressing through Tranmere’s youth development system just over a decade ago, returned to Prenton Park this summer after spending five seasons with Rotherham, where he also worked under the management of Ronnie Moore.
He said: “I look at young players like Ash Taylor and Max Power and they are in the same situation I was in the early years of my career here. The team spirit at this club is the same now as it was back then and that does not surprise me. It is always good here. It is different to Rotherham, and that’s no disrespect to them.”
That spirit was evident at Chesterfield, Harrison reckons. He said: “I think the result and the performance showed the squad we are building here is a good one. It was a tough job for Ben Gibson to come in, having only just met the lads before the game, and put on a display like he did. Michael Kay came in at centre back and did not put a foot wrong all night.”
Orient, Harrison acknowledges, are among the clubs of more modest means in a division packed with some big names and spending power. He said: “One of the things that struck me when I signed in the summer was the quality of the teams in this division. We will be playing a lot of teams you would associate with the Championship.
“It is going to be a test for us. We have a relatively young squad. But I definitely think we can be competitive in the division this season. We were strong at home last season and the manager is on about improving the away form.”
Harrison added: “The Chesterfield game was very encouraging. We produced a lot of good, incisive passing and we have pace to burn right the way through the squad.”
Harrison’s campaign started on the bench on Tuesday. He joined the action in extra time. The starting central midfield places went to James Wallace and Liam Palmer, who is on a six-month loan from Sheffield Wednesday.
However, the 29-year-old isn’t discouraged about his prospects of enjoying regular first-team action this season.
“Playing week in, week out is the target for everyone,” Harrison said. “Obviously Liam and James started the other night but you have to have competition for places. It is something I’m used to.
“The manager knows my game and what I can bring to the table. I’ve played a decent number of games for him and I’m one of the older ones here.”
Moore says he plans to pair Ash Taylor and Gibson in the centre of the back four this afternoon. With Ian Goodison and Mark McChrystal absent through injury, the versatile Michael Kay will provide cover from the bench after impressing alongside Gibson at Chesterfield.
Jake Cassidy, who like Taylor was on Wales under 21 duty in midweek, should be challenging Cole Stockton and Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro for a starting place in attack.