Sep 13 2012 by Nick Hilton, The Liverpool Post
RONNIE MOORE has a favourite remark when asked to reflect on Tranmere’s position in the table after the first month of the League One campaign.
“I wish it was May,” the manager likes to say.
It is an acknowledgement that keeping Rovers in the automatic promotion frame over the next seven months is going to be a good deal more difficult than guiding them into the top two after five games.
Don’t doubt that Tranmere achieved their elevated position, tucked in a point behind leaders Notts County, on merit by their efforts over the last four weeks.
The victories over Leyton Orient, Carlisle United and Colchester were emphatic and if the point taken away from Shrewsbury Town owed something to good goalkeeping and to good fortune, the goalless draw at Crewe Alexandra last Saturday was a solid result secured by a solid performance.
Rovers’ brand of pacey, counter attacking football is proving attractive as well as effective.
The bright start prompted the bookmakers into shortening the odds, just a little, on Tranmere winning promotion to the Championship.
But the factors that kept Tranmere’s name among longshots for success when the season kicked off, notably squad strength in depth and spending power, have not melted away.
Rovers, with a squad of 17 senior professionals and three first-year pros, augmented by loan players (they have four at the moment) don’t have the strength in depth to match bigger clubs with larger budgets.
Nor do they have the spending power to recruit replacements whenever the need arises.
Moore suspects Tranmere’s prospects are liable to rest on the numbers game: how many of their senior players can be kept fit and available for selection between now and the end of April?
Moore said: “We have got good players here and if we can keep the squad together, I don’t think we’re going to be too far off at the end of the season.
“I don’t want to say we’re going to win the league or get promotion but I will keep on saying we can be competitive with our best XI.
“We don’t fear anyone, whether it be MK Dons, Sheffield United or the team at the bottom of the table.
“The problem we face is having 18 first-team players and another four on loan. When the injuries dig in, it will be difficult for us.
“Can you can’t expect to go right through the season with the same 11 players, so it’s vital the players who come in are fit and raring to go.
“We know that yellow cards and suspensions are going to hurt us more than they will hurt the likes of Sheffield United and MK Dons.
“So we have to keep those yellow cards to a minimum.”
Moore hopes to have his to long-term casualties, centre back Ian Goodison and left back Paul Black, back in contention within a fortnight.
Neither is expected to be ready for Tranmere’s next game, a League One encounter with Coventry City at Prenton Park on Saturday.
It is followed by another home fixture, against Bury, next Tuesday.
Tranmere will be meet Coventry in a League match for the first time in more than half a century.
Rovers last league meeting with the Sky Blues was a Third Division fixture at Prenton Park in April 1961. The home side won 2-0.