MANAGER Ronnie Moore reckons three tough fixtures over the next eight days could provide some defining clues about whether Tranmere are capable of turning their flying start to the season into a sustained promotion challenge.
Rovers head into this afternoon’s encounter with Brentford at Prenton Park on the back of six wins and two draws in their eight League One game so far.
The unbeaten sequence has put the team with one of the smallest squads and smallest budgets in the division three points clear at the top of the table.
On Tuesday they travel to Scunthorpe, who are reviving strongly through September after a slow start to the season and next Saturday visit Notts County, who currently stand second in the division on 17 points.
Moore said: “I think we are coming into a massive eight days. If, after the end of the Notts County game, we are still where we are now, then maybe we can start thinking that something might be happening.
“These games are going to test us. The teams playing us now are lifting themselves. They are going to find another 20% because they all want to beat us.”
Moore suspects Brentford could prove to be Tranmere’s most difficult opponents so far, with their mixture of height, strength and invention on the ball shaped by manager Uwe Rosler, the former Manchester City striker.
“They are a big strong side and they are tucked in just behind the play-off places,” Moore said. “They have a lot of height and it will be dangerous for us to give away too many free kicks and corners. I’m expecting the toughest game we’ve had yet.”
Even so, Moore won’t divert from the formula of saying relatively little about the opposition in team talks to his players.
“I have to concentrate on us,” he said. “Can we get it right on the day, be disciplined, be organised show a bit of faith and courage going forward?”
Morale and confidence are not a problem for a team that has taken 20 points out of 24 at stake, scoring 21 goals in the process.
Moore said: “Every player can’t wait for the next game and everyone wants to play, to be part of it. I keep saying to them: go and show why you are top of the league. They are top of the league because they are good players and a good team.
“We have self belief and when that quality is in the dressing room, you always have a chance. The atmosphere creates itself and the players take more chances with the things they attempt on the pitch. They are braver.
“It is the reverse of when you are in the bottom four, which is when players don’t really want the ball. They hide.”
Moore says he gives the players the freedom to express themselves when they are attacking the opposition penalty area but insists on discipline being maintained in the defensive areas.
“I have told them they can do what they want in the attacking third,” Moore said. “But if I see wingers trying to nut-meg people on the edge of our own box, they won’t be doing that for long.”
Moore reported no new casualties following last Saturday’s 5-2 win at Crawley Town so team changes, if any, will be kept to a minimum.
The right-wing spot remains the position most under dispute with Joe Thompson and Abdulai Bell-Baggie vying for the starting shirt.
The players were given a little extra time off this week, only the second time this season they were without a midweek fixture.
Moore said: “It was just as well because the training ground had three to four inches of water all over it during the middle of the week.
“Training on Astroturf type surfaces is not for me and with the games having come so thick and fast over the last couple of months, the lads needed the rest.”
Brentford defender Shaleum Logan says he is relishing the prospect of facing former club Tranmere.
The former Manchester City full-back featured 39 times during a season-long stint with Rovers in 2009/10, but insists he will be putting sentiment to one side as the Bees search for their first away win of the season.
“I loved my time there,” Logan said. “I played regular games so it was good on a personal level.
“I want to win every game and this is no different.
“I never played against them last season due to injury. They’re flying at the moment.”