Ronnie Moore sweats on key Tranmere trio for trip to Scunthorpe
TRANMERE manager Ronnie Moore could be forced to disrupt his table topping line-up for the first time this season at Glanford Park tonight.
Rovers have serious injury doubts over a trio of key players ahead of the League One fixture against Scunthorpe United.
Moore rates skipper James Wallace as “extremely doubtful” after the 20-year-old picked up a leg injury in the 1-1 draw with Brentford last Saturday. “I’ll be very surprised if James plays,” Moore said.
He added that attacking midfielder Andy Robinson is carrying a groin strain – “it is 60/40 he won’t play” – and there is also concern over centre-back Ben Gibson, who took a knock on the calf in the Brentford game.
Moore said: “Ben’s calf is very tight so we are sweating on that one. We will leave the decisions to the last minute. But it could be the first time I am forced to make some changes.”
Consistency of selection has been one of the factors behind Tranmere’s flying start to the campaign, with Moore sticking to the same small group of players week in, week out. Wallace, Robinson and Gibson are all ever presents in nine unbeaten League One games.
Now Rovers are facing a test of their strength in depth. Moore said: “This could be an opportunity for the lads who have not had games, who have been sitting it out because of how well the first XI have played. If they come in and do well and we get the result, then they will stay in.”
Danny Harrison, an experienced campaigner who played under Moore at both Tranmere and Rotherham United, is the man most likely to step into the shoes of Wallace.
Moore can call on Mark McChrystal or the versatile Michael Kay to play at the heart of the back four if Gibson misses out while the absence of Robinson would provide the manager with several options.
Tranmere head into two away games this week – they play second placed Notts County on Saturday – after dropping points at home for the first time this season to Brentford.
Rovers were a few seconds away from notching a seventh win when the Bees equalised in the sixth minute of injury time.
Moore said: “The lads were low immediately after the game but it was still a point, we are still three points clear at the top of the table and we’re still unbeaten after nine games. It’s dreamland.
“We are not stupid. We know people are looking at us and saying: that’s where Tranmere are now and they will finish in mid-table. We just have to prove them wrong.
“We have one of the smallest squads in the division and certainly one of the smallest budgets, so the lads deserve a lot of credit for what they are doing.”
Neither Tranmere nor Moore himself can look on Glanford Park as a happy hunting ground.
Last season Rovers travelled to Scunthorpe in late October on the back of four straight wins, lost 4-2 and went on to win only one league game over the next four months, a sequence that cost Les Parry his job as manager – and brought Moore back to Prenton Park.
Moore took Tranmere to Scunthorpe in May 2009 needing a victory to secure a play-off spot. A late equaliser from home side denied Rovers a top six finish and within a few weeks, Moore was sacked.
Another 1-1 draw would probably be an acceptable result for Tranmere this time around. Although Scunthorpe start the evening a couple of places above the bottom four, their form during September was solid.
Moore has plenty of respect for The Iron’s manager Alan Knill, who once worked as a coach under his charge at Rotherham.
Scunthorpe’s Leon Clarke currently stands joint fourth in the division scoring charts with five goals, although Tranmere’s Andy Robinson and Jake Cassidy lead the way with seven apiece and Jean-Louis Acta Akpro also has five.
Moore said: “This will be a difficult game. Alan Knill has them organised, they play a lot of good football and Clarke has been on fire.
“Scunthorpe will be gutted after they lost at Portsmouth last weekend. By all accounts they played well and got done by an 89th minute goal. So they will be feeling a little bit like us.”