RONNIE MOORE hopes Tranmere have found in Michael O’Halloran a front player with the pace and sharpness to fill the void left by the long-term injury to Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro.
O’Halloran marked his second appearance in a Rovers shirt, and his first at Prenton Park, with an individual contribution to the FA Cup second-round victory over Chesterfield that was described by manager more as “tremendous”.
The 21-year-old Glaswegian set up Tranmere’s winner for Adam McGurk with a fine individual run and earned man of the match accolades.
Moore said: “We have pace up front with Michael now and he’s going to be a threat for us. He is a quality player. I think there’s goals in him. Bolton wanted him to come here and get some games under his belt and that is what he is doing.
“He can run the channels and we have to play the right passes for him. When we did that against Chesterfield and he caused them a lot of problems.”
O’Halloran, yet to make the breakthrough into Bolton’s first-team at league level, has been out on loan before, playing eight games for Sheffield United towards the end of last season. He is keen to build his senior experience with Tranmere in a loan that runs until early January.
He played alongside teenage prospect Cole Stockton in last weekend’s cup tie and Moore has high hopes of his potential to form an understanding with leading scorer Jake Cassidy.
While Cassidy was unavailable against Chesterfield, because parent club Wolverhampton Wanderers don’t want him to be cup tied, he is likely to return to the starting line-up for the League One encounter with Portsmouth at Prenton Park on Saturday.
Cassidy is due to complete his half season loan and return to Molineux at the start of the New Year.
Tranmere are not expecting Akpa Akpro to be available until mid-January as the Frenchman recovers from a broken metatarsal.
Meanwhile Stockton, a first-year professional, continues to impress.
The 18-year-old from Rainhill notched his fourth goal in four senior starts against Chesterfield, although he has made more than a dozen substitute appearances.
Moore faces the prospect of wheeling and dealing during the January transfer window in an attempt to keep his slim squad in contention for a promotion spot through the second half of the season.
Midfielder Liam Palmer is on a loan from Sheffield Wednesday that is due to expire at the turn of the year and injuries continue to bite into the manager’s options. Winger Abdulai Bell-Baggie won’t be available until January or February.
Tranmere lead the division on goal difference as they prepare for the Portsmouth game.
Rovers’ reward for the 2-1 success over Chesterfeild in a third round tie at mid-table Championship side Derby County. The game is due to be played at Pride Park on Saturday January 5 so the League One fixture at Coventry City, set for that date, will be postponed.
Derby manager Nigel Clough says he expects Rovers to give his side a tough test.
Clough said: “Tranmere are a good side and have started the season very strongly in League One under Ronnie Moore, who is a very experienced manager.
“He has quickly turned their fortunes around after taking charge at Prenton Park midway through last season. It will be a good test for us and it has the makings of a decent Cup tie against a side who have aspirations of gaining promotion to the Championship this season.”
Derby have never played Tranmere in the FA Cup.
The last meeting of the clubs was in a Division One fixture at the Baseball Ground in April 1996.
Derby won 6-2.