MANAGER Ronnie Moore is working to tighten up Tranmere’s leaky defence ahead of the visit to promotion favourites Sheffield United on Saturday.
The League One leaders head to Bramall Lane with defensive issues at the top of the agenda following the 2-2 draw at home to Portsmouth last Saturday.
Moore is concerned that Rovers have fallen out of the habit of keeping clean sheets and look more vulnerable at the back than at any time this season.
He blames the defensive problems for some disappointing results, partic- ularly at home, that have eroded Tranmere’s advantage at the head of the table to the fine margin of goal difference.
The situation is not helped by the fact that centre back Ben Gibson dropped out of the side last weekend with an injury that could require an operation.
Moore said: “We had creative players missing against Portsmouth but they would not have stopped the goals we conceded. The basic problem is the way we are defending.
“Defending, for me, is the easy part of the game. Trying to work an opening and getting balls into the opposition box is more difficult – or it should be.
“But at the moment we don’t look like we’re going to keep many clean sheets. We’re a little bit wary of balls coming into our box and that wasn’t such a concern early in the season because we were rock solid.
“I think we’ve had nine clean sheets but we have not had too many recently.”
Moore added: “You can’t say it is because Ben isn’t playing. We conceded goals when Ben was in the side. It’s not like you can put it down to one individual.
“We are allowing too many crosses to come into our box, so the fullbacks have got to stop that. When the crosses come in we are not picking up as well as we should be. So there’s lots of things we can work on and we are doing that this week.
“We will work a lot on how we’re going to play against Sheffield United. We know we will be asked to defend at Bramall Lane, with 20,000 in the ground.”
Moore acknowledges the defensive problems are more obvious at Prenton Park where Tranmere failed to win any of the last five League One games.
The away record they take to Bramall Lane shows only one defeat, to Bournemouth and six victories – more than they managed during the whole of last season.
Long-term injuries to James Wallace, Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro and Abdulai Bell-Baggie have taken some of the fluency out of Tranmere’s attacking football and Moore calculates he will have just enough fit senior players to fill the team sheet on Saturday.
He said: “Having a small squad was always going to catch up with us. We knew that, we are not daft.
“The big thing and the pleasing thing is that no one has been able to capitalise on us dropping points. The bigger clubs have not taken the opportunity to win all of their games. So the division has become very tight. I think that’s how it’s going to be.”
Moore added: “Look at Bournemouth. They are on a tremendous run at the moment, 10 games unbeaten, with seven wins and up to ninth place.
“But they will get their hiccup. It’s nice when you are in a position with a big budget like theirs. They can bring six players in when the transfer window opens.
“That’s why we are at a little bit of a disadvantage. But we know our best XI is more than a match for anyone.”