MANAGER Ronnie Moore has warned League One leaders Tranmere not to take this afternoon’s encounter with relegation-threatened Bury lightly – and pointed to Sheffield United’s weekend embarrassment as an example of the potential consequences.
Rovers head to Gigg Lane as favourites to notch a third win of the holiday programme at the expense of a side who have won only two home games all season.
Sheffield United were even stronger favourites to turn over Hartlepool at Bramall Lane last Saturday and were stunned as the team marooned at the bottom of the table notched a 3-2 victory.
That result enabled Rovers to jump back to the top of the division after narrow wins over Crewe and Scunthorpe last week.
Moore said: “It won’t be any easier playing Bury than it was playing MK Dons or Sheffield United. There are no gimmes in this division, just ask Sheffield United.
“I’ll bet their manager, Danny Wilson, was frightened of the Hartlepool game because it was one where everyone was saying it’s a gimme.
“The players don’t mean to do it but in their minds they are not spot-on – and if you are not spot-on you can get done.”
Moore added: “The layman might look at our three Christmas fixtures and say there’s three wins there. But it does not work like that. We are not good enough to drop our guard or our standards. If we do that you get what happened at Swindon (a 5-0 defeat).
“The clubs with big squads can replace players, if they have iffy games, with players of similar quality. We can’t do that.”
Bury put up stiff resistance on their visit to Prenton Park in September. Tranmere needed two penalties, converted by Andy Robinson, to post a 3-0 winning margin that flattered them.
Peter Shirtliff, once Moore’s assistant at Prenton Park, was the Bury caretaker manager that day. Now Shirtliff is working as number two to Kevin Blackwell.
Bury are under pressure off the field as well as on it, having taken out a loan from the PFA to meet wages and running costs.
Tranmere hope they are saying adios and not goodbye to Jake Cassidy and Liam Palmer, whose loan spells from Wolves and Sheffield Wednesday respectively end after today’s game.
Midfielder Palmer’s fate rests upon whether he signs a two-year contract offered by the Owls.
Moore explained: “Liam is in negotiations with Sheffield Wednesday who want to re-sign him on a two-year contract. If it’s not sorted out then (manager) David Jones is not going to let Liam come out on loan again. If it is sorted we will know where we are.”
Rovers expect Cassidy will spend most of January back at Molineux while Wolves assess whether the 19-year-old striker is ready to fit into their first team.
Moore remains hopeful Wolves will view Cassidy’s development as best aided by a return to Prenton Park, where he’s scored 11 goals this season.
“We don’t know how long Jake will be gone for and we hope he will be back with us in the New Year,” Moore said.
“He has put himself under a bit of pressure recently, trying to get a goal and trying to do too much. It’s not been happening for him. I think he wants to know what’s going to happen to him next. It can affect you as a young player.
“In the meantime we have to try and get a striker in on loan. We can’t stand still and wait and Wolves might say they want to keep Jake until the end of the season. It’s going to be easier to find someone sooner rather than later in the transfer window.”
Moore reports no new knocks from last Saturday’s 1-0 win over Scunthorpe and expects striker Michael O’Halloran to shake off off the bug that forced him out of the Scunthorpe game at halftime.
Bury front man Sebastien Carole is pushing for a start with the injury-hit side. Carole went on as a half-time substitute for Troy Hewitt in the Shakers’ 2-1 defeat at Carlisle last Saturday.
Andy Bishop is sidelined with a foot injury and fellow forwards David Healy (flu) and Lenell John-Lewis (foot) were also missing from the matchday squad at Carlisle. Defenders Adam Lockwood (groin) and Phil Picken (knee) are long-term absentees.