Pressure is off Tranmere for trip to Derby says Ronnie Moore
TRANMERE head off on today’s FA Cup mission to Pride Park intent on making the most of an afternoon free from the pressures of chasing League One points.
Rovers go into the third round tie against Championship club Derby County as underdogs, a rare experience for a team who’ve spent most of the season at the top of the division below.
Manager Ronnie Moore said: “We are not expected to win so we can just go there and enjoy it, go out and play our football.
“Pride Park is a fantastic stadium and a good pitch. The lads deserve a little break from the pressures of the league because every team in our division lift themselves an extra 20% when they play us. Sometimes you can be better off in second spot!”
Moore gave his players a couple of days off this week after they fought their way through a busy Christmas holiday schedule to claim maximum points from wins over Crewe Alexandra, Scunthorpe United and Bury.
They take a short break from League One action enjoying a three-point lead at the head of the division.
Moore said: “When you consider we have been without some of our most influential players over the last month or so, the desire and commitment within the squad is there for all to see. Everyone coming into the side has done well.
“We are lacking a little bit of quality in certain areas but we have shown we can grind out results. When everyone is fit, the quality will be back in there.
“Getting the four injured players back – James Wallace, Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, Ben Gibson and Abdulai Bell-Baggie – is going to hot up the competition for places and our bench will be stronger.”
Moore added: “When we were beaten 5-0 at Swindon just before Christmas, everyone thought the bubble had burst. The lads have shown tremendous character to come back and win the next three games.”
Tranmere’s planning for the second half of the season was given a boost this week when Liam Palmer’s loan from Sheffield Wednesday was extended until May after the midfielder signed a new contract with the Owls.
Moore says Wallace (medial ligament injury) and Akpa Akpro (broken metatarsal) could be back in action by the time Rovers return to the League One programme with a home game against Crawley Town next Saturday.
“It will be fantastic to have those two players fit again,” Moore said.
Bell-Bagie’s thigh injury may take a little longer and Tranmere are in the hands of Middlesbrough’s medical team over Gibson, whose initial loan was cut short by a groin injury. ‘Boro are ready to release the centre back for a second loan once he is fit.
Moore recruited centre back Donervorn Daniels from West Bromwich Albion when Gibson was forced onto the sidelines and the manager says he is encouraged by the way the teenager forged a solid partnership with Ash Taylor over the past three games.
“Don is getting better,” Moore said. “He is a young kid who is quick and strong. He still wants to win every headed ball and has to learn that he can’t go after everything. But that will come.
“Centre-back is a physically demanding role for young players and both Don and Ash did well against Scunthorpe and Bury.”
Former Tranmere defender Gareth Roberts will be hoping he can shake off an injury to pull on a Rams shirt against his former club today.
Roberts, who played more than 300 games for Tranmere between 1999 and 2006, missed Darby’s 3-1 win over Middlesbrough earlier in the week with a calf problem.
Manager Nigel Clough says Roberts, at 34 the oldest and most experienced player in his squad, is an important influence on younger players.
“It is important that the senior players we have in the squad are the right type given the number of young players we have around the place,” said Clough.
“Gareth is one the youngsters should look up to, without any question at all. He is a brilliant role-model.
“It was the same when Robbie Savage was here a few years ago. He looked after himself despite being a senior player. He very rarely missed training and showed a real appetite for the game and Gareth is in exactly the same mould.”
Clough has said Roberts is playing as well as ever.
“Gareth is getting better with age and we’ve been delighted with how he has performed this season,” said Clough. “He has just carried on where he left off last season. He is a very under-rated player.”
Roberts started as a trainee at Liverpool and had a spell with Panionios in Greece before he went on to play for Tranmere Rovers and Doncaster Rovers.
He joined Derby from Doncaster on a free in the summer of 2010 and has close to 600 career games under his belt.