RONNIE MOORE aims to frustrate a second managerial protégé in a matter of days, in the cause of keeping Tranmere’s promotion ambitions on track at the Ricoh Arena tonight.
Mark Robins, who served under Moore as a player at Rotherham United more than a decade ago, is the manager who has turned Coventry City’s fortunes around since taking charge just over a month into the campaign.
When the teams met at Prenton Park back on September 15, the Sky Blues were a big club struggling to find their feet in League One after sacking previous boss Andy Thorn a few weeks into the season. Within four days of Tranmere’s 2-0 victory, Robins, boasting a CV that includes spells as manager at Rotherham and Barnsley, was appointed and results steadily began to improve. Coventry have won more than half of their league and cup fixtures since Robins took charge and they see tonight’s rearranged fixture as an opportunity to close up on a play-off spot at the expense of the division leaders.
Moore said: “I always thought Coventry had better players than their early-season results were showing. They have the quality to be in the top six and now they have a good manager. Mark Robins knows the game inside out and he is clever. I think he has a big future as a manager and he has got Coventry back on track.”
Rovers saw off the challenge of another of Moore’s former players, Richie Barker, whose Crawley Town team were beaten 2-0 at Prenton Park last Saturday.
“Coventry are a big club,” Moore said. “People say they don’t have money but they are still spending probably three times our wage budget. They just needed the guidance of someone like Mark Robins to make the most of what they’ve got.”
Robins sees Tranmere’s visit as a “test of character” after Coventry subsided to a 1-0 defeat at Carlisle United on Sunday.
“It was our poorest performance in some time,” Robins confessed. “We’ve got to be ready for a very tough game against Tranmere. It will test our character but that is true every time you step onto the pitch.”
Robins admitted his team might have been suffering from a little fatigue after playing a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy game against Preston at the Ricoh Arena last Thursday. Coventry scored twice late on to secure a 3-2 victory.
Moore was among the crowd and hopes his own players will thrive in the “very impressive” surroundings of the Ricoh Arena.
He sees Tranmere’s first-ever visit to the stadium as a tough assignment in a crucial month for their promotion aspirations. “A lot hangs on the games we play in January,” Moore said. “We ground out a win over Crawley and we’ve got Coventry, Brentford and Swindon to come. They don’t come much tougher than that.
“If we are still in the top six after these games then there will be only 16 fixtures to go and we will have to start being realistic, look at the opportunity and say we have a hell of a chance this season.
“Is about being positive. We’ve not been negative away from home all season so we are not going to put seven or eight men behind the ball. We’ve got to attack. It is in our nature with the players we’ve got.”
Tranmere’s attacking options have been strengthened by the return to fitness of long-term casualties Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro and Abdulai Bell-Baggie.
Akpa Akpro saw 25 minutes of action as a substitute in the Crawley game and Moore says the pacey Frenchman may get another half hour tonight. He is also keen to give winger Bell-Baggie his first run since November.”