MANAGER Ronnie Moore admits he must find a method to help his Tranmere side come faster out of the blocks in the early part of games, or risk losing ground in the promotion race.
Rovers may be holding onto pole position in League One but they have been slow starters in many matches this season, particularly at home.
Statistics illustrate the problem. If the half-time scores in Tranmere’s 30 league games were converted into results, they would be little more than halfway up the table.
Ronnie Moore’s team owe their place at the summit to a strong record in the second half of games. Quite often, it’s taken a half-time pep talk to bring out their best.
Last Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to Carlisle served to illustrate the point.
Rovers, by Moore’s admission, started poorly, conceded the only goal just before half-time and dominated the second half in spite of being reduced to 10 men by the dismissal of Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro.
Moore said: “All the best home teams put the opposition on the back foot straight from the start – and that’s what we need to do at Prenton Park.
“We’ve only lost three games at home but we are not out of the blocks fast and not firing on all cylinders in the first half of some games here.
“You’re never going to have 90 minutes of being on top. Whoever you are playing are going to have a 20 minute spell.
“But we’ve certainly got to come up with some sort of formula to make them (the players) hungry, to have the desire to go out and get the opposition on the back foot from the start.”
Moore says he had warned his players about the need to start strongly against Carlisle. “I said to them on Friday that we needed to get Carlisle turned – but not with balls played from 70 yards. That’s what happened. We fell into a trap of knocking too many long balls.
“In the second half we passed it and we played at a high tempo, which is what we needed to do in the first half.”
Tranmere follow Saturday’s visit to Leyton Orient with three home games before the month is out.
They play host to Shrewsbury in front of the live TV cameras at Prenton Park on Friday, February 15, play the rescheduled home game against promotion chasing rivals Swindon Town on Tuesday February 19 and entertain Notts County the following Tuesday.
Third placed Swindon moved to within two points of Tranmere with a 1-0 win over Colchester on Tuesday, although the future of manager Paulo DiCanio is uncertain following a change of boardroom regime at the County Ground.
Meanwhile Tranmere’s prospects of re-signing Jake Cassidy on a second loan spell from Wolves are looking more remote than ever.
The 19-year-old striker, who returned to Molineux in January after scoring 11 goals in 27 League One games for Rovers, could well find himself involved in Wolves’ Championship game against Leeds United on Saturday.
Manager Dean Saunders said: “Jake is going to be a good player. “I’ve worked with him now for three or four weeks and he can do most things.
“He’s got a lot of tools and I think he’s going to play his part for us this season.
“Unless we go out and get a couple of centre- forwards, he’s going to have to.”