MANAGER Ronnie Moore set his players to work this week on addressing a weakness threatening to undermine Tranmere’s promotion challenge – defending set plays.
Moore is concerned his talented but lightweight young side have struggled over recent weeks to cope with bigger, stronger teams at free kicks and corners.
Tranmere lost for the third time in four games at Leyton Orient last Saturday when they conceded both goals from set plays. Moore hopes to beef up his squad this week by signing a tall centre-forward on loan who can be effective in defending his own box.
He also instigated training ground drills designed to stiffen resistance at the back.
Moore said: “It is wrong to talk about how badly we played at Leyton Orient, although we did not play as well as we can do. The problem was, if you look at the chances Orient had, they all came from set plays.
“We conceded from two set plays and would have conceded a third but for the linesman helping us out by giving offside.
“Conceding those goals shows me we’re weak in our decision-making in the picking up area. We have to improve it.
“If we think the Leyton Orient were a big side, we have Stevenage, Sheffield United and Preston to play and they have five or six big lads in their teams. If we can’t defend set plays we are not going to win too many games.”
Moore and his coaching staff are working with the players on improving their technique at defending set plays.
“It is a learning curve for some of them,” he said. “Cole Stockton, our young centre forward, is six-foot and he has got to come back and pick up at set plays, something he has probably not had to do for the reserves or the youth team. We have to do a little bit in training with the fullbacks, Danny Holmes and Zoumana Bakayogo, who have to pick up because our midfield players are so poor at it.
“Danny and Zoum are having to pick up six-foot-two opponents so you can see right away we are going to be at a disadvantage.”
Moore added: “We can work on how a good little ‘un can stop a bigger player if he makes his challenges in the right way. It is surprising how many times referees give a free kick when a small defender gets underneath an attacker. You’ve just got to be clever.”
Rovers will also be looking for an improvement in team play when they take on Shrewsbury Town in front of the live TV cameras on Friday night.
Moore said: “Our strength has been commitment, desire and the willingness to chase and close down.
“We have a home game next Friday against Shrewsbury Town and it is being televised live. We have got to show people why we have been at the top of the league over most of the past four months. If we play like we did against Orient, we will get beaten again.”
Moore admits he cannot put a finger on what has gone wrong with his team.
“I wish I had the answers,” Moore said. “It is a collective thing. They’ve been fantastic all season. Now they are having a little wobble at the wrong time. We’re lucky the teams around us were having a bad time as well.
“Some people will point a finger and say our bubble has burst. So we’ve got to put the wedge in now.”