MANAGER Ronnie Moore will once again put his faith in his team’s resilience and resourcefulness on the road to deliver a result at Yeovil Town this afternoon that keeps Tranmere’s promotion challenge up to speed.
A record of nine wins and just four defeats from 17 away games so far marks Moore’s team as better travellers than any Rovers side in the 12 seasons since the club dropped into League One.
It is just as well, given Tranmere’s form at Prenton Park has become fragile, particularly since the turn of the year.
But take a look at the records of other teams jostling for position in the race for a top six finish and you’ll find that many of them are more likely to post victories away from home than in front of their own supporters.
Leaders Doncaster boast 11 away wins compared to seven at home. Sheffield United, Swindon and Tranmere have better away records than they have at home.
The reason for the declining influence of home advantage, Moore suspects, is that elements of home fans everywhere are becoming more demanding and less forgiving of their team’s efforts than they used to be, creating a difficult atmosphere.
“There’s more pressure on the home side these days,” Moore said. “Teams can go away from home, sit tight, make it difficult for the opposition knowing full well that if they are not broken down early on, the home crowd is going to do a big job for them. They will get on the home team’s backs. It becomes easier for the away side.”
Yeovil are proving themselves an exception among the top group of clubs. No team in the division can better their record of 10 home wins so far. Standing two points behind Tranmere with two games in hand, Gary Johnson’s side have burst into the promotion-chasing pack on the back of a strong run of form since the turn of the year.
The goalscoring exploits of Paddy Madden are a key element of the surprise West Country package. The Irish striker has contributed 18 goals since joining the club from Carlisle in October.
Moore said: “Yeovil are a dangerous side. They had won eight on the trot before they drew at Doncaster and then lost to Colchester in midweek. Gary Johnson will be disappointed with Tuesday night because it was a coupon buster. No one expected Colchester to beat Yeovil after losing by five goals to us last Saturday.
“We know what to expect from Yeovil. Gary has done a fantastic job with what he’s had to work with down there. He’s got quality in the right areas.
“They are always going to get goals from Paddy Madden but he is not the only threat.
“We must make sure we are fully disciplined because it’s going to be as difficult a game as we’ve had all season.”
Once again Tranmere must go into an important game without several influential players. Experienced centre-back Ian Goodison, midfielders Andy Robinson and Adam McGurk and target man Mama Sidibe, who was signed from Stoke City last week, will be missing because of injuries.
On the plus side, Liam Palmer is available for a return to midfield after missing three games through suspension.
Moore said: “Those players are important to us at this present time and we’re going to miss them. I’ll leave the selection as late as possible. We will go with a style of play and I know whoever I pick will give their all because that’s what they’ve done throughout the season.
“I don’t think there is a supporter who, at the start of the season, would have thought we would be lying third, on 60 points with 11 games to go.
“When you look at what’s gone wrong during the season in terms of the injuries and the important players who have been missing, it’s been a heroic effort from every one of the players here. I think they deserve a medal.
“We’ve not been a free-flowing team without those missing players. Our best XI will get you that. But when you have six or seven changes from your strongest side it is very difficult to keep the momentum going.
“Losing James Wallace and Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro cost us some fluency. We’ve missed them. Now at least we have Jean-Louis back and he’s going to get stronger with every game he plays.”