Aug 31 2013 Sat WIR
TRANMERE travel to Boundary Park this afternoon aiming to demonstrate that their midweek win over Bolton Wanderers was not just an isolated cup success but the jump-start to a stuttering season.
Rovers' reward for the penalty shootout victory against Championship opponents on Tuesday is another home tie against Premier League Stoke City towards the end of next month.
But it does not do anything to improve their uncomfortable league position, close to the foot of the early-season table, after managing just one draw from the opening four games.
They start the afternoon at Oldham Athletic in 22nd place, where they finished after taking a 5-0 mauling from Peterborough United at Prenton Park last Saturday.
That could change if Ronnie Moore's team are able to take heart and confidence from the impressive Capital One Cup show and lift performance levels in the pursuit of League One points.
Moore said: "We just hope the players carry on in the same vein as Tuesday night and get some confidence from how they played, because confidence is basically what they have been lacking.
"We want the result we got against Bolton to kick-start our season because the most important thing is league points. We are desperate to get that first league win under our belts."
The Bolton success was achieved with a scratch team in a new, compact, 4-1-3-2 formation. Several of the senior players who were ruled out in midweek, including strikers Ryan Lowe and Akpo Sodje, winger Joe Thompson and on-loan right back Andrai Jones are available to face Oldham.
Moore says he is happy to be faced with difficult choices over selection and tactics.
He said: "We changed the way we played on Tuesday. When you have 14 players available and only one winger it is very difficult to play 4-4-2. We have the players to go back to 4-4-2 at Oldham, if we want to."
The 11 starters against Bolton made a compelling case to be retained, not least the two elder statesmen in the line-up, Ian Goodison, 40 and Jason Koumas, 33.
Koumas played 70 minutes in midweek, the midfielder's first start this season and his longest spell on the pitch since begining a comeback to the professional game.
Moore said: "On Tuesday we were forced into a situation where we had to ask Jason to give us an hour or so from the start rather than 30 minutes. I think that was the way to go. He was a little bit stiff afterwards but he should be okay for Oldham.
"He got on the ball for us and for 70 minutes he was fantastic. He had players with legs in front of him in Max Power, Chris Atkinson and James Rowe. The movement caused Bolton no end of problems."
Goodison is being allowed plenty of rest after playing two hours on Tuesday following a 45 minute stint as a substitute against Peterborough.
"He'll be okay," Moore said. "He won't train much before the game and have a massage. He's the only player who can do that. He is an extraordinary one-off, you won't see his like again.
"He did not do pre-season training in the three seasons when I was manager here first time around (2006 to 2009) and I don't think he's done pre-season training with any other managers who were here after that."
Moore reckons Goodison's impact on the rest of the team in making his first start of the season on Tuesday could not be underestimated.
"Goody set the standard in the first minute with an old-fashioned centre back's tackle on Tom Eaves," Moore said. "I think it frightened the life out of him. Eaves hardly went near Goodison after that. He was over on Ash Taylor's side of the pitch.
"That tackle triggered everyone. It was a lift for the crowd and a lift for our players. Then we showed how good we can be."
Not that Goodison's ability to deliver a powerful reminder of how effective a player he still is has deterred Moore from looking for defensive reinforcements. The search was made all the more urgent when Stephen Foster's contract was cancelled by mutual consent on Thursday.
The manager said: "I can't be kidded. We played well in one game and if the back four perform the way they did on Tuesday we will be fine. But we are short of cover."
Moore went part of the way to addressing the issue by signing Adam Dugdale from Crewe Alexandra on a month's loan yesterday. Dugdale's arrival means Rovers will at least have a specialist centre-back on the bench today.
Dugdale is 25 and has played close to 100 games for Crewe, which gives him the background of experience Moore is looking for.
"We've been searching for a left footer and the ones out there are mostly young kids," Moore said. "With the situation we have at the moment, you can't really gamble, I don't think, with a young kid.
"The problem with Ian Goodison is we can't expect him to play Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday every week at the age of 40-plus."
Oldham have made a solid start to the season, notching wins over Stevenage and Port Vale and suffering defeats to Walsall and Peterborough in four League One games so far. Manager Lee Johnson is the son of Yeovil Town boss Gary Johnson.
The Latics are tipped to improve on last season's disappointing showing, when they finished three points above the relegation places.