Sep 28 2013 by Nick Hilton, Sat WIR
THE bookmakers have not lost their faith in Ryan Lowe’s potential to score goals for Tranmere, and nor has manager Ronnie Moore.
The oddsmakers continue to rate Lowe as the man most likely to put the ball in the Port Vale net at Prenton Park this afternoon, even though the experienced and well travelled striker has hit the target only twice this season - and one of those was from a penalty kick.
Lowe’s track record over a 13-year, eight-club league career suggests Rovers might have been expecting a better strike rate from a dozen league and cup games, especially after a flurry of goals in the summer friendlies.
Moore insists however that the modest tally has much less to do with Lowe, 35, losing his instincts or touch in front of goal as Tranmere’s failure to create opportunities for him.
“Ryan has definitely not had the service because he is a proven goalscorer,” Moore said.
“If you look at how many chances we’ve created for him it’s next to zero.
“He has a tremendous attitude. He will play wherever you want him to play.
“We’ve used him wide on the right and in the pocket behind the front two.
“The form of our wingers has not been spot on and we had to change the formation because there were injuries, so we played three in midfield. That’s been difficult for Ryan.
“If we can get our wingers back flying again, then it’s going to benefit the strikers.”
Lowe’s response to the lack of opportunities has been to try and make a contribution in other areas of the pitch, Moore said.
“For me, Ryan is doing too much work outside the box because he is not getting enough balls in the box,” the manager added.
“Once you get the ball to him in the box he is like John Aldridge. It goes in the back of the net. He’s proven that over his career. We need to be getting more crosses into the box for him.”
Lowe took on a wide role with defensive responsibilities on Wednesday as Tranmere put up hard-working resistance to slick Premier League giants Stoke City in a 2-0 Capital One Cup defeat.
Moore wants his team to have more of their weight on the front foot against the Valiants this afternoon, when Rovers attempt to post a first home win of the League One campaign at the fifth attempt.
Tranmere’s problem, in an uncomfortable opening two months, is on the occasions when they performed well as an attacking force, the defensive discipline was poor, notably in the 3-3 draw with Crawley and the 4-3 defeat to Brentford a fortnight ago.
Rovers were not convincing at the front or the back in their last League One outing, a 2-0 defeat at Notts County last Saturday. So the stronger, more energetic performance against Stoke was a welcome step in the right direction.
Moore said: “I could see a lot of positives in the Stoke performance. We will play a little bit differently against Port Vale.
“We certainly won’t be sitting as deep as we did against Stoke.
“This is a massive game for us. We need to get some wins here at home and some points on the board. Teams should be frightened to death at the prospect of coming to Prenton Park. That hasn’t been the case in the last few weeks.
“If we can play with the same passion and commitment we showed for the majority of the game on Wednesday, then I’m sure it is a game we can win. We have to be in the opposition’s faces, playing at a good tempo.”
Moore admits the opening phase of games is becoming a concern after Rovers paid the price for making early mistakes against Brentford and Notts County.
“We don’t want to be chasing the game again,” Moore said.
“We were 2-0 down after 14 minutes against Brentford and a goal down in seven minutes against Notts County.
“We need to be putting the opposition on the back foot at the start of games, get them breathing hard because we are coming at them again and again.”
Tranmere will be forced into at least one defensive change because left-back Evan Horwood is ruled out with a groin injury he sustained against Stoke.
Ash Taylor’s impressive return to the side on Wednesday, after being left out for three games, gives Moore options at the heart of the defence.
Taylor got his chance because Moore wanted to give 40-year-old Ian Goodison a rest from the strain of playing two games a week on a regular basis.
The Jamaican will be keen to return to the side and renew his partnership with Adam Dugdale, whose loan from Crewe Alexandra is to be extended into a second month.
Robinson’s knee injury could keep him out for another two to six weeks and Jason Koumas will need another fortnight to overcome a groin strain.