Oct 5 2013 Sat WIR
TRANMERE go in search of some light at the end of a dark tunnel of early-season misfortunes at the unlikely venue of the County Ground this afternoon.
Swindon Town’s home has traditionally been something of a black hole for Rovers.
They lost on four of their last five visits to Wiltshire and manager Ronnie Moore can’t forget the day, more than 20 years ago, when the floodlights failed at the County Ground with Rovers leading Glenn Hoddle’s team 2-1.
When the abandoned match was replayed, Swindon won and went on to beat Tranmere over two legs of the play-off semi-final that season.
Most recently, Tranmere were hammered 5-0 by Paulo Di Canio’s Swindon team in December of last season.
It was a shocking defeat for a Rovers team who topped the division at the time.
Moore hopes the players in the current squad who were involved in that game, including Owain Fon Williams, Danny Holmes, Ash Taylor, Ian Goodison and Max Power, remember it well and are keen to make a positive response.
“We were awful at Swindon last season,” Moore said. “We’ve got to go back and make sure we put a bit of pride back.
“If any players who played that night are not still hurt by it, then they want locking up because it still hurts me.
“It is a long night when you play as badly as that.”
Moore says he will be satisfied if his team can find the same levels of energy and commitment they showed in a 1-0 defeat to Port Vale last Saturday, on an afternoon at Prenton Park when the home team played the final hour of the contest with 10 men.
“We are desperate to get three points,” Moore said.
“The spirit and desire we showed with 10 men in the second half of the Port Vale game was fantastic.
“We have to start like that, play at a high tempo from the kick-off.
“We are at our best when we are getting in the opposition’s faces and that’s what we’ve done for the majority of my time here. We’ve been a bit too nice recently.”
Tranmere, with five points to show from nine League One games so far, risk dropping into the bottom four should they suffer a seventh defeat of the season.
On the other hand, a couple of wins would lift them into mid-table.
Some of the problems impacting on the squad are beyond control of Moore and his coaching staff.
Beset by injuries to influential players – Andy Robinson, Jason Koumas and long-term casualty James Wallace will be unavailable today – Tranmere have adjusted tactics and formations to fit with the players available in a small, modestly funded squad.
Rovers’ successful appeal against the dismissal of Liam Ridehalgh in the Port Vale game means the full-back, who is on loan from Huddersfield Town, will be available for selection today.
If Danny Holmes can shake off the effects of a bug that put him in hospital last week, Moore will have the option of using Tom Hateley in a central midfield role rather than at right-back.
And Rovers signed experienced centre-back Jim McNulty on loan from Barnsley to strengthen the defence after Adam Dugdale was recalled by Crewe Alexander at the start of the week.
Moore continued: “At the moment the players we are losing to injuries are the players we don’t want to lose.
“The number of injuries we’ve had over the last year has been unreal.
“Last season it was James Wallace, Ben Gibson, Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro and Andy Robinson, four of our main players. James is still out now. We don’t seem to lose players who are in the reserves or on the fringes.
“This season we are in a similar position.
“Other teams don’t seem to pick up as many injuries as we have and we’ve looked at that. We’ve been doing extra strength and conditioning work.
“But you can’t do a great deal if someone does a hamstring, knee ligaments or a metatarsal. These things happen and I do think our luck will even up over time.”
Long experience of the game has taught Moore the importance of not allowing a run of disappointing results to get him down.
“You have to stay positive when you are in this position,” Moore said.
“I can’t walk around with my head facing the floor. You have to come in and put a smile on people’s faces and get on with the job.
“It’s not nice, the position we’re in and the games coming up are difficult.
“But these are just the sort of games you want to be involved in.
“We need a bit of luck and we need to stick together. We have a good dressing room.
“It’s not as if we’re in April with two games to go and nine points from safety.
“I don’t think about pressure. I enjoy doing my job.
“All of us are trying to do our jobs to the best of our ability. We have been slapped in the faces a number of times with the injuries and suspensions.”