Dec 20 2013 by Nick Hilton, Main WIR
ANDY ROBINSON is ready to step back into action at Prenton Park tonight as Tranmere look for a positive result against Gillingham to give them lift-off into a run of high-stakes holiday matches.
The attacking midfielder’s creative input has been missing since August.
But now Robinson is over the effects of a hernia operation and manager Ronnie Moore (pictured below) says he will play at least some part in the League One encounter.
As much as Moore and the staff have been encouraged by the development of young prospect Jake Kirby as a first-team player in Robinson’s absence, they say the 34-year-old carries a big influence, both on the pitch and in the dressing room.
Moore said: “Robbo is looking bright and sharp. Whether he is right yet to start we don’t know. We probably won’t know until he tries it. But he will take some part in the game.
“Jake Kirby has done well as a young kid coming into the side.
“Robinson has experience and quality. He sees the pass. He has been a tremendous player through all of his career and when he is out of the side, we miss him.
“Whether he can do 90 minutes and 46 games in a season is another matter but he has enough quality and fitness level to give us 70 minutes and that can point us in the right direction.”
Moore added: “This is like having a new player. Off the pitch Robbo is important too. He is a winner. He hates losing. If we have lost, he will come in screaming and ranting and shouting before I start doing all that.
“It is good when you have players who are not afraid to have an opinion. We have them in James Wallace and Ryan Lowe as well. Sometimes they are right, sometimes they are wrong.”
Moore says he is less confident about whether James Wallace will play tonight. The skipper has been under treatment all week for a groin strain which caused him to pull out of last Saturday’s 4-1 defeat at Carlisle just before kick-off.
“It is going to be a last-minute decision with James,” Moore said. “If he is right he will play but if there is any doubt we won’t take any chances with him.”
Tranmere have spent all week working on the basics of defending after conceding nine goals in their last two games.
Moore says they have to sort the problems out quickly ahead of three games in 10 days against teams who share the discomfort of being close to the relegation places.
“We can’t defend the way we have been doing recently,” Moore said. “If you look at the number of goals we have conceded (38 in 20 League One games) we are needing to score three goals to win a game. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that is going to be a very difficult thing to do. So we need to tighten up defensively.
“We have gone back to basics on the training ground. We are showing people how to go touch tight, how to mark players, how not to drag people, where to stand from corners and free-kicks. We are basically back on ‘Janet and John Book One’ but we have to do it. The more we do it the better we get at it.
“Five weeks ago, when we were working on the basics every day, we were in the middle of a nice little run. When we stopped, thinking the players have got what we wanted them to know, we found they had forgotten it all. So we’ve had to go back to it.”
Gillingham go into this evening’s game on the back of similar problems to Tranmere, although they followed heavy defeats at Rotherham and Notts County with a 2-2 draw at home to Peterborough last weekend.
Tranmere hope the Friday night factor and a £5 admission price can work in their favour in generating a positive atmosphere.
Moore said: “There’s always a good atmosphere on Friday nights and the £5 admission will help. Hopefully it will bring a lot of people in.
“It is a massive game for us. The next games against Gillingham, and then Shrewsbury and Sheffield United away, can really set up our season.
“Gillingham will be thinking the same thing. They expected to do better after winning promotion last season and we expected to do better. We’re in a dogfight and we have to roll our sleeves up and get stuck in.
“The most important thing to me is he so some passion and desire, which was lacking last week at Carlisle. I’ve told the lads they need to give a blood and guts performance. If they do that the crowd will stick with them.”
Rovers boss Moore thrilled to have midfielder available for selection tonight