Dec 31 2013 by Nick Hilton, Main WIR
TRANMERE kick into 2014 by attempting to repair the second worst home record in League One, against a powerful Wolverhampton Wanderers team who have lost only once on the road this season.
Tomorrow’s New Year’s Day holiday fixture sets a daunting challenge to Rovers, as they seek to find fresh impetus in the battle to stay outside the relegation places.
Tranmere’s record at Prenton Park this season – two wins, three draws and five defeats – is among the causes of their vulnerable position, just a point above the bottom four at the halfway point of the campaign.
The away record – four wins and two draws in 13 games – is fairly respectable, in spite of the disappointments of rounding off 2013 with a 3-1 defeat at Sheffield United on Sunday. Significantly, they have conceded 20 goals in those 13 away games against 23 leaked in 10 matches at Prenton Park.
Midfielder Andy Robinson said: “Our home form has got to be better and we all know that.
“We are playing with a bit more freedom away from home. If we can get our home nailed on I think we’ll be okay.”
Tranmere will be playing 13 of their 23 remaining fixtures at Prenton Park, so the importance of improving the points return from home games cannot be underestimated.
Home fans will at least be glad to see the back of 2013, a year in which Tranmere won only five league games at Prenton Park, drew five and lost 10.
Rovers must try to make a start on the repair work with a patched up team, another symptom of the troubles in 2013.
Right back Danny Holmes has been ruled out of action for three to four weeks with an adductor strain sustained at Bramall Lane and Moore says Jon Otsemobor, a defender on loan from MK Dons, is unable to provide cover because of a back strain.
Moore says Tom Hateley may be pressed into service tomorrow, although the utility player is short of match fitness following a spell on the casualty list. Jim McNulty, another on-loan defender, was not considered for the Sheffield United game because of illness and Tranmere face the prospect of losing the versatile Liam Ridehalgh to a recall by his parent club, Huddersfield Town.
Moore disclosed this week that Huddersfield are reluctant to commit Ridehalgh to playing the remainder of the season at Prenton Park, although the Rovers boss is clinging to the hope of brokering a compromise with the Terriers.
“I’m hoping something can be sorted,” Moore said. “We are still knocking on the door to see if we can get him.”
Ridehalgh has been one of the most consistent performers in the Tranmere defence since starting his loan in September.
The 22-year-old’s loss would increase the pressure on Tranmere to find solutions to their persistent defensive problems in the January transfer window.
“We’re a good side and there’s goals in us, so I’m not concerned about that,” said Moore.
“What concerns me is getting that defence right. If we don’t, we’ll be hanging on and looking over our shoulder all season. We don’t really want that, but it won’t be easy.
“We are putting ourselves in situations whereby we have to score three goals to win a game, and that can’t continue. That’s obvious to anyone.
“If it’s not the centre-halves that are causing problems then it is the full-backs or vice-versa. What we can’t seem to do is put it all together as a group.
“Clearly, that’s something we are going to have to work on.
“I’ve got no problems at all with us going forward. We’ve got goals in us without a shadow of a doubt.
“But we do have to get things sorted out at the other end of the pitch.”