Jan 3 2014 by Nick Hilton, Main WIR
TRANMERE plan to take advantage of a 10-day break between fixtures to bed in new loan signings Matthew Pennington and Stephen Arthurworrey and to work on strengthening the team’s defensive base for the second half of the League One campaign.
Pennington, a 19-year-old defender from Everton and Arthurworrey, also 19, a centre-back from Fulham, were signed within hours of the opening of the January transfer window and made their debuts in the 1-1 draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Prenton Park on Wednesday.
Rovers don’t play again until they entertain Walsall on Saturday, January 11. They have no game this weekend because scheduled opponents Crawley Town are involved in the FA Cup.
Manager Ronnie Moore said: “We have a long break with no game now and it gives us a chance to work on things and sort out where we need to strengthen.
“We will have everyone in from Friday and we will start work with the back four, building an understanding with the two fresh young players who have come in.”
Establishing a firm defensive base is priority number one for Moore and his coaching staff. Tranmere leaked 43 goals in 23 games during the first half of the season. Only Crewe Alexandra had a worse defensive record in the division.
“On average we were needing to score three goals to win a game and we can’t carry on like that,” Moore said.
Neither Pennington nor Arthurworrey had any experience of first-team football before the Wolves game and Moore reckoned both coped well in a high tempo and eventful encounter.
The versatile Pennington can play full-back or centre-back and has been on Everton’s books since the age of 11. The Warrington-born youngster signed his first professional contract last summer, tying him to Goodison until 2015.
Pennington was a member of the Everton team that reached the FA Youth Cup quarter-final last season and made nine appearances in the under-21 team. He has played 10 games in Everton’s under-21 side this season.
He earned an England under-19 cap by making a substitute appearance against Turkey in March 2013.
Arthurworrey, from Hackney, joined Fulham’s Academy at the age of 10. The 6’4” centre back is regarded as one of the London club’s brightest prospects.
He played 11 games for Fulham’s under-21 team last season and had played 11 in the current campaign when he made the initial one-month move to Prenton Park.
Pennington and Arthurworrey may not be the only new arrivals at Tranmere during the January transfer window. Moore gained a little room for manoeuvre in his modest budget by returning centre-back Jim McNulty to Barnsley and midfielder Chris Atkinson to Huddersfield Town this week.
Tranmere were told by Huddersfield that they could not keep versatile defender Liam Ridehalgh on an extended loan but were then offered the 22-year-old on a permanent transfer. The deal is expected to be completed today.
Ridehalgh, in the final year of his contract at the Galpharm Stadium, has played only 26 senior games for the Terriers since turning professional in August 2010. Most of Ridehalgh’s experience was gained in loan spells to other clubs: Swansea (11 games), Chesterfield (36 games), Rotherham (20 games) and Tranmere, where he has made 18 appearances so far.
According to Huddersfield, Ridehalgh will be sold to Rovers for an “undisclosed fee”.
Tranmere hope they can persuade Liverpool to extend the loan of Chris Peterson. The 19-year-old winger from Sweden has played six games since making the move from Anfield last month.
Moore said: “We will be trying to keep Peterson here and we are talking to Liverpool at this present time.”
Moore hopes Tranmere’s spirited performance against Wolves can provide a platform for an improvement in results over the second half of the season. The point taken from the promotion favourites was enough to keep Rovers outside the relegation places.
However, they face the prospect of losing skipper James Wallace to a three-match suspension following his dismissal for a first-half tackle on Wolves full-back Ethan Ebanks-Landell, who damaged knee ligaments in the incident and was withdrawn at half time. Wolves manager Kenny Jackett said: “I don’t think Ethan is in a good state. His knee ligaments are stretched and swollen.”