Feb 1 2014 Sat WIR
MK DONS and Tranmere, two teams who by the admission of their respective managers have underperformed through much of this season, go in search of some redemption this afternoon.
Manager Ronnie Moore is so concerned by the inconsistency of Rovers’ performance levels that he assesses the size of the task at Stadium MK by saying: “What we have to do first of all is turn up as a team.”
Opposite number Karl Robinson was so disappointed with the Dons’ performance in a 3-0 defeat at Carlisle on Tuesday that he vowed some of the players involved in midweek will not play for him again.
The Liverpool-born manager will be attempting to shake up the squad by making signings in the transfer and loan markets over the coming weeks.
The setback at Brunton Park left the Dons 10 points off a play-off spot and with only one win to show from the last six League One games.
Tranmere’s season has turned into a relegation dogfight.
Some of the ground gained by a 1-0 home win over fellow strugglers Crewe Alexandra last Saturday was lost by a 2-1 home defeat to Rotherham United in midweek, in which the hosts were outplayed and outfought by the Millers.
Moore insists nothing but a wholehearted effort from every member of his team will be enough to give Tranmere a chance of taking some precious reward from today’s game.
“Most of all we have to be committed, every one of us,” Moore said.
“We’re in a relegation battle here and we need every one of the players to roll his sleeves up and have a go. We need to be men and learn to do the right things in the right areas.
“We have to make sure we’re in the opposition faces, stopping them from playing.
“We had too many players off on Tuesday, eight or nine of them. If we go on playing in the same manner as that, there is only one outcome: we’ll be beaten. Tuesday’s performance was unacceptable. They know that and I have spoken to them about it. We have to hope it was a one-off.”
Tranmere could hardly have picked a more difficult venue to go in search of a morale-boost-ing result.
They have lost on the last five visits to MK Dons, without scoring a goal. The last two trips to Stadium MK ended in 3-0 defeats.
Moore acknowledges: “It’s an awesome place. MK Dons have been near the top of the table nearly every time we visited. They are a good side. In last season’s game I don’t think we had a shot at goal.
“They can outplay you, so you have to have a go at them.
“You can’t sit back because you invite pressure. Both of the MK Dons full-backs bomb forward. They will hem you in and you will not be able to get out. So we need to be in their faces, having a go at them.”
That does not necessarily mean Tranmere will stick to the 4-4-2 formation Moore has used in the two games since striker Jake Cassidy was recruited on a three-month loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Moore says there is an argument for using a 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 formation to counter the Dons’ strength in midfield.
“The extra man the Dons have in midfield can hurt you,” he said.
“But Crewe and Carlisle played 4-4-2 against them and won. It is food for thought.
“We can play either of the systems and I’m not going to say which one. The big thing for me is we turn up. It does not matter what system we play if we are not committed to it.”
Tranmere’s 15 goal striker Ryan Lowe, who scored against his former club when Rovers won the home fixture at Prenton Park in October, has not found the net in four games. However, opportunities have been thin on the ground during that spell.
The striking partnership with Cassidy is still in its early stages. Moore said: “It is a readjustment for Ryan. All season he has been up there on his own, he has worked his socks off.
“He and Cassidy are trying to get an understanding. I thought on Tuesday they were too far apart, not playing together, but that will come. They’ve only been working at it for just over a week.
“We need to get more balls into the box for them and that’s down to the wide men and the full-backs.
“They’re going to be a threat because they have both proved they can score goals at this level. It is probably important for Cass to get his first goal but I have not put any pressure on him. He has not had a chance yet. We can’t say he has missed anything.”