TRANMERE are on course to be back up to full strength by the end of the month -- just as they approach the final third of the League One campaign.
Manager Ronnie Moore introduced Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro for the final 25 minutes of Rovers' 2-0 success against Crawley Town at Prenton Park - a fourth consecutive league win that kept them at the top of the table.
It was the French striker's first action since he broke a metatarsal at Notts County in early October. The Tranmere substitutes' bench also included winger Abdulai Bell-Baggie, who has not played since November because of a thigh injury.
Moore said he is hopeful that skipper James Wallace will be ready for a game within a couple of weeks as the midfielder finally sees the end of a long battle with a knee ligament injury.
And Moore says he is on the hunt for a tall centre forward in the loan market, after adding pacey front man/winger David Amoo to his squad last week.
Moore wants to add a target man - who can also add height to the defence at set plays - to the leaders' armoury.
He said: "We have three similar types up front in David Amoo, Michael O'Halloran and Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, who are quick.
“I think we need something different, not only in the opposition box when we're attacking but also defensively, in our box.
"If you look at our team at the present time, we have two big centre backs but not too many others of similar stature. When we have to defend at set plays, we can be under the cosh from bigger teams. We need to add a little bit more height to our team.
"Set up the way we are, we might have to win games 5-4 and we don't really want to go down that road. We would rather be nice and strong and get in someone who can fill that part of the jigsaw for us."
Moore says he has been given the nod of approval from chairman Peter Johnson to fund another signing in the loan market after Rovers recruited Amoo on a half season contract last week.
The ideal man will have experience. Moore explained: "I don't want to bring in a kid and try to show him the ropes. We have one of our own in Cole Stockton and if we need to go down that road then Cole needs to play. I would not block his progress."
Tranmere are working on the assumption they will not get a quick decision from Wolverhampton Wanderers over whether Jake Cassidy can return to Prenton Park for a second loan spell.
The 19-year-old prospect was recalled to Molineux at the start of the month after scoring 11 goals for Rovers in a loan spell covering the first half of the season.
Cassidy was quickly confronted by a change of management at Wolves with Dean Saunders replacing Stale Solbakken.
Saunders started Cassidy in the Wolves side that drew 1-1 with Blackburn on Friday night and Moore had a conversation with assistant manager Brian Carey over the weekend.
Moore said: "Wolves are going to monitor Jake's workrate and his improvement. They will keep us in touch on a weekly basis. It sounds as if they are going to have a really good look at him.
"In the meantime we have a lot of games to play and we have to be looking to someone else at this time."
Other pieces of the jigsaw are fitting into place now that Akpa Akpro and Abdulai Bell-Baggie are ready for action after long-term lay-offs.
Both will be hoping to play some part in Wednesday night's rearranged League One encounter with Coventry City at the Ricoh Arena.
Moore said: "It gives everyone a lift when you get good players back. Fitness wise they are fine. It is match fitness they need. We will probably give Jean-Louis another half an hour at Coventry and maybe Bell-Baggie will get some part in the game.”
A second scan has eased some of Tranmere's anxiety over the knee injury to skipper Wallace, who is expected to be back in action by early next month.
Moore explained: "James had a scan and no tears were spotted. He had another scan which showed a second degree tear in the medial ligament. That is generally a nine to ten-week job and that's really what it's going to be if James comes back in three weeks time."