ENOCH Showunmi won't be rushed back to spearhead Tranmere's attack as they prepare to take on free scoring MK Dons this weekend.
The tall target man, who notched 13 goals last season, has a track record that suggests he is the player most likely to add a cutting edge to the Rovers front line. His contribution to the team in 2010/11 earned him recognition as League One player of the year at the Northwest Football Awards.
But Showunmi has not started a senior game since the end of October because of groin and ankle problems.
Manager Les Parry, anxious to generate greater firepower from his front line, is reluctant to take a risk that might jeopardise Showunmi's attempts to regain full fitness and form.
Parry said: "I had a chat with Enoch the other day about how the season has gone so far and he recognises he has not hit the heights. I think he is suffering the residual effects from the broken leg he sustained towards the end of last season. He did not get going at the beginning of this season.
"We want him to get over this ankle problem.
"I'm not sure he will be ready for this weekend. We don't want to rush him because if he takes another step backwards he'll be out for another three or four weeks. We will look at the situation at the end of the week. If we can get him on the bench and into the game for 10 to 15 minutes at the end, that would be great."
Parry admits the goals return from players in the central striking positions this season is a disappointment. Showunmi has two goals from 12 starting appearances.
Mustafa Tiryaki, the centre forward signed from non league Havant and Waterlooville in the summer, boasts three goals from seven starts and Lucas Akins, deployed in a wide midfield role during most of this season, failed to score in his one game at centre forward - a 3-0 defeat at Exeter City at the end of November.
Parry said: "We are not getting as many goals as I would like and we have not been getting that many chances from the central striking positions either, which is more of a worry.
"None of the three who have played that role - Enoch, Mustafa and Lucas -- have been in a game where they've had five or six chances.
“It is always scraps. We seem to be getting the chances from other areas, the likes of Andy Robinson and José Baxter and the midfielders."
This season Tranmere have been using a 4-4-1-1 formation with Baxter or Robinson deployed just behind the central striker.
Last season Rovers' central striker also ploughed a loan furrow in a 4-3-3 formation with the two supporting attackers deployed out wide.
Parry said: "The role can inhibit the number of chances the striker gets if he doesn't play it right. When the central striker drifts out wide he is not in the box when the ball comes in.
"So we are trying to encourage the central players to stay central, not go outside the line of the 18 yard box.
"When the ball is coming down the left we want to get the striker, the attacking wide right player and one from midfield into the box, so we have at least three in there."