Veteran defender Peter Clarke could be fit to return to the Tranmere Rovers starting line-up this weekend at Rochdale after a five-match injury absence.
The experienced centre-half had impressed in his brief introduction as a Rovers player after joining the club in January from Fleetwood Town, before injury ruled him out of action following the FA Cup fourth round tie against Manchester United.
Not only a quality defender, with good distribution from the back too, Clarke brings leadership and organisation to the side, something which Tranmere desperately lack in his absence in my opinion.
While he’s been missing, silly defensive errors have led to Rovers conceding soft goals and leaving themselves mountains to climb, mountains which are tough enough to get up without those basic mistakes.
His return will hopefully help stabilise that side of the team to enable us to have a bit more of a chance to pick up the points we desperately need if we’re to put up a fight to maintain our place in League One.
Having returned to full training this week, it seems likely that, barring a setback before the weekend, he will be thrown back into the heart of the Tranmere defence for another big game at Rochdale on Saturday afternoon.
Preventing goals going in our own goal is one thing, but Rovers also have found difficulty in putting the ball in the opposition net too. Not a good combination for a football team to have (sorry to state the obvious, again).
Tranmere have scored only twice in the league since the turn of the year and are currently on a run of six matches without scoring in all competitions.
The additions of strikers James Vaughan and Andy Cook at the end of the January transfer window were looked at as the little blue pills for that problem, but there continues to be a lack of goals.
Rovers have got into some good attacking situations in recent matches, but on far too many occasions, have failed to find the killer pass into the forwards or, when shooting opportunities have been created, they’ve failed to really test the opposition goalkeeper.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s game and our opponents, Rochdale aren’t in the greatest form with just one win from their last six league fixtures.
They have an intriguing team with some exciting young talent like Luke Matheson (who has recently joined Premier League Wolves but loaned back to Dale for the rest of the season) who is a 17-year-old attacking full-back, while up front, they can match the age of our midfield (from a few weeks ago) with Aaron Wilbraham and Ian Henderson providing plenty of experience, a combined age of 75.
The Spotland pitch, while not quite the quagmire of Prenton Park, is not in the best of conditions. Judging by the opening day of the season, and a few videos watched ahead of this preview, Brian Barry-Murphy’s team like to play out from the back and they may not find it as easy as they did in early August on the current Spotland surface.
With just 14 matches left to play this season, Tranmere simply have to turn the corner if they are to hold any hope of League One survival. Three points on the road at Rochdale would certainly provide a much needed boost for the players, management and supporters. Come on Rovers!