Sheffield United: Rovers defence is under the spotlight

Tranmere Rovers manager Ronnie Moore wants to sign a new centre-half
Tranmere Rovers manager Ronnie Moore wants to sign a new centre-half
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Tranmere Rovers manager Ronnie Moore has expressed doubts about his team’s defensive capabilities ahead of tomorrow’s visit to Sheffield United.

Moore made the admission despite watching them overcome Shrewsbury Town 1-0 on Boxing Day but concedes that financial constraints could complicate matters in the transfer market.

Citing the example of Ben Gibson, whose arrival on loan from Middlesbrough helped Rovers flirt with play-off qualification last term, Moore said: “We have been looking for a dominant centre half for a while but clubs are reluctant to let experienced centre-backs go and, when they do, they are too dear.

“So you have to gamble on an under-21 player and hope you get a Ben Gibson out of it. But it is not easy to do that.

“Des Philpotts (chief scout) is making phone calls and as a staff we are all out watching games, looking for players. This year a lot of Championship clubs are prepared to let one or two players go out but the experienced ones are earning £5000 to £6000 a week.

“We can’t afford to pay half of that to a player so we have to shop in the under-21s and hope to pull a gem out.”

Moore, was scathing in his criticism of Ash Taylor and Jim McNulty after the recent defeat by Gillingham but, given his budget, will be forced to release some existing loanees in order to fund new arrivals.

Andy Robinson’s goal at Greenhous Meadow ended a run of three straight defeats for a Rovers side which travels to South Yorkshire a place and a point above United in the table.

Evan Horwood, who progressed through the ranks at Bramall Lane, could feature against his former club while Ryan Lowe, previously of Sheffield Wednesday and MK Dons, is expected to spearhead Moore’s attack.

United have no fresh injury concerns ahead of a contest which will see them attempt to stretch their unbeaten run in all competitions to eight matches.

Manager Nigel Clough, speaking after the Thursday’s draw with Oldham Athletic, said: “Tony McMahon got a bit of a whack in the face but he’ll be okay. Other than that, we were fine.”