THE consolation for Ronnie Moore, as he paced the dugout during Tranmere’s 3-0 defeat at MK Dons, was that he was not alone.
Just about every manager in the chaotic League One promotion race is feeling the frustration of inconsistency as teams stutter and splutter through the final phase of the campaign.
Age and experience offer no protection from unpredictable results, save knowing how to maintain a stable constitution through the rollercoaster ride. “I don’t feel pressure myself,” Moore said.
While Moore lamented that his team look like they were “running on empty” last weekend, rival Danny Wilson suffered an even worse ordeal. Sheffield United, the summer favourites to go up and the team boasting the best support in the division, took a 4-0 hammering at Stevenage. Wilson confessed: “We can play like that again.” Or so he hopes.
Brian Flynn, the equally well seasoned manager of Doncaster, saw the leaders struggle to draw at home to relegation threatened Portsmouth and has told his players to “expect the unpredictable to happen.”
So while Tranmere supporters have been gnashing their teeth in anxiety while the team slid down the table on the back of seven defeats in 10 games, none of the main contenders are prepared to write off Rovers just yet.
Moore said: “We went out of the top six last weekend and that is warranted on the way we’ve been playing lately. We can’t rely on other results to do the job for us. We’ve got to go out and win a game again. That means going back to the drawing board and getting the players mentally right and physically right.
“One or two of them are feeling the pressure. You can see the dip in performance levels from some who have been playing quite well for most of the season.
“We have to pick them up and that’s the hard part.”
Moore is entitled to ponder which Stevenage side he will face in Tranmere’s next game at Prenton Park on Sunday (kick-off 4pm) – the team who subsided into the bottom half of the table after a wretched run of results in January and February, or the team who trounced the Blades. Further spice has been added to the mix after Stevenage sacked manager Gary Smith following a 2-0 defeat at Bury in midweek.
Moore calculates that 72 points might be enough to take a team into the play-offs this season. The low number reflects the competitive nature of a division without a dominant side.
On that basis Tranmere require three wins from the remaining seven games to secure a top six finish, although some observers predict 75 points is a more realistic target.
Brentford manager Uwe Rosler acknowledges a lucrative but distracting FA Cup run has done the Bees’ promotion prospects no favours.
Indeed, the former Manchester City striker argues that clubs in the lower divisions are committed to playing in too many cup competitions.
League One and Two sides play in the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Football League Trophy, as well as completing a 46-match league campaign.
Rosler said: “In the lower leagues, you don’t really need three cup competitions. I feel in the lower leagues when you don’t have such big squads or big budgets for sports science like the big clubs, then it’s tough
“The lower leagues are there to develop players. That doesn’t only come through games but also training.
“In our league we have no time to train, it’s just resting then playing. Other countries are miles ahead in terms of player development.”
Brentford enjoyed a fine run in the FA Cup, taking Premier League side Chelsea to a fourth round replay before a 4-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge ended their involvement.
The German says Brentford have had to play an extra 10 matches this season.