By Tony Leighton
A 2-0 Capital One Cup win against Football League newcomers Mansfield Town has gone only part way to easing the pain of Tranmere Rovers manager Ronnie Moore following his team's dreadful start to the Sky Bet League 1 season.
Rovers' performance in the 3-1 defeat at Walsall was described by Moore as "gutless", and despite being happier with the Prenton Park display against Mansfield he has warned that a big improvement has to be shown in League form if any headway is to be made in the long haul of a 46-match campaign.
Moore's men set the promotion pace last term, leading from the front for the first two-thirds of the season before falling away and finishing 11th in the table.
But if they are to better that effort this time round, says Moore, they will have to up their game. "We haven't got all the skill and class in the world but you've got to have desire and commitment and any side that I put out, it's about big hearts.
"That performance at Walsall was unacceptable. Walsall play nice football, but they're not a physical team. So if we thought that was hard, wait till we go and play some physical sides - and there are some big, strong sides in this league."
After his anger on Saturday Moore was pleased with his team's response on Tuesday evening, particularly in the first half when goals from Andy Robinson and Chris Atkinson eased Rovers into the Capital One Cup's second round.
But when they return to League 1 action with a home game against Crawley Town on Saturday, the manager will remind his players of the task they face this season.
"We have to be far, far better than we were at Walsall," said Moore. "Okay, it was the first game of the season and you can say, 'hold on a minute, it happens,' and you can get carried away. But it's worrying when you perform the way we did.
"Just look at League 1 this season. Last year I thought anybody could beat anybody, it was all about what happened on the day, but this year you look at some of the teams and the strength they've got.
"If we play like we did at Walsall against the likes of a Wolves, a Bristol City or a Peterborough it could be five, six or seven [goals conceded]. That's what we've got to learn, and we've got to learn quick."
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