By Tony Leighton
Furious Tranmere Rovers manager Ronnie Moore let fly at his players and apologised to supporters after a 2-0 Tuesday night defeat at Walsall put further doubt on on his team's npower League 1 promotion credentials having looked, for the first two-thirds of the season, like near certainties to reach the Championship.
At the two-thirds mark, Rovers were flying high at the top of the table and well clear of the Play-Off positions, but a disturbing loss of form - highlighted by a sixth defeat in nine games at the Banks's Stadium - has put Moore's now fifth-placed team in danger of missing out on even a place in the top six.
"I can't believe that a team of mine has gone out and performed like that in such an important game," said a very angry Moore. "We were second best from start to finish We didn't look solid, we were like one of those balloons that you blow up and it slips away. We were like that - all over the place.
"There was no fight, no spirit, no desire, no commitment. If you haven't got that, you've got nowt. I've never been so angry - and I've calmed down since I've been out of work [Moore was unemployed for 12 months between his sacking by Rotherham United and arrival at Tranmere in March last year].
"It's a good job we're not in a relegation battle because if we were, I'd be out of work again with the way they've played tonight. We'd go down playing like that. I've stood by them all season and they've given their all in the vast majority of the games, they've been fantastic. I wish I could play - it's done my head in!
"We're miles better than we've shown here and I can only apologise to our supporters. They've been working all day and come and spent their good money and the least they expect is us to go and put a shift in for them. I apologise for that - it's my team, I picked the team and it was totally unacceptable."
Moore now has to lift his side for a tricky run-in to the end of the season as they try to regain form and claw their way back into the automatic promotion positions while a whole pack of teams will be looking to overhaul them in an increasingly tight race to reach the Championship.
Assessing the situation and his own team's chances, the manager said: "I can't remember a promotion race that's been quite as tight as this. I've said before that I think there'll be 14 teams involved, and we certainly can't keep giving points away like we have been doing recently.
"We've got eight games to go now, we're two points off the top two still and there's plenty to play for - but no-one is grasping the opportunity. I've said to the players that they'll look back on the words I've said tonight and if we don't do it, they'll think ,'he was right, you know, he was right what he said'."
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