By Tony Leighton
It's all change for Tranmere Rovers as the Sky Bet League 1 team, who this time last year were flying high at the top of the table, have their ambitions lowered from a run at promotion to simply surviving in a tough division.
A slow start to the current campaign saw Rovers pinned in the relegation zone in late October, but an unbeaten five-match run lifted the pressure before Tuesday evening's 2-0 defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers left them on the brink.
After seeing his side lose to first-half goals by Leigh Griffiths and Dave Edwards, who helped Wolves to rob early season pacesetters Leyton Orient of top spot, manager Ronnie Moore spelt out Rovers' reality to football-league.co.uk.
"It's a harder division this season," said Moore. "Leyton Orient have been doing it a bit like we did last year, but they've got the strength in depth that we didn't have - we had four injuries in January and that killed us.
"We raised everybody's expectations, but it's not going to happen two years on the trot when you have to work on the budget that we've got - certainly compared to some of the budgets that are floating about at this level now.
"The remit when I came back to the club," added Moore, who in March last year returned to Prenton Park for a third spell in charge, "was 50 points or fifth from bottom, whichever keeps you up - and that's being realistic.
"We would like to be up there competing with the likes of Wolves, but you have to put things into perspective. In the end last year we finished 11th in the table and I'd like us to better that if we can, but it's going to be hard."
Moore "put things into perspective" quite starkly after a Molineux defeat that - three days after celebrating a crushing 5-1 victory over Coventry City - left his team just one place and one point above the relegation zone.
"Wolves were streets ahead of us," admitted the Rovers boss, "but we're a point better off than I thought we would be after going to Coventry and Wolves - nobody expected us to get anything, so I'll take three points from the two games.
"What we have to do now is get on another run, and we've got some crucial games coming up. The season's going to be a long, hard slog for us and we'll have to play with the blood and guts and attitude that I know is in this team."
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