JOHN Aldridge's desperate appeal to the Wirral public to turn out in force and support Tranmere Rovers on the terraces is being put to the test this week.

The Prenton Park manager was looking for a significant response at last night's home game against promotion-chasing Birmingham City and is hoping for another bumper gate on Saturday, when Tranmere entertain Steve Bruce's Sheffield United (kick-off 3pm).

Mr Aldridge made his emotional call to the Wirral public in last week's Globe Sport, when he appealed to stayaway fans to show their support for new chairman Fred Williams, as well as the players and himself.

Mr Williams' optimism that owner Peter Johnson would this week be able to conclude the sale of Tranmere Rovers appears to have been unfounded.

Mr Johnson and his lawyer girlfriend, Lorraine Rogers - his personal representative on the Prenton Park board - are understood to be holidaying in the West Indies.

All Mr Williams could say about the sale was: "It's Peter Johnson's business. He owns this club and all we can do is wait to hear."

Mr Johnson was due to meet Football League chief executive Richard Scudamore late last week, but a Football League spokesman said he wasn't aware of any meeting.

It emerged this week that Mr Johnson and his girlfriend are expected to be in the Caribbean for about 10 days, so the sale of Tranmere is unlikely to be resolved until the middle of this month - at the earliest.

Meanwhile, Tranmere's seven game unbeaten run came to an end at Ipswich on Saturday, forcing Mr Aldridge to concede: "We need a minor miracle if we're to reach the play-offs."

The real miracle, perhaps, is that Tranmere, having spent so much of the season at the wrong end of the table, have hauled themselves into a position where a play-off place can even be considered.

It merely underlines what might have been had Tranmere not been plagued by off-the-field problems - and if Mr Aldridge had had the financial muscle provided by huge home support.

Rovers beat Swindon 3-2 last Wednesday, after coming from behind twice. Scott Taylor and super-subs David Kelly and Jason Koumas were all on the mark.

But all good things come to an end . . . and on Saturday an inspired display by Ipswich Town's England Under-21 international goalkeeper Richard Wright helped his side to a solitary goal victory. Rovers goalkeeper Danny Coyne saved a penalty.

Tranmere, who were hoping to bounce back to winning ways over Birmingham, face another difficult game on Saturday against Sheffield United. Tranmere's players will have to play fair, though, in view of United's recent FA Cup escapade with Arsenal!

Mr Aldridge faces selection headaches in the coming weeks as key defenders Graham Allen and Clint Hill both face suspensions for picking up too many bookings.

"Some of the challenges we have done have been reckless and you expect bookings, but some of them have just been ridiculous," said the Rovers boss.

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