Keith Hill described James Vaughan as a wind-up merchant, after the Tranmere striker 'joked' that he wanted to play 20 minutes against Scunthorpe on Saturday.

The 32-year-old hit-man has plundered 21 goals for Rovers in all competitions this season but hasn't kicked a ball since February 27, after suffering a knee injury in a 3-1 away win against Leyton Orient.

Tranmere have struggled to fill the attacking void left by the ex-Everton star, but currently occupy the third automatic promotion spot in League Two, with supporters eager to discover when their talisman could make a return.

Speaking in his weekly pre-match press conference, Hill said: "Do we want him back? 100%. Can we rush him back? No. We've got to make sure that when he comes back he's in to stay.

Wirral Globe: James Vaughan's return can't come soon enough for Tranmere supporters. Photo: Tony CoombesJames Vaughan's return can't come soon enough for Tranmere supporters. Photo: Tony Coombes

"I don't know 100%. I'm being gauged by James Vaughan. He knows his own body. I've had a chat with him this morning and he is one of the biggest wind-up merchants I've ever met in football. He said he'll have 20 minutes at the weekend."

Hill sprung a surprise last month when Otis Khan started the Papa John's Trophy Final despite only just returning from injury, and is likely to play similar surprise hand whenever Vaughan does makes his eventual return - although this would seem highly doubtful for Tranmere's away trips to Scunthorpe and Walsall, this forthcoming Saturday and Tuesday respectively.

Another player who is a doubt for the trip to North Lincolnshire is midfield enforcer Jay Spearing, who suffered a hamstring issue against Cambridge United on Easter Monday, but the news on him is not as bad as first feared.

Wirral Globe: Jay Spearing is the beating heart of Tranmere's midfield. Photo: Gaz EarndenJay Spearing is the beating heart of Tranmere's midfield. Photo: Gaz Earnden

Hill said: "He's very doubtful for the weekend, but we're sure that it's not going to be a long term (issue). What we don't want to do is put him into a situation where we're rushing him to play on Saturday and then missing him for the next six games.

"While we want our best team out on the pitch and our strongest spine, I think we've got to be sensible about the approach with all the players.

"We will have a second conversation with Jay and the medical staff and we will come up with the right decision for Jay and team with the games that we've got left in this season."

Never short of a soundbite, last week Hill described Rovers' crusade to finish the season in the automatic promotion places like a batsman on 90 runs trying to get to his century.

When the Globe asked if it was time for Rovers to start slugging sixes or keep an night watchman in until Vaughan's return, he said: "Well you've got to protect your wicket.

"You've got to pick the right ball. If you pick the wrong one you're out."

And with more than a hint of frustration about the controversial penalty Cambridge were awarded against Tranmere on Monday, he added: "I feel we've got away with a couple as well. No VAR or Hawkeye.

"But we're still in there in the 90s, which I think is absolutely superb. It's what we've been striving for.

"We've got to embrace it. Chest out, here we are. We are Tranmere. Let's take League Two on.

"But, we have to be able to defend as well, or we won't reach that 100.

"But we will do. There's no question about it in my mind."