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Football: ROVERS KEEPER READY FOR ACHT ONE; Dutchman aimstoput on polished performac.

Byline: ROB BRADY Tranmere Correspondent

JOHN ACHTERBERG does not have happy memories of his previous visits to Peterborough United.

The Tranmere keeper has yet to taste victory at London Road. And last season gale force winds threatened to blow his goal-kicks into his own net during a drab 0-0 draw.

The Dutchman would dearly love to get Rovers' League One campaign off to a winning start with three points against the Posh tomorrow.

He said: ``For some reason Tranmere always find it hard against Peterborough. I have not won there yet. I have played there three times and have lost one and drawn two. It will be nice to start the new season with a win.

``If you start well you have an immediate advantage over some of the other teams. You don't end up chasing the leading pack as we have done for the last two seasons. Hopefully we can put that right this time round, starting with the opening game.

``We can only achieve something if we are consistent. Every year we have had a spell when we did not do that. Hopefully now everyone here is in the right frame of mind. When the gaffer arrived he brought good organisation to the team and we were hard to beat last year. Now we have to be the same over a full season.

``I hope we can end up in the top two. That's what we should be aiming to achieve and with the quality we have in the team it is possible. Sheffield Wednesday have brought in a lot of players and Hull have a lot of money to spend, but we just have to concentrate on ourselves. ''

Achterberg knows he will be in for a busy time against Barry Fry's physical side, who are expected to bombard the Rovers penalty area with long balls. In Andy Legg, they also possess an outfield player with one of the longest throws in the game.

``We know this from last season when they had the advantage of the wind behind them, '' added the keeper. ``The fell a was throwing balls into the box from his own half. We know there will be a lot of crosses and throw-ins that we will have to deal with.

``That is their style, to launch it into the box and hope to get the second ball. We just have to work hard and keep them out of the box. Defensively we have looked good in preseason. If we take our chances at the other end, hopefully we can punish them and perhaps then I will get to win there. ''

Manager Brian Little is all too aware of the high level of expectation being place on his side this season. However, he warned the fans not to read too much into the opening game -- win or lose.

``The first game of the season has a little falseness about it, '' said the manager. I remember this time last year when Walsall beat West Brom 4-1. They ended up relegated while West Brom won promotion.

``A win on the opening day raises people's hopes, while a defeat gets them down. You need a dozen games to judge how the season will go.

``The opening day is the hardest of all if you are drawn away. The opposition are up for it and have the crowd behind them. With two home games coming up next week, it will be a great tonic to win tomorrow. ''

Tranmere will be without defenders Ian Sharps (suspended), Tyrone Loran (Achilles) and Paul Linwood (knee).

CAPTION(S):

SUSPENDED: Ian Sharps; REVENGE MISSION: John Achterberg is hoping to end his London Road hoodoo
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 6, 2004
Words:610
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