It should work
Take a small penlite flashlight and look to see if something is obstructing the slot where the rod is to fit, I bought a '99 a month ago on which the spare had never been on the ground in all these years, it had a lock in the hole under the tailgate, once I removed it I assembled the four rods together, slid the flat end into place in the mechanism and cranked away. I only had to lower it slightly to allow me to bolt on my receiver hitch without trapping the spare. I figured dirt and road salt would have made it a chore......not so!
If this old thing cooperated yours should, you overlooked something.
1999 Ranger Extended Cab, 4x4, 4.0, automatic.