Shots Off Target. Again
This match should have been played early last December but was postponed because of Aldershot's home game against Rotherham United in the FA Cup, a game which Dean Holdsworth's team went on to win. Since then, however, the Hampshire team have been struggling in the league. Despite a draw at Exeter City a week earlier, the Shots lost at home last Saturday to fellow strugglers Plymouth and started this evening's game in the higher of the twin relegation positions in League Two. What the visitor's manager could probably really do with at the moment is a powerful and committed midfield player with the ability to boss a game even in the worst of situations. Someone like former Morecambe favourite Craig Stanley, for example. Sadly, Craig was unavailable for selection as he is still recovering from the broken leg he received against Woking in a pre-season friendly match.
As for Morecambe, their recent promising run of form came to a juddering halt last Saturday at this venue when they were thrashed by Exeter 0-3 in a truly hopeless performance.
So the first question to answer tonight was - could Jim Bentley's team get back on the rails straight away?
The game started brightly enough for about ten minutes or so. Morecambe looked much sharper than they had at any time on Saturday: they played at a fast pace and the team was mobile and fairly fluent. With six minutes gone, after excellent approach play, Ryan Williams drew a good save from Jamie Young with an attempt from within the penalty area. Five minutes later, the nervousness of the visitors` defence was betrayed when a wholly needless corner kick was conceded. This was followed by the Shots` kicking for touch - Rugby Union style - virtually whenever there was pressure on the ball and the man who had just conceded another throw-in or whatever complaining to his team-mates that they weren`t giving him any other options. Altogether, the visitors looked like a team badly lacking in confidence which seemed to be following the ball rather than trying to get hold of it and influence what was happening on the pitch. For a well-drilled and positive team, they looked like lambs to the slaughter.
But this brief glimmer of a better spectacle than has been served up by the Shrimps to home supporters in the last two games at the Globe didn't last long. The first half degenerated into a shapeless mess of a match with few incidents and very little pattern or shape to the play. As silence fell across the sparse crowd, you could hear the players in the black strip shouting to - and often swearing at - one another. You wonder what this says about team spirit. But then you find your mind wandering. Team Spirit… Holy Spirit…
If the Pope is infallible, when he says it`s time to resign then that's it, isn't it? Blimey - Aldershot just nearly scored! Twenty-seven minutes on the clock and the ball has only just missed Barry Roche's left hand post from barely a couple of yards out.
Was that slightly overweight guy on the radio earlier who said his Doctor told him that he needed to start watching what he was eating - and then gave him two tickets to the Grand National joking or not?
Oh dear - only twenty eight minutes played and Big Baz has just had to go absolutely full length to his left and managed to keep out another try from the Shots by the skin of his teeth. Now he punches another one away! And then has to save smartly again with exactly half an hour gone.
Aldershot are getting on top! This isn't supposed to happen!
As your mind begins to wander again, you realise that the ball seems to be spending a lot of time in the air. Jack Redshaw is running up a lot of blind alleys. The Ellison is mercurial tonight.
Could my feet actually get any colder?
But just before half time, Kev brilliantly passes the ball to Jack who feeds Lewis Allesandra who forces a corner on the Shrimps' left. Williams slings this over, Stewart Drummond heads the ball back towards where it came from on the right hand side of the penalty area and Nick Fenton crashes a header against the bar with Young a spectator on this occasion.
At least you can warm your hands up by clapping.
The second half continued at first in a similarly haphazard and disjointed manner. Apart from another header from that man Fenton just missing Young's right hand post early on and panic stations in the Aldershot defence which they got away with after fifty-one, not much happened. When he wasn't slipping on the greasy surface, Peter Vincenti looked like he could play a bit. So did Danny Hylton. Oh - and Code Green was announced for all Morecambe stewards after 68 minutes. To the usual chorus of jeering. Yes - that's how fascinating this dreadful encounter was up to this point.
But it all changed in the seventieth minute. After another corner needlessly conceded, Stewart Drummond found himself unmarked again on the far side of the penalty area from the kick and once more guided the ball back to where it had come from. Nick Fenton wasn't required on this occasion: very sadly for him, Oliver Risser's attempt to clear the ball with his head ended up in the back of his own net.
With nothing now to lose, Aldershot started to play at this point. And so did their opponents - at very long last, this game was actually watchable and two more goals soon ensued. The first one came with just nine minutes left when the unlucky Young brilliantly parried a shot from Williams only for Gary McDonald to smash the rebound into the net. The second one came during injury time when Hylton scored a goal of casual brilliance from close in which was both Too Little and Much Too Late.
The Shots sink even further into the mire as a result. They look too good to go down but these Famous Last Words have been an epitaph to plenty of other clubs over the years. Given that Aldershot have already risen from the dead on one occasion, this is surely a verdict on Mr Holdsworth's team that not many genuine football supporters would like to see happen. There were a lot of Shots' supporters in the ground tonight and given the distances involved and the fact this was a midweek game, this reflects really well on the club. There are surely other teams in the division who more richly deserve a spell outside the Football League…
As for Morecambe, they have risen to the dizzy heights of twelfth position tonight. Top of the table Port Vale await next Saturday in Tunstall - and who knows? When Morecambe play to their full potential, they can beat anyone else in League Two. Last Saturday, they seemed to go into reverse. Tonight, though, they still didn`t seem to be able to get out of second gear…
Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 2 Nick Fenton; 6 Will Haining (C); 8 Andrew Wright; 10 Ryan Williams; 15 Chris McCready; 16 Stewart Drummond (Y); 18 Gary McDonald; 9 Lewis Allesandra (26 Chris Holroyd 82 mins); 27 Jack Redshaw (14 Jordan Burrow 75 mins); 11 Kevin Ellison.
Substitutes not used: 25 Andreas Arestidou; 12 Dan Parkinson; 22 Andy Parrish; 23 Chris Doyle; 17 Andy Fleming; 19 Joe McGee; 20 Joe Mwasile.
Aldershot. 21 Jamie Young; 2 Ben Herd (C); 3 Anthony Tonkin; 5 Troy Brown; 10 Danny Hylton; 11 Peter Vincenti (Y); 12 Oliver Risser (27 Lionel Ainsworth 88 mins); 23 Sonny Bradley; 24 Asa Hall (20 Craig Reid 69 mins); 28 Keiron Cadogan (17 Adam Mekki 71 mins); 31 Danny Rose.
Substitutes not used: 29 Glenn Morris; 4 Aaron Morris; 19 Terrell Forbes; 14 Anthony McNamee; 9 Michael Rankine.
Ref: Tony Bates.