Blue Sky Thinking? - Sky Blue SHRINKING...
Saturday 9th December 2017 1500 hrs
Coventry City made the long journey from the Midlands through the snow to the Globe Arena today to face Morecambe at this venue for the first time ever in a League game. However, this was their third visit to a ground where they have lost and drawn their previous two Cup matches, most notably when they were beaten 2-0 in the inaugural game at this location seven years ago.
These seven years have seen many changes for both clubs, few of them in any way positive. Morecambe`s biggest achievement has been to actually remain in the EFL despite increasing turmoil off the field since that time. For Coventry, the decline which was already apparent when they visited in 2010 as a Championship club has continued year after successive year. With the Ricoh Arena now better known as the home stadium of Wasps Rugby Union club, fans` revolts over a temporary move to Sixfields in Northampton and continued uncertainty about the club`s future all conspired to see City relegated to the lowest tier of the Football League last season. The only really positive thing that has affected the football club in recent times has been this week`s successful bid by Coventry to become Britain`s City of Culture in 2021.The biggest worry for Sky Blues fans currently most be, firstly, if their club will still actually exist in four years` time. They must also be concerned - given the downwards direction of travel throughout this decade - whether they will still be an EFL club if they manage to survive at all. As they have tried to address their recent decline, City started this season`s campaign with two wins followed by a loss. Inconsistency of this sort has been a hallmark of their results so far but they arrived at the Lancashire seaside sixth in the League Two table, just within the play-off positions and with reason still to be positive about a quick return to League One.
Jim Bentley had to completely change his plans for the game when Alex Kenyon picked-up an injury in the warm-up and had to be replaced by Garry Thompson. Thommo was quickly in the action as Michael Rose`s pin-point cross was headed-down by Vadaine Oliver into his path and visiting goalkeeper Lee Burge seemed to foul him. But the man who matters - referee Robert Lewis - waved play-on. Oliver`s shot had already been kicked off the line in the seventh minute by Rod McDonald as Coventry increasingly played on the back foot. Shortly after this, Elliot Osborne made good progress down the left and crossed for Thommo to produce a bullet header which Burge did brilliantly to tip round the post. As the home team continued to throw the kitchen sink at the visitors, Adam McGurk was the next Morecambe player to attack down the left and slipped a ball across the penalty area only to find his colleagues too far behind it.
So far, virtually the only contribution to the game by the visitors had been Michael Doyle`s reaction to a fairly innocuous foul by McGurk after ten minutes. The Coventry player rolled around on the ground as if he had been pole-axed. When McGurk`s name duly entered the referee`s notebook, though, he seemed to undergo a miraculous recovery. But the Shrimps` striker was not put off his stride and was unlucky after his shot from outside the area after 23 minutes beat Burge but bounced back off his left hand post only for Andy Fleming`s effort from the rebound to be cleared off the line again. Oliver was the next Shrimps` player to test Burge with just over half an hour played and the goalkeeper did well to deflect his effort wide when one-on-one with the forward. Morecambe`s pressure finally told, however, in the thirty-fifth minute. Michael Rose took a free kick from the right, Oliver stretched out a long leg and managed to propel the ball past the visiting goalkeeper to deservedly put the Shrimps one goal up. There were further half-chances for both sides - with Duckens Nazon twice forcing home goalkeeper Barry Roche into good saves for City - but Morecambe went into the dressing rooms fully deserving of their slim lead at half time.
Sky Blues Manager Mark Robins shook things up at half time with two substitutions in an attempt to get back into the game. The first effort of the second period, however, again came from Morecambe: Rose took a shot from long range which went narrowly wide after 50 minutes. Five minutes later, Marc McNulty beat two Morecambe defenders but his resultant shot went way over the bar. But the play swung back to the other end and McGurk saw a header land on the top netting of the goal just three minutes later. Roche then made two fairly regulation saves from both Jordan Willis and McNulty. But Morecambe went further ahead after McGurk`s replacement Callum Lang received the ball after an excellent run down the right by Aaron McGowan. The young striker cut in onto his left hand side and smashed a fierce shot past a helpless Burge to put the Shrimps two goals to the good. Two minutes later - with seventy-one minutes on the clock - Lang was denied another goal when McDonald again did well to make a last-ditch block. As the Sky Blues struggled to get back into the match, McNulty saw his shot after 79 minutes come back off the base of the Shrimps` post with Roche beaten. Down the other end, though, Thommo forced Burge into another excellent save after 85 minutes. Although there was time left for City sub Stuart Beavon to test Big Baz and for injured substitute Lang to be replaced himself, the match ended with a chance for Adam Campbell in injury time which he put wide. After five minutes of extra time, the final result was a richly deserved two-nil victory to the Shrimps.
This was an excellent performance against one of the fancied teams in League Two. Chesterfield beat Barnet today at the bottom of the table to propel themselves out of the of drop zone whilst FGR lost and fell into it. Morecambe, meanwhile, found themselves propelled up the table to eighteenth place. It`s still very tight at the bottom of the pack but Jim Bentley must take a lot of hope from today`s performance of his makeshift team. If they continue to play like they did today, their future in the EFL is assured.
Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 2 Aaron McGowan; 22 Max Muller; 5 Steven Old; 3 Patrick Brough; 24 Michael Rose (C)(Y); 21 Elliot Osborne (10 Adam Campbell 67 mins); 8 Andy Fleming (Y); 9 Vadaine Oliver; 28 Adam McGurk (Y) (29 Callum Lang 67 mins; 14 Luke Conlan 89 mins); 7 Garry Thompson.
Subs Not Used: 12 Danijel Nizic; 17 Mitchell Lund; Ben Hedley.
Coventry City: 1 Lee Burge; 2 Jack Grimmer; 4 Jordan Willis; 5 Rod McDonald; 24 Ryan Haynes; 8 Michael Doyle; 31 Ben Stevenson; 26 Jordan Shipley (7 Peter Vincenti 45 mins); 18 Duckens Nazon (22 Dion Kelly-Evans 45 mins); 9 Maxime Biamou (16 Stuart Beavon 77 mins); 10 Marc McNulty.
Subs not used: 13 Liam O`Brien; 3 Chris Stokes; 12 Tom Davies; 30 Tom Bayliss.