Roses for Xmas? Not for Big Jim...
Saturday 23rd December 2017 1500 hrs
Attendance: 3058 (63 from Morecambe)
Morecambe visited tenth in the table Mansfield today hoping to tip the balance against the Derbyshire club as far as previous encounters are concerned. So far, this had been completely even with both sides having won four of the eight fixtures which preceded this one. Before the game, just two points separated rock bottom club Forest Green Rovers and the Shrimps, who were a mere four places above them in League Two. Nobody wants to be sitting at the bottom of the EFL pile at Christmas if only because of all the superstition and actual facts which attend being relegated after this unwanted distinction at this time of the year. But results elsewhere could see Morecambe propping-up everybody else if they failed to get at least a draw against Steve Evans` men today.
Manager Jim Bentley made four changes to the starting lineup which played so poorly against Barnet last week during the first half. The loss in this game could prove to be pivotal to both clubs` chances of survival in the Football League next June. Patrick Brough, Adam McGurk, Andy Fleming and Garry Thompson were all dropped to be replaced by Sam Lavelle, Alex Kenyon, Callum Lang and Adam Campbell. For the opposition, their Scottish Manager also introduced four changes into the team which drew 0-0 with Yeovil Town last time out.
Morecambe had the first chance of the game when Adam Campbell took a shot from about twenty yards out which was blocked by Malvind Benning only for the Shrimps` player to scuff the rebound wide of the target. This was after three minutes. With just three more minutes on the clock, Campbell then wove his way down the right wing and played-in Luke Conlan whose shot was very well saved by Conrad Logan in the Stags` goal. But almost immediately after this, Mansfield took the lead. Returnee Kane Hemmings controlled the ball well from Danny Rose`s flick, turned inside marker Sam Lavelle and placed a well-aimed shot past Barry Roche into the Shrimps` net with eight minutes played. The diminutive Campbell was instrumental again in Morecambe`s first attempt to equalise, rolling the ball to Kenyon whose long-range shot went over the bar after almost a quarter of an hour. Twenty-one minutes had elapsed when Vadaine Oliver set himself up for a long-range volley but made a mess of his effort, allowing the Stags to clear. The home team had an excellent chance to extend their lead after twenty-six minutes when Danny Rose pounced on a defensive mistake and fed the ball to Hemmings who in turn squared it to CJ Hamilton to side-foot the ball wide from just eight yards out when it was probably easier to at least hit the target. Logan was the next goalkeeper to be called into action though when he initially struggled to deal with an acrobatic cross from Oliver after 33 minutes before finally gratefully gathering the ball at his far post. The match remained fairly even after that but Mansfield returned to the dressing rooms at half time a goal to the good and with the final chance of the game in their favour. After 41 minutes, MacDonald`s free-kick reached Zander Diamond as the static Shrimps defence looked on. Fortunately for them, the Stags` man plonked his free header wide of the goal.
Morecambe started the second half on the front foot and Michael Rose only narrowly missed with a shot from outside the box within the first minute. Three minutes later, Oliver flicked the ball on for Callum Lang but the young striker was caught off-side. But he got his team`s just deserts with fifty-one minutes on the clock when he darted into the Stags` box and belted a tremendous shot from Aaron McGowan`s cross low past Logan into the bottom corner of the net to equalise for the Shrimps. As the visitors continued to dominate play and Rhys Bennett did well to clear the ball for a corner before it reached a goal-bound Oliver, Manager Evans decided to shuffle his pack after 54 minutes. The double change had little initial effect however and Morecambe came close to taking the lead when Michael Rose again narrowly missed Logan`s left-hand post with a characteristic piledriver from 25 yards after an hour. They came even closer after 66 minutes when another screamer from Campbell this time beat Logan all ends up but crashed harmlessly back off his post. Michael Rose then unleashed another tremendous shot which again only just missed after 73 minutes only for Stags` substitute Jacob Mellis to try his luck from a similar distance at the other end with an identical result just two minutes later. But Morecambe continued to look for a winner and Campbell headed straight at Logan from Luke Conlan`s cross after 76 minutes when he might have hoped to do a bit better. There were further half chances at both ends after this but the nearest either team came to a break-through was in the eighty-third minute when substitute Kevin Ellison volleyed fellow sub Adam McGurk`s cross goalwards only to provoke a superb block from Diamond to keep the game level. Kev then did what he also does by reacting to assistant manager Paul Raynor`s constant shouting from the side lines and getting himself booked. Morecambe hearts were broken however when - having battered the home team for all of the second half - they fell behind to a sucker punch right at the death. Mellis won a free kick on the Mansfield left after 88 minutes; Paul Anderson floated the ball over and with the Shrimps defence again Absent Without Leave, Danny Rose wrapped-up all three points for the home team with an unchallenged header past Roche in the visitors` goal. Morecambe tried their best to retrieve a losing situation even after this last-minute disappointment and might have done so had not Malind Benning cleared a header which had beaten his own keeper off the line in extra time. Barry Roche came up from the other goal to reach the ball before anyone else even after this but his opposite number managed to save his effort with four minutes of extra time already played. Baz had just been booked for pushing-over Danny Rose who had been yellow-carded himself for an obvious dive in the big Dubliner`s penalty area a few moments earlier. But sometimes, you just don`t get what you deserve and today was such an occasion for the Shrimps and their frustrated supporters.
Season`s Greetings were not exchanged at the end of the game when Evans lived-down to his reputation as a loud-mouthed wind-up merchant by gloating at the visitors` misfortune. This was not appreciated by the Morecambe bench - and who can blame them? Even ignoring the idiotic behaviour by the other management team, Jim Bentley must feel either murderous or suicidal - or perhaps both - at times like these. His team had most of the possession during the whole of this game and could - and probably should - have taken home all three points. But momentary lapses of concentration at the back have yet again cost his team any return for their never-say-die performance. They will play worse than this and win in the coming months. The only solace the team from Lancashire can take from today is that key rivals Barnet, FGR, Crewe and Chesterfield also all lost, the latter badly in a 5-1 mauling at Stevenage. So Morecambe will spend Xmas two places above the relegation positions in twenty-first place.
Good luck to Jim Bentley and his men in the New Year although they must be already sick of the sight of at least one version of Roses before the festivities actually start. I might eat a few though. And I hope that whatever you do over Christmas is more enjoyable than what happened at Field Mill today as far as Morecambe fans at least are concerned.
Mansfield Town: 1 Conrad Logan; 16 Hayden White (Y); 2 Rhys Bennett; 6 Zander Diamond (C); 3 Malind Benning; 7 Alex MacDonald; 24 Calum Butcher (8 Jacob Mellis 54 mins); 4 Paul Digby (11 Will Atkinson 70 mins); 22 CJ Hamilton (Y); 32 Danny Rose (Y); 23 Kane Hemmings (10 Paul Anderson 54 mins).
Subs not used: 12 Bobby Olejnik; 5 Krystian Pearce; 9 Lee Angol; 15 Jimmy Spencer.
Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche (Y); 2 Aaron McGowan; 22 Max Muller; 5 Steven Old; 16 Sam Lavelle; 24 Michael Rose (C); 4 Alex Kenyon; 14 Luke Conlan; 9 Vadaine Oliver (28 Adam McGurk 72 mins); 29 Callum Lang (11 Kevin Ellison (Y) 72 mins); 10 Adam Campbell (7 Garry Thompson 81 mins).
Subs Not Used: 12 Danijel Nizic; 17 Mitchell Lund; 8 Andy Fleming; 21 Elliot Osborne.