Global Freezing for Grecians in Lancashire.
Saturday 17th March 2018 1500hrs.
Morecambe started a key eight-day period today at the Globe Arena, the results of which will prove absolutely pivotal to their chances of survival as an EFL team. Following today`s game against Exeter City, they host Colchester United on Tuesday night in a re-arranged match and then welcome Lincoln City to the same venue a week today. So that`s three home games in a row that will see the one game advantage they have on most of their closest rivals disappear. Today`s fixture with the Grecians took all of us Morecambe supporters back to happier - and much warmer - times almost exactly ten years ago when the Shrimps overcame Exeter for the first time ever in the Conference Play-Off final at Wembley. Garry Thompson - in the starting line-up today - equalised for a Sammy McIlroy team captained by Jim Bentley only for Danny Carlton to memorably win it with a strike past today`s substitute goalkeeper Paul Jones which remains one of the best goals ever to have been scored at that venue. How things have changed: Sammy Mac is long-gone; the Shrimps are now playing at a new ground; the club is in financial disarray off the field and on it, ex-Captain Jim struggles year-in, year-out with the smallest budget in League football. For Exeter, there has been greater continuity. St James` Park - their home for one hundred and fourteen years - is currently being completely revamped and Manager Paul Tisdale seems to have been in charge there for virtually all that time. The longest-serving (at 12 years) - and probably most sartorially elegant EFL Manager was thus welcomed to Lancashire today by the one with the second greatest longevity: Jim Bentley has served (`endured` might be a more accurate term) just over half that length of time at the helm of Morecambe Football Club.
Mr Tisdale`s team arrived in sixth position in League Two, having already walloped today`s opponents 4-1 in Devon last September in a game his opposite number describes as his team`s worst display of this season. The Grecians have failed to lose to the Shrimps for almost five years of regular meetings and have only ever been beaten by them twice in thirteen League games since Morecambe`s victory at Wembley a decade ago. So the omens weren`t good for the home team before kick-off: only Barnet and Chesterfield lay between them and the National League right at the bottom of the EFL.
It was wildly windy and bitingly cold with occasional snow flurries by the side of the freezing Irish Sea before, during and after today`s kick-off at the Globe Arena. This obviously made positive, flowing football difficult but both teams at least tried to put some decent moves together. The hosts were playing into a gale so powerful during the opening half that veteran goalkeeper Barry Roche had trouble throughout reaching even the half way line with his clearances.
Gregg Wylde was thwarted by a good tackle from Dean Moxey as Morecambe tried to strike on the counter attack after five minutes and Sam Lavelle managed to block Hiram Boateng`s shot for the visitors three minutes later. Kyle Edwards shot over the home goal after Boateng fed him with a quarter of an hour played and the Christie Pym in the visitors` goal had his hands warmed by a shot from Thommo with almost twenty minutes on the clock. Captain Michael Rose wasted a free-kick from a good position after almost half an hour by blasting the ball into the wall and down the other end, Edwards played-in Ryan Hartley shortly afterwards but his effort also flew over the Morecambe bar. However, Jayden Stockley cleverly let Lloyd James` pass go beyond him to Pierce Sweeney, who made his own and ruined compatriot Big Baz`s St Patrick`s Day by coolly slipping the ball past him to put the Grecians one-nil up after 37 minutes. Five minutes later, though, the Shrimps were level. Sam Lavelle did his best Steven Old impersonation by heading home Callum Lang`s cross into the visitors` goal from a corner kick. In injury time, Dean Moxey managed to put the ball in the Morecambe net again but referee Carl Boyeson not only disallowed the goal but also booked him for using his hand to do so. So the half ended all-square at one goal each.
Morecambe had the wind at their backs during the second half and both Adam McGurk and then Luke Conlan took advantage of this with shots from a long way out in the opening minutes of the restart. McGurk`s missed the target; Pym clutched Conlan`s effort without any trouble. Conlan missed again as did Alex Kenyon later but the game was decided by Rose after 77 minutes when his typically fierce shot from all of 25 yards out bounced over Pym`s outstretched arm and hit the bottom corner of the net to wrap up three precious points for the Shrimps. Exeter again got the ball in the net during injury time at the end of the game but it was ruled-out once more by the referee.
This was a tremendous win for the Shrimps. With Barnet and Crewe both losing at home again, Grimsby being beaten at Lincoln and Forest Green losing at leaders Accrington, only Port Vale and Chesterfield among their closest rivals were able to put any points on the board elsewhere today with a single one respectively. Jim Bentley admitted after the game that his team rode its luck this afternoon but the three points his side earned today propelled the Shrimps into eighteenth position in League Two. It`s a long way to go but all the teams below them would surely envy the position the Shrimps find themselves in at the beginning of a potentially very eventful week. Exeter, meanwhile, drop out of the Play-Off positions to eighth in the division.
Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 6 Dean Winnard; 2 Aaron McGowan (Y); 16 Sam Lavelle; 4 Alex Kenyon; 29 Callum Lang (15 Aaron Wildig 85 mins); 24 Michael Rose (C); 28 Adam McGurk (9 Vadaine Oliver 80 mins); 14 Luke Conlan; 21 Gregg Wylde (10 Adam Campbell 80 mins); 7 Garry Thompson.
Subs not used: 12 Danijel Nizic; 3 Patrick Brough; 8 Andy Fleming; 17 Mitchell Lund.
Exeter City: 1 Christy Pym; 2 Pierce Sweeney; 5 Troy Archibald-Henville (8 Robbie Simpson 83 mins); 39 Brown; 21 Dean Moxey (Y); 44 Hiram Boateng; 4 Lloyd James (6 Jordan Tillson 60 mins); 7 Ryan Harley (20 Matt Jay 82 mins); 25 Jake Taylor; 11 Jayden Stockley; 28 Kyle Edwards.
Subs not used: 12 Paul Jones; 19 Liam McAlinden; 22 Kane Wilson; 23 Luke Croll.