Duck Ends At Robins
Good Friday 30th March 2018 1500hrs.
Attendance: 6328 (82 from Morecambe)
Right - let`s start with a poser; Classic Pub Quiz or Starter For Ten if you prefer. How many teams beginning with `S` have played in the English Premiership? Let`s start with the three that are still plying their trade there (if only just): Southampton; Stoke and Swansea Cities. Then there are the Sheffield Clubs. And Sunderland, currently seemingly trying to emulate other North-Eastern clubs such a Ashington; Darlington and - most recently - Hartlepool and abandon the EFL altogether. Who else?
Have To Hurry You as Bamber used to say before a far more boorish individual took his place on University Challenge. Time`s up.
It was Swindon Town, almost a quarter of a century ago. Next question: which ex-Premiership Managers whose surname begins with `B` have... No, that`s enough.
Swindon have had a chequered history in the last twenty-five years or so. Most of it has been bad. At times, they looked as if potential Messiahs such as Paolo di Canio were about to lead them back to the Promised Land of elite football in this country. But then Sunderland came along and worked its Black Cat Magic on him - and we all know how that ended-up. But since that time, they have slipped back into the lowest division of League Football once more. Continuity has hardly been Town`s strongest suit: their latest boss, Phil Brown (ex-Premiership Manager; name begins with `B`), has been employed at the County Ground for only just over two weeks. This time last year, Luke Williams was in charge. During the summer, David Flitcroft was appointed by the Robins` board. Under the former Bury Manager, Town carried on their impeccable record against the Shrimps last August, racking-up their fourth win out of four against the Lancashire club. But statistics and omens count for nothing. As Southend Manager, Brown had an equally bad League record against today`s visitors - so what was about to happen in Wiltshire today was truly in the lap of the gods.
The weather gods didn`t smile upon this contest before and during the game: it tipped it down at times. Neither did the gods seem to smiling on Jim Bentley`s team either. Veteran goalkeeper Barry Roche lasted only ten minutes before he had to be replaced by Australian Under 21 International Danijel Nizic. The game itself was end to end at the start. Luke Norris thumped an effort just wide after about five minutes but Town`s defence were stretched after thirteen minutes by a dangerous shot by Michael Rose from a free-kick. An excellent cross from the Morecambe left by Luke Conlan was headed virtually straight at Stuart Moore in the home goal by Callum Lang with 26 minutes on the clock. Then, as the rain came lashing down, the Robins started peppering substitute Niizic with a succession of crosses but the goalkeeper and his defence stood firm and kept them out. The focal point of the first period arrived after 43 minutes when Vadaine Oliver helped Wigan loanee Lang to spring the Swindon offside trap and coolly take-on and beat Moore to slip the ball into the home net. Right from kick-off, Town almost get back into the game. They won a corner; Ollie Banks produced a tremendous header from it but young Nizic miraculously managed to keep it out of his net.
The game continued fairly evenly once the second period got under way. Although the home team didn`t seem to appeal for anything, Referee Kevin Johnson clearly took exception to something he had spotted in the area apparently involving Steven Old and Norris. This was after fifty-five minutes as Swindon were taking a free-kick and the official pointed to the spot. Norris dusted himself down and sent Nizic the wrong way from the resulting penalty and the teams found themselves all-square once again.
The goal seemed to revitalise Mr Brown`s new boys. It was almost one-way traffic from the moment they equalised. Old cleared a header off the Morecambe goal line; Norris shot straight at the Morecambe goalkeeper when well placed and Keshi Anderson headed just wide all in quick succession. Up at the other end, though, Lang had a header at the far post after an hour but directed it straight at Moore, who saved easily. Swindon maintained the pressure with a succession of corners after this but Morecambe again showed the organisation and determination which was missing from the team earlier in the season by resolutely holding back the red tide despite Marc Richards missing an absolute sitter from only a few yards out with about twenty minutes left.
Morecambe`s battling performance earned them their third draw in a row and kept them in nineteenth position in the division. It also ended their duck as far as Town are concerned. Swindon also stayed in the same place they were before the game, ten places higher. With games now beginning to run out, Morecambe remain nine points ahead of Barnet, who beat Crewe at the Hive today to keep Dave Artell`s side within striking distance of the Shrimps: the Railwaymen are only one point ahead of them but Morecambe still have a game in hand. Chesterfield lost again to the club immediately below the Shrimps: Port Vale. Grimsby managed a draw and Forest Green`s game at Yeovil was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. So Morecambe remain eight points clear of the trapdoor into the National League with it looking increasingly as if the condemned teams at the end of the season will be two from Barnet, Chesterfield and Grimsby.
Swindon Town: 28 Stuart Moore; 24 Kyle Knoyle; 2 Ben Purkiss; 32 Rollin Menayese; 3 Chris Hussey (Y) (22 Kaiyne Woolery 80 mins); 30 Keshi Anderson (18 Donal McDermott 85 mins); 8 James Dunne; 29 Ollie Banks; 31 Matty Taylor; 9 Luke Norris; 17 Marc Richards (C) (7 Paul Mullin 80 mins).
Subs not used: 12 Charlie Henry; 5 Chris Robertson; 20 Kellan Gordon; 19 Timi Elsnik.
Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche (12 Danijel Nizic 10 mins); 6 Dean Winnard; 2 Aaron McGowan (15 Aaron Wildig 70 mins); 16 Sam Lavelle; 4 Alex Kenyon; 5 Steven Old; 29 Callum Lang (11 Kevin Ellison 78 mins); 14 Luke Conlan; 21 Gregg Wylde; 24 Michael Rose (C); 9 Vadaine Oliver.
Subs not used: 3 Patrick Brough; 8 Andy Fleming; 10 Adam Campbell; 7 Garry Thompson.