Morecambe Almost Blow It
Tuesday 11th April 2018 1945hrs
Attendance: 1042 (206 from Chesterfield)
Morecambe played the match against Chesterfield which was originally scheduled for Saturday 10th February tonight. Then, the game was postponed because the pitch at the Globe Arena was waterlogged. Today, it must have concerned both clubs that the weather in North Lancashire had been appalling yet again for the previous twenty-four hours or so before kick-off. It finally relented in late afternoon and the surface at the Globe Arena was actually less boggy than it has often been in recent times.
Even though the weather hasn`t improved much during the last two months, the situation in League Two has changed quite markedly. This is what I wrote last February before this contest was initially sheduled to happen:
"If ever a league football match was a six-pointer, the one due to be played today at the Globe Arena was precisely such a thing. Visitors Chesterfield have been battling against relegation from the EFL from the very first day of this season, having been demoted from League One as the worst team at the end of last term. Jack Lester`s side arrived in twenty-third position in League Two, five points above seemingly doomed Barnet but just two points behind nearest rival Forest Green Rovers. Only Crewe lay between the Shrimps and this unholy trio of strugglers right in the basement of the Football League. Morecambe - with FGR the next visitors to the Lancashire seaside next Saturday - were thus almost as desperate for points on the board today as their opponents in order to establish some sort of buffer - however precarious - against their fellow-strugglers.
For the home team, the omens were not entirely bad. They had already overcome the visitors on their own patch last October, winning 0-2. However, Manager Jim Bentley pronounced himself `as flat as a pancake` after this victory. "I`ve never had to change the formation as often as I did during the second half" he said at the time and bemoaned his team`s apparent lack of belief in being able to manage a game when in a winning position. The win, he suggested, had more to do with Morecambe goalkeeper Barry Roche`s determination not to beaten by his previous club than it had to do with anything else..."
Tonight, Baz wasn`t even in the squad to face his old employers. Since February, their plight at the bottom of League Two has become even more desperate. They are marooned right at the bottom of the table and the only hope they have of survival is the number of games they have over their closest rivals. They were two points behind Barnet - one position above them - but had three games in hand over them. Even if they won the two games in hand they have over Forest Green Rovers - the first club currently safe from the oblivion of the National League next season in twenty-second position - they would have to improve their goal difference in order to overhaul the only Vegan club on the planet. Similarly, the Spireites would need to win all three of the games they have in hand over Grimsby to swap places with the team in twenty-first position. But in order to do so, they must first overcome the club who were in twentieth position this evening. Which meant actually winning at the Globe Arena tonight against Morecambe. It was a tall order: survival in the EFL has seemingly been beyond them ever since the beginning of this term`s campaign. But nothing ventured; nothing gained: in a sense, Chesterfield already have nothing left to fear: the time to play for draws and the occasional point has long gone. Jack Lester`s team lost last Saturday`s probably key game against Grimsby - a team which themselves hadn`t won a league game in 21 previous matches - to an 88th minute penalty. So - to have any realistic chance of survival at all - the Manager summed-up his team`s task this evening in Lancashire in these stark terms: "We have to move on very quickly. It is a very difficult situation but we have to go to Morecambe and win".
To be fair, that`s exactly what they tried to do. Chesterfield went straight onto the front foot and took the game to Morecambe right from the off. They even won the first corner of the evening and in Andy Kellett clearly have at least one forward who can clearly play a bit. But as the half wore on, there was always the question about how brittle the men in blue's collective confidence was. Time and again, they gave the ball away or - even more alarmingly - were caught in possession. To make things even worse, throughout the first half the visitors also regularly overhit the ball from set pieces. Fifteen minutes were on the clock when fussy and officious Referee Martin Coy (who, despite his surname, was not generally shy about flashing his yellow cards tonight) delivered a long lecture to Alex Whitmore for a crude challenge on Morecambe`s Garry Thompson. The Spireites clearly had done their homework and expected Michael Rose to take the set piece. He ran up as if to do so but kept on going; the ball was rolled to him and he duly slung a cross over from the Morecambe left which Thommo dispatched past Aaron Ramsdale between the opposition sticks to put the Shrimps one goal to the good.
The visitors commendably continued to try and play progressive football after falling behind but were unable to test second-choice home goalkeeper Danijel Nizic even once during the first half. The nearest they came to actually challenge their opponents` dominance of proceedings arrived after half an hour when - with a bit of luck or better judgement - one of the two Chesterfield forwards who conspired to totally miss an excellent cross when well-placed in the middle of the Morecambe goal just a few feet out might have actually connected with the ball. Instead, they fell even further behind after 32 minutes. Callum Lang rode a couple of challenges and his own luck to force his way into the left hand side of the Chesterfield penalty area from his point of view and then unerringly slotted the ball low past Ramsdale to his left into the bottom of the net.
So - at half time - Morecambe were comfortably in front with three points securely in the bag.
But Jack Lester and his team hadn`t read the script. They started the second half as they had done the first - on the front foot. After eight minutes of the re-start, they had dominated the play and Nizic was forced into his first save of the evening - at full stretch. You could almost see the Shrimps` players looking at each other at this point: this wasn`t supposed to happen. But just a minute later, the ball was in the net as Kristian Dennis produced an unmarked volley from the centre of the penalty area which simply whistled past Nizic to reduce the arrears. As the Derbyshire team`s tremendous support noisily urged them on, the men in blue continued to dominate the game. It was all being played in the Morecambe half. Suddenly, there was only one team that was going to win this. Morecambe looked panic-stricken and disorganised at the back. As they conceded corner after corner, Louis Reed tried his luck with a long-range volley after 71 minutes which went wildly over the bar. But just two minutes later, the visitors were deservedly level as Kellett volleyed the ball home.
The hosts seemed belatedly shaken out of their torpor at this point and seemed to remember that they were obliged to at least try to compete if they are to win a game of football. But still Chesterfield created the better chances. If substitute Louis Doods had directed his unmarked header better instead of missing the target completely to his left after 87 minutes, they could - and almost certainly would - have won it. But he missed. Having said that, Morecambe also had a couple of half chances during the second half: Adam McGurk only just missed Ramsdale`s left post after an hour and substitute Gregg Wylde came even closer during injury time at the end of the game with a tremendous drive from the right side of the Spireite`s penalty area which fizzed just over the bar. But overall, Morecambe didn`t deserve to win: they were as ineffectual and complacent during the second half as they had been in total control during the first.
A single point for Chesterfield is probably too little too late: as their Manager had said before the game, nothing less than a win would do tonight. They must be commended for their spirit though: not only did they not lie down and die when two goals down; with a bit of luck they could have taken all three points. Hats Off to their fans as well: they were a credit to their club.
Morecambe were lucky tonight: they all but threw the game away. The result sees them remain in twentieth position, eight points ahead of tonight`s opponents who remain bottom with games running out. Chesterfield`s run-in to the end of the season couldn`t be much more demanding. They still have to play FGR at the New Lawn and - irony of all ironies - could finish their career as an EFL club with the team which is most likely to accompany them out of the League in their final match of the season at the Hive against Barnet on May 5th.
Morecambe: 12 Danijel Nizic; 2 Aaron McGowan; 4 Alex Kenyon (Y) (8 Andy Fleming 45 mins); 5 Steven Old; 6 Dean Winnard; 7 Garry Thompson (Y); 14 Luke Conlan; 24 Michael Rose (C); 11 Kevin Ellison (9 Vadaine Oliver 81 mins); 28 Adam McGurk (21 Gregg Wylde 64 mins); 29 Callum Lang.
Subs not used: 20 Niall Maher; 10 Adam Campbell; 15 Aaron Wildig; 16 Sam Lavelle.
Chesterfield: 1 Aaron Ramsdale; 20 Laurence Maguire; 33 Alex Whitmore; 22 Drew Talbot (C); 44 Jacob Brown (Y); 27 Bradley Barry (17 George Smith 45 mins); 28 Robbie Weir (10 Chris O`Grady 45 mins); 26 Jak McCourt (19 Louis Dodds 51 mins); 25 Louis Reed; 9 Kristian Dennis; 24 Andy Kellett.
Subs not used: 12 Joe Anyon; 15 Joe Rowley; 35 Sid Nelson; 41 Zavon Hines.