Date: 1st April 2017 at 5:13pm
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Cheltenham have had a torrid time since their brief foray into the non-league wilderness ended last season. They found themselves just one place and a bare four points ahead of improving Newport County before Saturday`s League Two match against Morecambe and nervously looking over their shoulders at the Welsh club who – unlike seemingly doomed Leyton Orient – still have a slight chance of retaining their hard fought for EFL place.

Morecambe arrived in the Midlands on the back of a crisis of their own. Off the field, staff and players were paid late for the third time this season as the wrangle about who actually owns the football club drags its expensive way through the Courts. On the field, the Shrimps lost every game they played during March and were facing their seventh defeat in a row prior to kick-off.
The Robins had the first chance on a heavy pitch after five minutes when Dan Holman went on a mazy run through the visitors` defence which finally came to nothing. Four minutes later, Holman tried his luck again with a shot which Aaron McGowan blocked brilliantly only for Danny Wright`s resulting header to bounce over the bar. At the other end though, Paul Mullin was brought down by Jordan Cranston after twelve minutes and Michael Rose stepped up to take the resulting penalty only for Scott Brown in the Robins’ goal to pull off a magnificent stop to deny him.The Robins went straight down to the other end and Barry Roche produced his customary miraculous save to keep out a fantastic shot from the aptly-named Carl Winchester. It was the Shrimps` turn next when they appealed unsuccessfully for another penalty when Wright seemed to block a volley with his shoulder after eighteen minutes. Then Pell went on a good run down the wing again and sent over a tempting cross which none of his team mates were anywhere near only for Kevin Ellison to let fly with a shot after twenty-nine minutes which only just missed the far post. With thirty-three minutes on the clock, Rose carelessly gave the ball away, Cranston took off unchallenged down the Cheltenham left and slung the ball over to Harry Pell who took the opportunity of a poor response from Alex Whitmore to head the ball past a helpless Roche at the far post to put the league strugglers one-nil up. A mere minute later, Wright had another header, this time from fifteen yards, which went only just wide of the Morecambe post. So the third poorest team in League Two went in one-nil up at half time and the visitors only had themselves to blame for the deficit.

It quickly went from bad to worse in the second half for the Shrimps. Alex Kenyon – freshly returned from injury and already booked in the first half – was sent-off for the second time this season against Cheltenham when he handled the ball on the Morecambe goal line within two minutes of the re-start. Unlike Rose at the other end earlier, Wright made absolutely no mistake from the spot-kick, smashing the ball high into the top corner of the net to give Roche no chance at all. On April Fool`s Day, Morecambe continued to play the role of the village idiot when they went even further behind after 57 minutes when Pell`s powerful free-kick went straight through their poorly-formed defensive wall and whistled past their bemused Irish goalkeeper into the back of the net. With just ten men, the visitors struggled ever more as the game grew older but they did occasionally take the game to the opposition. Cheltenham were lucky after seventy-six minutes, for instance, when Manny Onariase headed a cross against his own bar to see the ball bounce off the line and away. Their luck ran out when the Shrimps finally managed to reduce the deficit – albeit with an own goal by William Boyle – after 78 minutes. The goal encouraged the visitors and even with a man down, they started to boss things towards the end of the contest as the Robin`s new-found self-confidence seemed to visually evaporate. Sixteen year old Kyle Hawley was given his first experience of League Football during the dying minutes but try as they might, the Shrimps has created for themselves a mountain too steep to climb and ended up losing three-one.

So it is now zero points out of a possible twenty-one for Jim Bentley`s team. This is the second season in a row that Morecambe have gone on a disastrous run of form towards the end of term. But now – as then – they have probably already done enough to survive until next season, which will be their tenth in the Football League- if the club still exists, that is. The Usual Suspects will be baying for the manager`s head but I think he should be given the freedom of Morecambe and environs for his unstinting efforts to keep a basket case such as Morecambe Football Club going at all. It may be April Fool`s Day today but the way the club has been run off the pitch must make Big Jim think it`s been April Fool`s Year as far as the hand he has been dealt has been concerned so far. The loss saw Morecambe fall to twentieth in the table, just a place but four precious points ahead of Cheltenham, who went up to twenty-first.

Cheltenham: 1 Scott Brown; 27 Carl Winchester; 23 Manny Onariase; 15 William Boyle (Y); 17 Jordan Cranston; 7 Harry Pell; 18 James Rowe (21 James Dayton (Y) 87 mins); 4 Kyle Storer (C); 8 Billy Waters (33 Liam Davis 75 mins); 9 Danny Wright; 30 Dan Holman (Y).

Subs not used: 2 Jack Barthram; 19 Kyle Wootton; 22 Rhys Lovett; 32 Tin Plavotic.

Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 6 Dean Winnard (C) (Y); 5 Ryan Edwards; 16 Alex Whitmore; 3 Aaron McGowan (22 Kyle Hawley 86 mins); 24 Michael Rose; 4 Alex Kenyon (R); 10 Lee Molyneux (8 Peter Murphy 55 mins); 15 Aaron Wildig (21 Antony Evans 78 mins); 11 Kevin Ellison; 7 Paul Mullin (Y).

Subs not used: 12 Danijel Nizic; 2 Liam Wakefield; 17 Andy Fleming.

Referee: Gavin Ward