Date: 10th March 2018 at 5:37pm
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Morecambe visited the Checkatrade Stadium in Sussex today to face the Crawley Town team managed by former Australian International and Premiership star Harry Kewell which won at the Globe Arena last October. Whereas Crawley were eleventh in League Two prior to today`s contest, the visitors, by contrast, were ten places lower with a nervous eye on those teams around them in the basement of the EFL. Following their one-nil midweek defeat at old Nemesis Accrington, boss Jim Bentley indentified two key elements to running a successful football team. First of all, he said, you need luck. `Neutrals` in the ground suggested to him after the local derby that although Dean Winnard certainly fouled Stanley`s Kayden Jackson to concede the decisive penalty, they also insisted that Jackson had fouled Winnard immediately before the referee blew his whistle. So – Jim suggested – a free-kick to the Shrimps was as likely an outcome as a spot-kick to the eventual winners. But luck would have it otherwise. Similarly, he suggested that `small margins` made the difference between winning and losing. He suggested that if Billy Kee had been playing for his team rather than Accrington, for instance, Morecambe would have won. So what would be the key lucky breaks or otherwise today? By what small margins would victory or defeat be decided?

Crawley`s recent form has been fairly patchy, with three wins during February but also defeats against Forest Green Rovers and a bit of a tonking at leaders Luton, who beat them 4-1. Their previous record against the Lancashire club was also slightly inferior, with two wins and two draws against three defeats.

The game started with the Reds of Crawley looking the brighter of the two sides in the opening minutes. Enzio Blodewijn had the first effort on goal but his weak attempt after four minutes was easily handled by visiting goalkeeper Barry Roche. Impressive Plymouth loanee Glenn Wylde had the first effort for the Shrimps five minutes later, cutting in from the right and unleashing a tremendous shot which namesake Morris in the home goal was obliged to push away for a corner. Kevin Ellison then cheekily tried to lob Town`s goalkeeper – who he had spotted way off his line – after about a quarter of an hour but his audacious volley from about 40 yards out was not quite on target. The nearest thing to a goal so far, however, arrived after 28 minutes when the dangerous-looking Lewis Young was allowed to maraud down the Crawley right and float over a cross which Sam Lavelle did brilliantly to acrobatically clear off the Morecambe goal line with his own goalkeeper all at sea. Blodewijn tried his luck again four minutes later but his powerful shot flew way over the bar and just a minute later, another excellent cross from Young was only just too high for Captain Jimmy Smith to connect with in front of goal. Down the other end, there was a shout for a penalty a few minutes later when Kevin Ellison might have been fouled in Town`s box but Referee Brendan Malone was unmoved. That was about it. Both sides constantly gave the ball away and there was little quality from either team and even less goalmouth action. So the half fizzled out with the match scoreless and neither side really dominating the play for significant periods.

Wylde had the first attempt of the second period after just two minutes but his shot from outside the penalty area missed the target. Big Bazza redeemed himself after some uncertainty dealing with crosses during the first 45 minutes by getting two hands to a fierce shot by Smith from a long way out with 48 minutes played. He did even better to keep out Young`s thunderbolt from fifteen yards with 66 minutes on the clock and Lavelle was in the way of another tremendous strike by Karlan Ahearne-Grant eight minutes later. The best chance of the entire game so far, however, fell to the visitors. With just four minutes still scheduled to play, Andy Fleming unleashed a fantastic shot which crashed against the Town bar, bounced off and hit Gregg Morris on the back before bouncing away to safety. However, any suspicions that Lady Luck was with Crawley today was dispelled when Callum Lang scored a tremendous goal for the Morecambe Reds, taking the ball coolly round the home goalkeeper and slotting it into the back of the net. This happened in injury time right at the end of the game. But to Jim Bentley`s inexpressible frustration, Town saved the day for themselves when Aherne-Grant was allowed to sneak in at the back post and bundle home Dannie Bulman`s cross just a minute later. Was this luck or was it poor concentration right at the death? In truth, a draw was probably a fair result in a game of very poor quality.

Elsewhere, Grimsby managed to also draw at home against fellow strugglers Port Vale today. Crewe fought back from 2-0 down at Stevenage to finally redeem a point as well. Barnet lost again and Chesterfield were beaten at home once more, this time after leading for much of the game against Lincoln. Forest Green also lost at home so although Morecambe found themselves in the same position at the end of the day as they had been at the start of it, they did better than the majority of their nearest rivals. At the top of League Two, Accrington Stanley won at previous leaders Luton to pinch top spot from them. Who scored the winning goal? The aforementioned Billy Kee did. Jim Bentley can only fantasise about signing players of his undoubted quality, but he will probably be relieved that his own squad didn`t lose as well today – whether luck, small margins or something else had anything to do with it or not…

Crawley Town: 1 Glenn Morris; 2 Lewis Young; 3 Josh Doherty; 4 Josh Payne (Y) (5 Joe McNerney 84 mins); 6 Mark Connolly (Y); 7 Enzio Blodewijn; 8 Jimmy Smith (C); 9 Karlan Ahearne-Grant; 15 Josh Yorwerth (Y); 21 Dannie Bulman; 25 Mark Randall (28 Panutche Camara 63 mins).

Subs not used: 12 Yusuf Mersin; 22 Josh Lelan; 17 Aliu Djalo; 20 Aryan Tajbakhsh; 27 Moussa Sanoh.

Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 6 Dean Winnard; 2 Aaron McGowan; 16 Sam Lavelle (Y); 15 Aaron Wildig (29 Callum Lang (Y) 64 mins); 24 Michael Rose (C); 8 Andy Fleming; 28 Adam McGurk; 14 Luke Conlan; 21 Gregg Wylde (7 Garry Thompson 64 mins); 11 Kevin Ellison (10 Adam Campbell 77 mins).

Subs not used: 12 Danijel Nizic; 4 Alex Kenyon; 17 Mitchell Lund; 9 Vadaine Oliver.

Ref: Brendan Malone.