Ref: Scott Oldham
Morecambe`s record against Crewe Alexandra was pretty even before tonight`s crucial clash at the Globe Arena. Out of eight previous contests, they have won three and drawn one. For ex-Shrimps` central defender Dave Artell – currently in charge at Gresty Road – three straight defeats and no less than eight reverses on the road in a row have precipitated a crisis at the club. Dave led by example as a player and has always been a straight talker. His club were twenty-second in League Two before tonight`s match, just three points ahead of Barnet and four better-off than rock bottom Chesterfield. He assessed this predicament thus: ‘We have to get out ourselves out of the mire. It’s win some games, or oblivion.” Yes – `oblivion`: that`s a pretty strong word isn`t it? “There’s no point me harping on about the referee or the state of the pitch. It’s our mental state on a matchday. I’ve been in positions like this as a player. It takes every single one of you to work your socks off every single day and give everything you can. You’ve got to believe.’
Opposite number and former team-mate Jim Bentley must have hoped that Crewe were not about to experience the Forest Green Rovers Effect which his men have seemingly undergone since losing at the New Lawn at the end of last month. Morecambe have won three and drawn one of their four matches since then. Last Saturday, Alex succumbed during injury time 3-2 in a bad tempered contest at the same venue having twice been in the lead. It`s a cliché to talk about six pointers but if any contest truly deserves this description, tonight`s clash must be the one. At the start of play, Morecambe were just two places and a single point ahead of their opponents. With Barnet playing at Newport and Chesterfield entertaining FGR at the same time, Musical Chairs at the bottom of the table was very much in vogue this evening. But who would be the last club in the standings when the Fat Lady sings for the last time tonight?
It rained incessantly throughout daylight hours by the side of the Irish Sea in North Lancashire today and the match started on a sodden, heavy pitch with the rain still being blown across the ground. Fewer than one thousand people braved these conditions to witness tonight`s contest: Morecambe`s lowest ever crowd in the EFL.
The hosts had the first chance of the evening, skipper Alex Kenyon sending a pin-point cross over to Garry Thompson at the far past. Unmarked and with the goal at his mercy, Thommo somehow contrived to head the ball well wide of the target. With Aaron McGowan forced to leave the field injured after just twelve minutes, the Shrimps had to re-organise their defence early on but they looked the more threatening of the two teams particularly down the flanks during the opening twenty minutes or so. With Barry Roche a spectator at one end of the field, the next chance fell to Vadaine Oliver but, clearly off-balance, he belted the ball well over the bar with twenty-one minutes on the clock. The visitors` first effort to challenge the hosts` dominance took half an hour to arrive when Perry Ng took a shot from a long way out which went nowhere near the target. Morecambe had the next proper chance as well when Kevin Ellison took a shot with his weaker right foot after 31 minutes which seemed to hit a Crewe defender before it cannoned back off the crossbar. But the Railwaymen responded by fashioning their first decent chance of the match two minutes later when Chris Dagnell did well under pressure to get a shot away which narrowly missed the Morecambe post. Ellison then came even closer to opening the scoring on the night when he unleashed one of his thunderbolt specials after 40 minutes which hammered against the post with Crewe keeper Dave Richards powerless to do anything about it before the ball bounced away to safety from his point of view. But the Cheshire team had the final say of the first half when they fashioned another chance right at the death: Dagnell did well to keep the ball in play and passed to Ng, who set-up Eddie Nolan only for the ex-Preston man to strike the ball wildly and high over the bar.
The first chance of the second half fell to the Shrimps when Adam McGurk made space for himself after 55 minutes and unleashed a shot which Richards needed two attempts to get under control. At the other end, though, the visitors finally fashioned a really good chance – George Cooper had managed to bamboozle his way through the Shrimps` rearguard to set-up Chris Porter for an opportunity to pick his spot. But – probably reflecting the `mental state` his manager had bemoaned before the game – he sent a weak effort straight into Big Baz`s grateful hands by shooting straight at the goalkeeper after 66 minutes. Just two minutes later, Oliver again had a chance but once more failed to hit the target with a header from a tremendous cross from Patrick Brough who had made good progress down the wing. Substitute Callum Ainley made an instant impact for the visitors when he played-in Zoumana Bakayogo who again set-up Porter who once more failed to hit the target when well placed, spooning the ball over the bar from only ten yards out. That was after 77 minutes but the next chance fell to the Shrimps when substitute Aaron Wildig sent over a cross which Steven Old – attempting to replicate the goal he scored recently against Wycombe – headed wide. But the absolutely critical play of the night arrived in the eighty-fifth minute when Ng produced an unstoppable shot from over twenty yards out which flew straight into the back of the net to Roche`s left and registered what could prove to be a critical goal as far as all the teams struggling against relegation from the football league this term is concerned. It could have been even worse for the Shrimps when Baz then performed a miracle to keep out Lewis Reilly`s attempt from Porter`s low cross in the ninetieth minute. It made little difference to the final score though and Crewe managed to hang on to register their first away win in the EFL since August.
This was a simply disastrous result for the Shrimps and if anyone might be using the word `oblivion` after the game, it certainly wouldn`t be Dave Artell. With Chesterfield winning their second game in a row and Barnet beating Newport, the Shrimps found themselves right back in the mire at the end of the evening. They are in twenty-second position in League Two tonight, just a point above the Bees and a mere couple better off than the Chairboys. Jim Bentley must have felt even worse than the dreary weather as a result. With an away game at Carlisle on Saturday – where they traditionally have a very poor record – it is an understatement to say that he will have his work cut out to encourage his players to recover from this latest severe setback.
Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 2 Aaron McGowan (17 Mitchell Lund 12 mins); 16 Sam Lavelle; 5 Steven Old; 3 Patrick Brough; 4 Alex Kenyon (C); 8 Andy Fleming; 7 Garry Thompson (29 Callum Lang 75 mins); 9 Vadaine Oliver; 11 Kevin Ellison; 28 Adam McGurk (15 Aaron Wildig 62 mins).
Subs Not Used: 12 Danijel Nizic; 10 Adam Campbell; 22 Max Muller; 24 Michael Rose.
Crewe Alexandra: 13 Dave Richards; 2 Perry Ng (Y); 3 Zoumana Bakayogo; 12 Eddie Nolan; 4 Brad Walker; 18 Harry Pickering (28 Conor Grant 91 mins); 11 George Cooper (14 Callum Ainley 75 mins); 9 Chris Dagnell; 7 Chris Porter; 27 Sam Stubbs; 10 Jordan Bowery (24 Lewis Reilly 75 mins).
Subs not used: 1 Ben Garrett; 20 Charlie Kirk; 21 Oliver Finney; 22 Josh Lundstram.
Crewe`s Control Restored.
Ref: Scott Oldham