Duff Performance from Varney…
Morecambe travelled to Whaddon Road in Gloucestershire tonight following two straight wins which have pushed them into seventeenth position in League Two. This put them two places ahead of tonight’s hosts who – conversely – have lost both of their last two league games. The head-to-head record between Cheltenham and Morecambe easily favours the Robins, who have beaten the Shrimps nine times out of eighteen previous encounters, losing just four.
Ulsterman Michael Duff – poached from Burnley’s Under-23’s management team less than a month ago – has still to experience victory as the Robins’ boss. In an attempt to sharpen the Robins’ attack, tonight’s game saw the home debut of much-travelled striker Luke Varney. Could he help to end the new Manager’s duck in League Two?
The first half was not much to write home about with the home team probably shading things and Barry Roche in the Shrimps’ net the busier of the two goalkeepers during the first half hour. But with thirty-two minutes played, the visitors took the lead. Of all people, ex-Cheltenham defender Jordan Cranston – making a rare start for his new team – managed to squeeze a shot from an acute angle past Scott Flinders in the home goal. Varney had the next strike of any note and it wasn’t too far away but this happened after an injury to Morecambe key central defender Steven Old which forced him to leave the field with just 34 minutes on the clock. The debutant came close again after 41 minutes, forcing a fairly routine save from Big Baz with a header. But he finally hit the mark with a strike from close range just before half time following a header which set him up to score from strike partner Tyrone Barnett. So the first period ended level but with the visitors missing a key defender.
Against all odds, though, the visitors went ahead again after 54 minutes. Rhys Oates scored Morecambe’s equaliser against Grimsby last Saturday and he found the net again tonight after replacing Old in the first half. Lamine Jagne set him up for a shot from just outside the penalty area which beat Flinders to put the Lancashire team back into the lead. Jagne was instrumental a few minutes later when he was adjudged to have fouled Johnny Mullins from a corner after almost an hour. But star striker Barnett blasted his effort from the penalty spot over the bar and was promptly replaced as the Shrimps survived the scare. As the match wore on, the visitors started to make the better chances. Flinders denied Vadaine Oliver with ten minutes scheduled to play and Tom Field did brilliantly to stop Oates scoring his own second goal just a minute later. Roche had his hands warmed by a shot from substitute George Lloyd after 85 minutes. It looked like Morecambe were about to win their third game in a row until it all went wrong in the fourth minute of added-on time. New boy Varney scored his second of the night with a shot low past Big Baz to break the hearts of the forty loyal Shrimps fans watching on.
However, that’s three games unbeaten in a row for Jim Bentley and his team. More importantly perhaps, that’s six goals scored as well, four of them on the road. A point away from home is no small achievement and I’ve no doubt that the Shrimps’ boss would have settled for that before the game started. With Macclesfield drawing and Grimsby and Notts County winning elsewhere tonight, it was all-change at the bottom with Cambridge replacing the Mariners in the relegation positions. The draw leaves Morecambe in eighteenth place going into Saturday’s match against Tranmere, who beat leaders Lincoln on Merseyside this evening.
Cheltenham: 1 Scott Flinders; 23 Jordan Foster; 5 Johnny Mullins (C): 15 Will Boyce; 27 Tom Field (28 Kelsey Mooney 82 mins); 6 Nigel Atangana; 26 Chris Clements; 8 Kevin Dawson (3 Chris Hussey 68 mins); 20 Jacob Maddox; 32 Luke Varney; 29 Tyrone Barnett (19 George Lloyd 69 mins).
Subs not used: 22 Rhys Lovett; 4 Ben Tozer; 21 Aden Baldwin; 24 Kalvin Kalala.
Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche (C); 2 Zak Mills; 16 Sam Lavelle; 3 Luke Conlan; 14 Josef Yarney; 5 Steven Old (18 Rhys Oates 34 mins); 20 Lamine Jagne (6 Andrew Tutte 59 mins); 14 Liam Mandeville; 27 Jordan Cranston; 28 A-Jay Leitch-Smith (11 Kevin Ellison 78 mins) ; 9 Vadaine Oliver.
Subs not used: 21 Mark Halstead; 19 Carlos Mendes-Gomes; 12 Jason Oswell; 25 Ben Hedley.
Ref: Neil Hair.
2095 (40 from Morecambe)