Date: 28th October 2017 at 9:54pm
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Off the field, Morecambe Football Club have had another very trying week, with claim and counter-claim being posted by the various factions involved in the on-going melodrama concerning who actually owns the thing. As further rumours about whether or not the staff would be paid on time swirled around the internet, the team made its way to the smallest community ever to have supported a Football League club in the shape of Nailsworth of Gloucestershire (population: 5,800) to confront the growing crisis on it. Their opponents – Vegan, Right-On and Environmentally Friendly Forest Green Rovers – were in the relegation zone when the Shrimps arrived from North Lancashire today. But if they continued their recent form – two wins on the spin – and made it three, Forest would swap positions with today`s visitors. So for both clubs concerned, this really was a crunch match which – even at this early stage of the season – could have a big influence on who sees themselves returning to the League the Green Devils emerged from just last season: the National one.

The game started on a sunny, relatively warm day in the Cotswolds with rural views from the ground – perched high above Nailsworth on the top of a steep hill – towards the rolling green countryside all around. The Shrimps started confidently and dominated the first twenty minutes or so. As the Morecambe fans chanted “There`s only one Rod Taylor!” in support of the only member of the club`s Board who seems to be prepared to stick his head above the parapet these days, Andy Fleming played-in Vadaine Oliver with a clever pass down the right only for Bradley Collins to rush from his goal and smother the ball after two minutes. Although the visitors were dominating the possession, you did start to wonder if the away team had any alternative to Plan A: a succession of long balls aimed at their overworked centre forward. After just nine minutes, Aaron Wildig made his displeasure known to his team-mates that he had no options to select from as he crossed the half way line with the ball at his feet on a counter-attack. With Reece Brown looking impressive for the Green Devils, the home team had their first attack after ten minutes and their first serious effort when a long-range shot from Drissa Traore narrowly missed Barry Roche`s right hand post almost ten minutes later. Up the other end, Morecambe showed that they had a Plan B after all when Adam McGurk had his effort blocked by the Forest defence after seventeen minutes. Straight after this, Wildig found himself unmarked to the right of the Devils` penalty area but hit a shot over the bar when he could have steadied himself and done better. With almost twenty minutes on the clock, Steven Old produced yet another header from a Morecambe corner but his effort went tamely wide of the Forest goal to its left. The best move of the first half arrived ten minutes before half time though – Fleming`s excellent 30 yard pass from the left flank went to the onrushing Aaron McGowan on the right who outstripped Scott Laird and swung in a cross which Jack Fitzwater cleared off the line at the expense of a corner. From this, Old headed the ball down eventually to tee-up Oliver whose shot slammed against Collin`s right-hand post but bounced away to safety. At the other end three minutes later, Alex Iacovitti hammered the ball from the left side of the Morecambe penalty area from his point of view only to see a rising shot only just clear the bar. But after 28 minutes, Morecambe`s Achilles Heel was exposed yet again this season when a corner taken from the Forest Green right finally found its way to the unchallenged Keanu Marsh-Brown, who had time to pick his spot and stick the ball in the back of the net with a well-placed shot. As some of the away supporters began to shout abuse at their own players, Forest Green had the next chance as well when Roche managed to turn a shot he knew little about from Christian Doidge away for a corner more by luck than judgement. But his own luck ran out as this corner was taken when he was injured trying to push it away and needed prolonged treatment on the field. Although the big Irishman soldiered-on until beyond half time – earning a very sporting round of applause from the home fans – he had to come off during the second half. So the away team went in at half time a goal down with an injured goalie and a pronounced silence from the uncovered West stand, where all their supporters were gathered.

Few of these people applauded when the team re-took the field, which surely does not help their general morale. With about three minutes on the clock, Luke Conlan worked his way down the Morecambe left but his cross went straight into the goalkeeper`s gloves. Two minutes later, Old needlessly gave the ball away but the home team failed to take advantage. Down the opposite end, Andy Fleming looked as if he might have been impeded as goalkeeper Collins reached the ball before he could and fell on it. A seemingly tiring Oliver than made good progress down the Shrimps` left and slung over a cross which was cleared for a corner which required the Forest goalkeeper to punch clear. Roche finally went off in the 63rd minute and the first thing replacement Danijel Nizic had to do was pick the ball out of the Morecambe net. The visitors were caught napping for the second time from a set-piece: Laird took a free kick which Doidge seemed to help on its way to putting the Gloucester team two-nil to the good. After that, the game deteriorated into a pretty scrappy and aimless contest. Having said that though, Forest Green came closer to extending their lead than Morecambe ever did to reducing it and if it wasn`t for an excellent save from Nizic to deny Brown after his defence had yet again given the ball away with three minutes left to play, the defeat would have been even heavier. Most alarmingly from the Shrimps` point of view, however, was their failure to put any sustained pressure on a Forest Green side who looked short of confidence themselves and were certainly vulnerable at the back. Kevin Ellison came on after his three-match ban for most of the second half and Garry Thompson also appeared during the closing minutes of the game – but neither player had any significant impact on the game and Kev`s contribution, very sadly, was precisely nil. The Shrimps looked beaten from the moment they conceded the first goal and trooped off to even more abuse from some of their own supporters. This was a wretched display by any measure and at the end of the game, they found themselves swapping places with their hosts and falling into the relegation positions.

So a typically acrimonious and unpleasant week off the field was finished-off by a pretty hopeless display on it during which – for the third game in a row – they failed to put the ball in the net. For Morecambe Football Club, things have rarely looked bleaker and unless Jim Bentley finds a way to motivate players who looked short of confidence right across the team today, their tenth season in the Football League might very well prove to also be their final one.

Forest Green Rovers: 1 Bradley Collins; 2 Dale Bennett; 3 Scott Laird; 4 Drissa Traore (11 Omar Bugiel 79 mins) ; 5 Lee Collins; 7 Keanu Marsh-Brown (6 Manny Monthe 79 mins); 9 Christian Doidge; 10 Reece Brown; 16 Jack Fitzwater; 20 Alex Iacovitti; 34 Isiah Osbourne.

Subs Not Used: 24 Harry Pickering; 19 Will Randall; 21 Mark Roberts; 25 Ben Hedley; 33 Luke James.

Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche (12 Danijel Nizic 63 mins); 22 Max Muller; 5 Steven Old; 4 Alex Kenyon (11 Kevin Ellison 53 mins); 2 Aaron McGowan; 24 Michael Rose (C); 8 Andy Fleming; 14 Luke Conlan (Y); 15 Aaron Wildig (Y) (7 Garry Thompson 74 mins); 28 Adam McGurk; 9 Vadaine Oliver.
Subs Not Used: 3 Patrick Brough; 16 Sam Lavelle; 21 Elliot Osborne; 29 Callum Lang.
Ref: Charles Breakspear