Date: 26th December 2016 at 5:05pm
Written by:

Morecambe travelled to Field Mill on Boxing Day with a worse hangover than many of their fans might be experiencing after overdoing it at Xmas. The club, in the words of Manager Jim Bentley, is experiencing a crisis of unparalleled proportions both on and off the field. With the whereabouts of new(ish) owner Diego Lemos apparently unknown, the Financial Director resigned this week, claiming his position had become untenable because he had no contact with Senor Lemos and thus basically didn`t have a clue where the next penny to keep the club going would be coming from. His resignation triggered what was effectively an emergency Board Meeting later in the week but nothing tangible seems to have emerged from this other than a bland supplication that fans should keep behind the team. Big Jim has subsequently gone on record as saying “This is the worst it has been” and predicted that January 2017 “Is in my opinion going to be the biggest in the club`s history”. Some of the harbingers of doom on the club supporters` website, however, see this as a typically over-optimistic statement by the team Manager: they predict that the Mansfield Match will be the last the club ever plays and that Morecambe will be out of business and out of any sort of league by the end of this year – which means the end of this week.

With all this uncertainty and rumours of bankruptcy or at least Administration swirling about – and that neither he, the staff nor his players would be paid again this month and his best player (Tom Barkhuizen) already sold simply to balance the books, Big Jim still had an unenviable job to do on the field on Boxing Day.

Mansfield have a reputation as a no-nonsense physical outfit who take no prisoners at home. Newly-appointed Manager Steve Evans also has had a reputation for being a combative and sometimes abrasive personality down the years so any sympathy the Shrimps might be hoping for in their current plight would fall on stony ground in Derbyshire.

And on that stony ground, the play was scrappy during the early stages of the first half but the beleaguered visitors had the better of the early chances. Aaron McGowan was set-up for a clear shooting opportunity after a well rehearsed corner routine involving Michael Rose but blazed the ball just past the post after eleven minutes. But the visitors took the lead just two minutes later when Scott Shearer did well to save Peter Murphy`s shot after a tremendous run down the wing by Rhys Turner but was unable to hold it and Andy Fleming swept in the rebound. The Stags predictably threw the kitchen sink at the visitors after going behind, favouring lumping the ball to their big forwards and Darius Henderson had a header from a prone position after 23 minutes which was cleared off the Shrimps` line. Three minutes later, Ashley Hemmings lobbed another mortar onto the head of Matt Green and Barry Roche did really well to turn his attempt over the bar. Mansfield didn`t have things all their own way though and Lee Collins had to be alert to clear the danger after the ball had ricocheted around his penalty area after 29 minutes with Fleming again lurking with intent. The game continued to be scrappy and Rose`s weak free-kick – which tricked harmlessly down the wing and straight into touch in first half injury time – more or less summed it up. But Morecambe went back to the dressing rooms at half time with an all-important lead.

The home team came out and dominated the play with their muscular style for the first little while to no real effect in the second half and Morecambe showed themselves capable of catching them on the break such as when Krystian Pearce was forced to clear Rose`s dangerous cross away after 57 minutes and Shearer was finally able to clear Murphy`s effort at his second attempt five minutes later. From this incident, the home team swept up the field and Kyle Howkin`s powerful shot was blocked well by Roche only for newly-arrived substitute Danny Rose to clatter the rebound against the post to be scrambled away by the Shrimps` defence. But the game swung to the other end again and Turner made a characteristically brilliant run through the Stags` defence only to be thwarted firstly by Shearer and then by Jamie McGuire, who hacked the ball away at the expense of a corner after 68 minutes.

It was a tremendous rearguard action by the visitors during the second half and the Shrimps deservedly took all three points at the end of it all to move one place up the League Two table to be level with today`s opponents but with an inferior goal average. So on the field at least, the week finished well and the seventy-nine Shrimps’ stalwarts who travelled to Mansfield could look forward to a Happy New Year, regardless of the fate that lies in store for their club in the short or long term.

Mansfield Town: 1 Scott Shearer; 2 Rhys Bennett; 16 Kyle Howkins; 5 Krystian Pearce; 4 Lee Collins (C); 24 Jamie McGuire (20 Jack Thomas 77 mins); 8 Chris Clements (Y); 23 Ashley Hemmings; 10 Matt Green; 9 Pat Hoban (32 Danny Rose 61 mins); 34 Darius Henderson (22 CJ Hamilton 45 mins).
Subs not used: 12 Brian Jensen; 19 Mitch Rose; 11 James Baxendale; 14 Kevan Hurst.

Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 21 James Jennings; 5 Ryan Edwards; 6 Dean Winnard (Y); 3 Aaron McGowan; 8 Peter Murphy (C) (Y) 17 Andy Fleming (Y); 14 Luke Conlan; 24 Michael Rose; 18 Rhys Turner (7 Paul Mullin 76 mins); 11 Kevin Ellison (15 Aaron Wildig 83 mins).
Subs not used: 12 Danijel Nizic; 27 Luke Jordan; 19 Ntumba Massanka; 10 Lee Molyneux.
Ref: Mark Haywood