Date: 26th December 2017 at 7:53pm
Written by:

It is a 290 mile round trip from Nottingham – which I assume is in Nottinghamshire but I`m sure I`ll quickly learn otherwise if I`ve got that wrong – to the north Lancashire seaside where Morecambe is situated. It may as well be a million miles as far as the fortunes of the two clubs are concerned. County have always had big ambitions – remember Sven, Sol et al from a few years back? Now, at long last, they seem to be fulfilling at least some of them. Since appointing Kevin Nolan as their manager in January of this year, the Magpies` fortunes have gone on a steeply upwards curve. Having already beaten the Shrimps 2-0 at Meadow Lane last September before Nolan was appointed, County have consolidated their position in the top echelons of the table with players such as former Shrimps` star Lewis Alessandra struggling to get into an already strong first team which includes household names such as Shola Ameobi. They arrived at the Globe Arena in second position in League Two, just four points behind leaders Luton Town. At the other end of the Universe, Morecambe kicked-off against their visitors just two points above bottom of the table Forest Green Rovers and Chesterfield, their companions in the mire at the wrong end of the EFL. The only hope that Jim Bentley`s team of journeymen, youngsters and players in the twilight of their careers had against a team seemingly destined for League One at the end of the season was that County have actually failed to win in the League throughout December, drawing all of their previous matches. The most notable of these was probably when they came back from 0-3 down at Meadow Lane last Saturday against Cambridge United. Jimbo would also be hoping that his team would do to his fellow-Scouser`s team what they have often done previously against supposedly superior teams. That is: play better than they have been doing against the teams around them at the bottom of the league.

It wasn`t to be. As the teams lined-up before kick-off, County were the noticeably bigger side. Their fluorescent yellow strips probably increased this impression. Once the match started, though, it was men against boys for the first half hour – and, to be honest, throughout most of the game. Notts didn’t seem particularly technically better than their opponents during most of that time. But they didn’t have to be. After ten minutes, the Shrimps needlessly gave the ball away on their left flank. Lewis Alessandra gratefully took off with it and slung a cross over which an unmarked Jorge Grant easily headed past an exposed Barry Roche to give the visitors the simplest of leads. As the home team kept playing the ball long for lone ex-County striker Vadaine Oliver to repeatedly flick on to nobody, the Magpies just had to wait for their next opportunity to come along. It duly arrived after twenty minutes. Goalkeeper Ross Fitzsimons took a free kick from his own half; someone in a bright yellow shirt headed it backwards and an unmarked Alessandra duly smashed it past his former team-mate Roche to put the visitors two-nil up. Morecambe actually played better after that and probably shaded the possession for a while. For what it`s worth: and despite the occasional clever patterns and a wild shot by Fleming followed by a header directly at Fitzsimons by the same player, it was worth precisely nothing as far as points on the scoreboard were concerned.

The second half followed a similar pattern although at no point were Morecambe ever as near to being fluent as they had been in the first. You just had the impression that Notts were simply coasting. Garry Thompson – who is older than the opposition`s Manager – had a half chance against his former team after 51 minutes but was unable to shake off two defenders and saw a relatively tame shot easily handled by the visiting goalkeeper eventually. Nottingham scored again after an hour following more sloppy play by the home side. Not for the first time during the game, Steven Old`s header went straight to a visiting player in the shape of Elliot Hewitt on this occasion. He passed to Jon Stead who played-in Grant to put County three-up. Even at this point, it could have been more: Baz had done brilliantly to keep out a header from Grant just four minutes earlier. With the away team treating this encounter as a practice match, Alessandra again came back to haunt his old team after 85 minutes when he found himself unmarked right in the centre of the Shrimps` penalty area. Baz again denied his first shot with a tremendous reaction save but Lewis slammed the rebound past him to make the score nil-four to the visitors. It could have been eight; ten – god knows how many if County had decided to really go for it. The only solace for Morecambe fans was a sublime goal in injury time for Callum Lang. The young substitute found himself on the left edge of the Notts` penalty area from his point of view and curled a perfect shot right into Fitzsimon`s top left hand corner. Overall, however, this was a toothless, disjointed and gutless performance from the men in red. With the New Year almost upon us, the question for most Shrimps` supporters is: will the club still be in the EFL this time next year? The answer – on the basis of this performance at least – is very definitely only if there are two poorer teams in League Two. Chesterfield and Barnet also lost today and FGR`s game at Exeter was rained off. So Morecambe remain in twenty-second position but for the grace of other team`s marginally worse form. At the other end of the table, a universe and at least 145 miles away, Notts consolidate their berth in second position in the Division with this double over a very poor Morecambe side.

Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 2 Aaron McGowan; 5 Steven Old; 16 Sam Lavelle; 4 Alex Kenyon (C) (11 Kevin Ellison 66 mins); 14 Luke Conlan; 9 Vadaine Oliver; 8 Andy Fleming; 10 Adam Campbell (27 Luke Jordan 80 mins); 7 Garry Thompson (29 Callum Lang 66 mins) 21 Elliot Osborne.

Subs not used: 12 Danijel Nizic; 22 Max Muller; 14 Luke Conlan; 24 Michael Rose;

Notts County: 34 Ross Fitzsimons; 19 Nicky Hunt; 16 Shaun Brisley (33 Pierce Bird 87 mins); 5 Richard Duffy (C)(26 Callum Saunders 78 mins); 23 Daniel Jones; 20 Liam Walker; 4 Elliott Hewitt; 22 Ryan Yates; 10 Jorge Grant; 30 Jon Stead (17 Alan Smith 78 mins); 7 Lewis Alessandra.

Subs not used: 13 Branislav Pindroch; 2 Matt Tootle; 3 Carl Dickinson; 11 Terry Hawkridge.
Ref: Seb Stockbridge