Date: 9th February 2019 at 5:30pm
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It’s Enough To Drive You To Drink…

Bury arrived in North Lancashire today sitting in third position in the League Two table. They had won three of their last five games and drawn two. Morecambe, on the other hand, had drawn three and lost two. The visitors’ form meant that just two teams lay between them and the pinnacle of the Division: Mansfield and leaders Lincoln City. At the other end, Morecambe also had a two-team cushion between themselves and the yawning trapdoor through which relegation and the National League beckons: Macclesfield and Notts County. The ongoing trials and tribulations of the Shrimps off the field have been well documented but today’s visitors are themselves no strangers to controversy away from the pitch. The club survived a winding-up order on behalf of HM Revenue and Customs this very week by making a very late payment of monies owed but at the hearing in London, evidence was presented to the Court that two other companies are jointly owed £27,000 by the club. Either one or both of these companies could apply for a winding-up order at any time, which means that the club is not out of the financial woods quite yet and will be back on Court on March 13th. On the field, however, there has been more positive news for the Shakers with boss Ryan Lowe being named Manager of the Month by the EFL this week and midfielder Jay O’Shea getting the award for Player of the Month. Whatever trouble the club might be in as far as money is concerned, they obviously have some pretty progressive ideas as far as interactions with their own fanbase are concerned. For instance, they have someone called an SLO: a Supporters Liaison Officer. What does this person do?

What a good idea. We could do with something like that. Anyway, Morecambe’s record against Bury before today was absolutely even: seven games won by both sides and three drawn. This includes last September’s match at Gigg Lane, where the Shrimps lost 3-2. Morecambe’s hopes of reversing this result today were hopefully increased by the signing of two players on loan before the Transfer Window slammed shut just over a week ago. Ex-Leyton Orient striker, nineteen-year-old Sam Dalby, has arrived from Leeds United. Meanwhile, veteran winger Pietro Mingoia was persuaded to leave Accrington Stanley until the end of the season as well to shore-up Jim Bentley’s injury-hit squad. The latest bit of bad news on this front concerned Vadaine Oliver: an operation needed to repair damaged cartilage in the striker’s right knee means he will be unavailable for selection for at least two months. The postponement of the game last Saturday at Oldham, however, has given Manager Jim Bentley time to work on the fitness of his remaining players and integrate the newcomers into his squad. From the fans’ point of view, those of us who still stand to watch proceedings have been making a fuss for months about the length of time it takes to get served food – and particularly alcohol – at half time. Today marked the start of a scheme where supporters could pre-order drinks before the game and collect them at half time, ready poured and waiting for them. The first question was – would it work? The second one was: would Shrimps’ fans actually be in need of a stiff drink by half time?

They would. It had been sunny but really windy before the game kicked-off with storm damage to the nearby Art Deco classic Midland Hotel overnight. After a minute’s silence in memory of Cardiff City player Emiliano Sala, Morecambe kicked off and debutant  Pietro Mingoia Pietro Mingoia caught the eye for the hosts in the early stages. After five minutes, he made good progress down the right before sending over a low cross which Kevin Ellison – on the stretch – headed wide. A minute later, he won a free kick for the Shrimps which Jordan Cranston put on Sam Lavelle’s head but the central defender headed well over.  After ten minutes, Kev tried to return the favour to his new team-mate with a cross from the left but Scott McFadzean did well for the visitors to nip in with a well-timed header to end the threat.  Bury, in an all-blue strip, began to look threatening on the counter-attack. After a quarter of an hour, McFadzean was the recipient of a good ball from Byron Moore but was unable to get a decent shot off. Shortly afterwards, with seventeen minutes on the clock, the visitors took the lead. Nicky Maynard and Moore combined well to set-up Moore to run at the Morecambe goal and draw a good save from Mark Halstead. The ball ran loose and Moore kept going, reached it before anyone else and pulled it back for an unmarked Danny Mayor to slam it home. The visitors sat back after this and Morecambe had quite a lot of possession but did very little with it to threaten the visitors’ goal. Ex-Shaker Andrew Tutte caused Joe Murphy to field a fairly routine cross after half an hour but the visitors fashioned the next good chance shortly afterwards when Moore controlled the ball well on the Bury right and slipped it to Jay O’Shea. The Bury man turned and curled a shot only just wide of Halstead’s right-hand post. Thirty-three minutes saw Moore active on the Bury right again – this time, he received a ball from O’Shea and passed it to Nicky Maynard. He took a shot but Halstead had narrowed the angle and managed to get a hand to it to deflect the shot away from danger. Just before half time, Morecambe lost two more players to injury. Sam Lavelle looked as if he might have damaged his hamstring as he limped off and Tutte then hurt himself stretching to block a shot from his former team-mates. One of the first things Steven Old – Sam’s replacement – did was to blindly pass the ball in the general direction of his own goalkeeper. Had he looked first, he would have seen O’Shea lurking in the danger zone: the Player of the Month gladly accepted the gift and slammed the ball home to make it two-nil to the visitors in the third minute of stoppage time and send their very vociferous travelling fans into ecstasy.

The Shrimps have an unwelcome recent habit of playing far better in the second period of games then they do in the first. There was no sign of this at least initially as the match restarted. The Shakers applied all the pressure early on with Halstead by far the busier of the two goalkeepers. After an hour, the visitors went even further ahead. Danny Mayor showed strength and determination to run into the Morecambe defence and then picked-out O’Shea on the right, who slammed the ball home brilliantly to make it a brace for himself on the day. Morecambe had a golden opportunity to get back into the game after 64 minutes when Referee Anthony Backhouse ruled that Richie Bennett was tripped in the Bury penalty area. But the Shrimps missed their second penalty in a row when Murphy kept-out Cranston’s spot-kick by diving to his right. Unfortunately for the Bury keeper, though, Bennett was quickest to react to his save and swept the ball past him to reduce the arrears. Five minutes later, Morecambe reduced the arrears even further. Old went some way towards atoning for his earlier error when he headed Cranston’s corner powerfully home to give the Shrimps and their fans belated hopes of getting something out of the match. But it wasn’t to be: the visitors probably just about shaded the rest of the play; Murphy was never seriously tested again and O’Shea could have made it a hat-trick in injury time, when Halstead again denied him.

Bury are a good side, there’s no doubt about that. But this was another sloppy performance from Morecambe of which Steven Old’s mistake in the first half was pretty representative. They need to tighten things up collectively and come out of the blocks quicker if they are to stand any chance of escaping from the relegation zone. Macclesfield drew their home derby against Crewe to close the gap to just one point behind the Shrimps, albeit having played a game more. Notts County actually contrived to win away at Forest Green Rovers so they found themselves ending the day just four points behind Morecambe at the close of play. One of the best hopes for Jim Bentley’s men is the continuing poor form of Yeovil, who lost at home to Grimsby 1-3. But it’s never a good thing to be relying for survival on the hope that two other teams in the division are worse than we are…

Morecambe:  21 Mark Halstead; 2 Zak Mills (Y); 3 Luke Conlan (14 Sam Dalby 89 mins); 6 Andrew Tutte (19 Carlos Mendes-Gomes 48 mins); 14 Sam Lavelle (5 Steven Old 48 mins) ; 12 Ritchie Sutton; 11 Kevin Ellison; 4 Alex Kenyon (C); 7 Richie Bennett (Y); 27 Jordan Cranston; 26 Pietro Mingoia.

Subs not used: 13 Dawid Szczepaniak; 18 Rhys Oates; 25 Ben Hedley; 24 Paul McKay.

Bury: 1 Joe Murphy; 4 Will Aimson; 5 Adam Thompson; 7 Nicky Adams (C) (16 Ryan Cooney 79 mins); 10 Danny Mayor (6 Eoghan O’Connell 83 mins); 11 Jordan Rossiter; 15 Byron Moore(18 Dominic Telford 90 mins); 19 Scott Wharton; 21 Scott McFadzean; 26 Jay O’Shea (Y); 36 Nicky Maynard.

Subs not used: 43 Scott Maloney; 3 Chris Stokes; 27 Gold Omatayo; 31 Neil Danns.

Ref: Anthony Backhouse.

2665 (1086 from Bury)