Date: 23rd April 2016 at 5:09pm
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Stevenage arrived at the Globe Arena on Saturday safe in the knowledge that last Tuesday’s 0-0 draw with Bristol Rovers ensured the club’s Football League status for next season at least. They have had a torrid time and the sacking of Terry Sheringham on February 1st arguably has been the turning-point of Boro`s season. But Caretaker Manager Darren Sarll could have been speaking for either of the clubs who met today when he said before the game: ‘It’s a little bit of pressure off us now. I think we can look with a longer-term view in the type of sides we put out in relation to what we want to achieve next year’.
Not a million miles from Stevenage on Tuesday night, Morecambe went down to their biggest hiding ever in the Football League, losing 7-0 to a fairly ordinary Cambridge side who even Shrimps` Manager Jim Bentley admitted after the massacre could have scored even more goals on the night. By his own admission, this is the lowest point for Morecambe`s long-serving Manager and he must realise that at most other clubs in the League and elsewhere, he would probably already be looking for alternative employment after the string of poor results this calendar year and the occasional uncharacteristic outburst live on the radio in recent times.
So today`s encounter was important to both teams – and both Managers – if only to make a statement of intent for next season.
This game was a reflection of Morecambe`s entire season so far: promising at the beginning; suicidal in the middle and eventually hopeless and disjointed at the end. It started well enough for the hosts, who went ahead after 20 minutes when a firm header by Chris Doyle from Jamie Devitt`s cross following a corner was apparently flicked over the Stevenage line by Tranmere loanee Cole Stockton. But signs of things to come followed shortly afterwards when returning goalkeeper Barry Roche did brilliantly to stop Fraser Franks` header and even better to saved Luke Wilkinson`s follow-up shot. Despite this, the Shrimps` lead didn`t last long and after 38 minutes, Alan Goodall inexplicably headed a corner from Stevenage past his own goalkeeper when under no pressure whatsoever from any Boro players. In due course, the visitors took the lead: goalkeeper Jamie Jones caught the ball from a Morecambe corner and swiftly and accurately threw it to out to Greg Luer who raced up the field on a classic counter-attack from which Dean Parratt shot past Roche from the centre of the penalty area. So the visitors went in at half time one goal to the good.
They should have gone further ahead after six minutes of the re-start when Luer found himself unmarked and ahead of the Shrimps` defence only to miss the target quite badly when he should have done a lot better. Morecambe had a chance to equalise after 55 minutes when Tom Barkhuizen was cleverly played-in by Aaron Wildig but he was as wasteful with his chance as Luer had been earlier and blasted the ball high and wide. Things got worse for the home supporters when Parratt scored again after seventy minutes with a powerful shot from within the penalty area. And still the visitors weren`t finished: Boro hit Morecambe on the counter-attach again with just four minutes scheduled to play and Tom Pett slipped the ball to Ben Kennedy who unerringly placed it past Roche with his left foot.
Before the game, Stevenage and Newport were the only teams to lie between the Shrimps and the trapdoor to oblivion which penultimate and last place in League Two represent. After the game, only Newport remained to cushion them from relegated York and seemingly doomed Dagenham. Stevenage`s win propelled them into nineteenth position.
So the crisis at Morecambe continues without any sign of a solution. Fewer than 1300 supporters turned-up to watch this latest reversal at home – a gate which is lower than virtually any other League club; almost a third of what it once was before the move to the Globe and – perhaps just as alarmingly – is exceeded by many teams in the National League who are queuing-up to take the places of badly-run outfits who seemingly have no strategy for the present, let alone any plan for the future. Morecambe Football Club is in freefall and up for sale and most of the promises made when the move was made from Christie Park five years ago by the owner have come to nothing. Jim Bentley can`t help but be concerned for his own future as well as that of the club. Morecambe have got away with it this season – but if they play like they have done this year next term, there`s only one of two places they will end-up: relegated for the first time ever back into the Non-League World or – worse still – possibly even out of business altogether?
Ref: Oliver Langford