Date: 4th February 2017 at 5:19pm
Written by:

Doncaster Rovers once had a Chairman who planned to burn-down their old Belle Vue ground, declare the club bankrupt and sell-off the land in order to make a personal fortune for himself. His utterly brainless and almost comically incompetent method of doing this came to nothing, thankfully for everyone else concerned and he ended up in Prison. Since then, the club have moved and also moved up the divisions – from a non-League side to the Championship in only a few seasons. Their demise in recent times seems to be offset by their commanding position in League Two before today`s game at The Keepmoat Stadium right at the top of the table with a seven point lead over nearest rivals Plymouth.

How Morecambe fans must wish that their club can ape Rovers by emerging from their current turmoil to scale new heights in the future – if, indeed, there is any future for Morecambe FC.

Having sold the controlling share to a Brazilian who turned out to be the Invisible Man (the Board admit that they haven`t been able to contact Diego Lemos – who was supposed to be the owner of their club – since November last year), they have turned this week in their collective wisdom to an `Italian-American Businessman` by the name of Joseph Cala as their new-found saviour instead. Well – the new-found saviour of the club at least: part of the agreement with the Cala Corporation, apparently, is that they fulfil the new owner`s wishes and step-down en masse – those that haven`t already resigned, of course. Donald Trump would probably just say “You`re fired!” but Joseph Cala has been quoted as expressing this sentiment slightly differently, stating that he would buy the club `only exclusively if the Board resigned, because the problem in Morecambe is the Board.` Since the agreement for this Lemming-like action to abandon what many supporters feel is a slowly sinking ship, the Invisible Man has thrown a further spanner in the works by taking out a Court Injunction to prevent the sale of `his` club to a new owner. And all of this is being played-out against a background where a `tax consultant` in Durham is claiming to actually be the owner of a company called G50 Holdings and thus the actual owner of the Shrimps as well. Oh – and as if things weren`t complicated enough already, there have been rumours on the BBC that next week`s home game against Cambridge United might not go ahead because a separate company (PMG Leisure, which was set-up by former owner PMG a.k.a. Peter McGuigan) which owned some of the land around the club`s stadium and – crucially – the bit where the Matchday Control Area is sited – has gone into administration, giving Morecambe FC no right to actually use it anymore. Still with me? No – me neither: even Eastenders would turn down a script for a real-life Soap Opera like this one as too fanciful to be even vaguely believable…

Manager Jim Bentley`s announcement this week that the reality of all the shenanigans off the field meant that neither he, his players nor most of the staff have been paid again this month – the second time it has happened since Lemos supposedly took over – seemed almost an afterthought. But it is clearly a real worry for people who rely on the club in order to pay their bills.

Morecambe hadn`t played for three weeks due to a postponement at Orient and the FA Cup. During that time, though, Big Jim has acquired the services of Everton forward Antony Evans and Fleetwood defender Michael Duckworth on-loan until the end of the season. They must be wondering what they`ve let themselves in for but both were introduced from the bench to find out during today`s game…

On the field, Rovers had the ball in the net after three minutes of the game but Andy Williams` effort was ruled-out by referee Eddie Ilderton for offside. With the league leaders dominating the possession, Donny came close again after 16 minutes when Conor Grant eluded Barry Roche in the Shrimps` goal but Ryan Edwards was in the right place at the right time to clear his effort off the line. The same player was denied again six minutes later when Alex Kenyon cleared another shot off the Morecambe goal-line which followed a cross from the wing by John Marquis. But having ridden their luck, the visitors took the lead after 24 minutes when Peter Murphy curled a peach of a left-footed shot over Ian Lawlor and into the top left hand corner of his net following a corner. Doncaster had a couple more chances before half time but either missed the target or were denied by Roche, once with a characteristically brilliant save low down to his left just before the break. So Darren Ferguson`s team went back into the dressing rooms one-nil down at half time.

They came out with a real purpose and had the first chance after just two minutes as Donny Captain James Coppinger narrowly missed the post with a right-footed effort. It was Backs To The Wall for the Shrimps but their resistance was finally broken after 56 minutes when Marquis cleverly angled a cross from the left past Roche into the bottom right corner of the net. It was mostly one-way traffic after that but the visitors rode their luck – when Kevin Ellison might have handled the ball in the penalty area and Edwards got away with a kick aimed at an opponent which didn`t connect and clearly wasn`t spotted by the officials for instance – but also had a couple of chances of their own. Michael Rose`s goal-bound shot from a free-kick was blocked by the Rovers` wall and substitute Rhys Turner wasted a golden opportunity to pinch all three points but his shot was well saved by Lawlor within the final five minutes of regular time for instance. The referee added six extra minutes at the end but – try as they might – Doncaster couldn`t break down the Shrimps` committed rearguard action again. So the game ended one goal each. It was a tremendous battling performance from Morecambe which belied their off-field problems and went some way towards atoning for their loss to Rovers earlier in the season at home. The draw left both teams where they were before the contest began: Rovers still clear at the top of the table and Morecambe in seventeenth position.

Doncaster Rovers: 38 Ian Lawlor; 17 Matty Blair; 5 Mathieu Baudry; 6 Andy Butler (Y); 24 Niall Mason (Y); 24 Tommy Rowe; 16 Jordan Houghton (14 Harry Middleton 90+1 mins); 25 Conor Grant; 26 James Coppinger (C); 9 John Marquis; 11 Andy Williams (19 Liam Mandeville 65 mins).

Subs not used: 1 Ross Etheridge; 2 Craig Alcock; 15 Joe Wright; 18 Paul Keegan; 23 Alfie Beestin.

Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 5 Ryan Edwards; 4 Alex Kenyon; 16 Alex Whitmore; 3 Aaron McGowan (19 Michael Duckworth 86 mins); 8 Peter Murphy; 15 Aaron Wildig (21 Antony Evans 72 mins); 24 Michael Rose (C); 7 Paul Mullin (18 Rhys Turner 72 mins); 10 Lee Molyneux; 11 Kevin Ellison.

Subs not used: 12 Danijel Nizic; 2 Liam Wakefield; 14 Luke Conlan; 27 Luke Jordan.

Ref: Eddie Ilderton