Oldham Mills-Bomb Sorry Shrimps
Oldham has loomed large for Morecambe football club this week. On Tuesday night at the Globe Arena, James Oldham was in charge as the Shrimps lost tamely to fellow relegation candidates Walsall. He made a couple of mistakes – being too slow to re-start the play on a couple of occasions, for instance – but other than that, I thought he was excellent. Today, the Shrimps face another team which has struggled in League Two so far this season in the shape of Oldham Athletic. Last Tuesday, the Latics contrived to achieve what the Shrimps had failed miserably to do last Saturday at Scunthorpe: get a point. Morecambe capitulated to the then bottom-of-the-table team by three goals to nil. So, against two of its rivals propping-up League Two, Jim Bentley’s side have lost both games, scored no goals and generally looked like a team not good enough to be at the exalted level of football in this country which is the EFL.
It was disappointing after the match last Tuesday in Morecambe, however, to hear and see fellow fans booing and abusing the manager. Jimbo had the guts to applaud the fans from the field as they left the game instead of scuttling back to the Dressing Rooms as he could have done. So to respond to this by abusing him is totally disrespectful in my view. We all have a right to an opinion and to express our displeasure about the way the team is performing, but insulting a man who led by example as a player and has single-handedly kept our club in the Football League against all the odds for years is bang out of order as I see things. Jim deserves better than that – from all of us.
One of the dilemmas the manager faces is a simple lack of choice. Having said that, it seems to me that the time has come to put some of the youngsters who usually warm the bench into the first team and see what they can do. Carlos Mendes-Gomes has always impressed when he’s appeared in the past and surely at least Lamine Jagne is worth a gamble too: they can’t do any worse than certain players Jimbo has selected week-in week-out so far, can they? Easy for me to say I know but the last couple of performances at least have shown that the team selected is neither skilful enough nor sufficiently motivated: some of them could clearly do with the metaphorical kick up the backside which leaving them out might provide.
Morecambe won last time they visited Boundary Park in a re-arranged fixture earlier this year. Then, Paul Scholes had taken-over in a blaze of publicity but he didn’t last long. Now, replacement Laurent Benide has also gone; sacked just two days ago after struggling to make much impact on Athletic’s fortunes. His replacement is Dino Maamria, late of Stevenage – a curious appointment given that he was sacked by them earlier this month after failing to steer the Boro to a single win in their opening seven league games. The new strugglers he takes charge of were one point and one place – at twenty-first in the table – better-off than their visitors today prior to kick-off. Their previous Manager made his displeasure known after the Scunthorpe match that his players had let a two-goal lead slip for the second fixture in succession – but I think most Shrimps fans would settle for the single points Oldham are managing to dig-out at this moment in time. The Latics have only won one of their eight games so far this season but they have drawn their last three league matches and lost only one of the last five. Morecambe, by contrast, have lost four of their last five. In previous encounters in the EFL, they have both won one match.
The weather was pleasantly sunny in Oldham as the teams took to the field. The hosts forced a corner in the opening minute of the game. Shortly afterwards, Johan Branger-Engone set-up Shrimps Old Boy Zak Mills with a back-heel after good work by Filipe Morais on the Oldham right for an unchallenged effort on goal: fortunately for the visitors, he hit the ball straight at former team-mate Barry Roche, who saved easily. As the game was played at a cracking pace, Morais escaped down the Latics’ right and swung over a ball which a diving Christopher Missilou headed just off-target. Down the other end, John O’Sullivan found himself unmarked from a corner but his header, too, went disappointingly wide of the target. With Mills playing well against his previous employers, Latics were dominating the play as the half grew older. They had a couple of half-chances but Big Baz had to show his mettle with almost half an hour on the clock, doing well to parry a shot from Mohamed Maouche after Mills had played him in. A goal at this juncture seemed inevitable and it arrived after 33 minutes when Maouche managed to get his head to another fine cross from Mills almost on the Morecambe goal-line. Within sixty seconds, Oldham were at it again – this time, Alex Iacovitti tried his luck with a long-range shot which Baz pushed over the bar. Athletic continued to dominate the play until half time but right at the death, Adam Buxton had a free-kick blocked by an Oldham player. Which one? Yes, it just had to be Zak Mills, didn’t it? So the first period ended with Morecambe second best and losing again. Would they – could they – improve at all in the next half of the game?
No. It took Oldham just six minutes to go even further ahead. Danger Man Mills had already almost played-in Maouche again shortly after the match re-started but when he found the ball at his feet again after 51 minutes, Mills slung it over to an unmarked Désireé Segbe Azankpo who had time to control it and slot it coolly past Roche. Two minutes later, George Tanner had a pop from distance and missed the target and Aaron Wildig also missed with a wayward shot with an hour played. He had another go a minute later but Zeus De la Paz saved it without too much trouble. At the other end, Baz did well to keep out Maouche with his foot after 67 minutes and had a shot from the same players deflected straight into his gloves a minute later. Lewis Allesandra then took a shot from a long way out after seventy minutes which went over the bar. Shaun Miller came on as a substitute just after this and scored with 78 minutes played when he tapped-in a cross from fellow substitute A-Jay Leitch-Smith: it was a well-worked goal by the visitors. But any hope of redemption for the Shrimps disappeared when Latics’ substitute Jonny Smith smashed home a cross by Branger from the Oldham left right at the death.
Yes, `death’ is pretty appropriate as the Grim Reaper’s shadow falls ever longer over the Globe Arena. This was another pretty comprehensive defeat against rivals who are also struggling near the bottom of the EFL. Three goals conceded again; only one scored; seven defeats in the last eight games – these statistics speak for themselves. Elsewhere, bottom-of-the-table Stevenage managed to hold-out at Forest Green for a scoreless draw. Scunthorpe, meanwhile, lost at Walsall. So Morecambe remain twenty-second despite the latest reverse. Alarmingly though, they are just a single point ahead of the Iron and only two better-off than the Boro.
Oldham Athletic: 20 Zeus De la Paz; 2 Zak Mills; 3 Alex Iacovitti; 7 Johan Branger-Engone; 8 Filipe Morais (26 Jonny Smith 72 mins); 10 Mohamed Maouche; 17 Christopher Missilou; 19 Désireé Segbe Azankpo; 24 Mohamed Sylla; 31 David Wheater (C); 34 Tom Hamer.
Subs not used: 39 Gregor Zabret; 5 Smith-Brown; 6 Jamie Stott; 33 Chris Eagles; 18 Dylan Fage; 16 Scott Wilson.
Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche (C); 2 Adam Buxton; 16 Sam Lavelle; 5 Steven Old; 6 Andrew Tutte (33 Jordan Cranston 85 mins); 27 George Tanner; 7 John O’Sullivan; 15 Aaron Wildig; 18 Rhys Oates (10 A-Jay Leitch-Smith 45 mins); 9 Cole Stockton (24 Shaun Miller 71 mins); 8 Lewis Alessandra.
Subs not used: 21 Mark Halstead; 4 Alex Kenyon; 11 Kevin Ellison; 25 Ibrahim Bakare.
Ref: Leigh Doughty