Right Up Jimbo’s Street…
Morecambe won two-nil at Blundall Park last January to collect another precious three points to keep them in the EFL at the end of the season by the skin of their teeth. Every little helps as they say. In previous encounters between the two clubs, the Shrimps have a slightly better record – five won; three lost out of fourteen meetings in the past.
Today’s fixture in Cleethorpes already had tremendous significance for both of these clubs, both of whom are struggling at the bottom of League Two even this early in the season.
Without their win over ten-man Macclesfield last Saturday in Lancashire, Jim Bentley’s team would have only three points to show from the nine games they have played so far this term. The Mariners, meanwhile, have only trawled five points from their campaign before today and – even more alarmingly – hadn’t scored a single goal in league games this month, having lost all four of their matches in this competition during September. So the stakes for Michael Jolley – the Mariners’ Cambridge-educated Manager since March this year – were just as high as those of his opposite number. Jimbo has publicly stated he is `uncomfortable’ about rumours that Paul Ince is going to be appointed imminently as Director of Football at the club. “I am not pleased with it to be honest” he told the media earlier this week. “I have put my heart and soul into this club. It is not nice when your job is just banded around like it is.” Amen to that. Head to head, the Morecambe Manager has an incomparable record as opposed to that of Mr Ince, who has a solid record of failure at the overwhelming number of clubs he has been involved with as a Coach. So today’s match could have ramifications which would reach far beyond the immediate result as far as points in the table are concerned…
It was sunny and quite warm out of the shade if a bit windy when the match kicked-off. The visitors were immediately on the attack and should have gone ahead with only two minutes on the clock. A-Jay Leitch-Smith found himself on the left-hand edge of the Mariners’ penalty area from his point of view and had time to set himself to score. But his shot drew the first of a string of tremendous saves from home custodian James McKeown and the chance came to nothing. Already, however, the pattern of the game had been established: the Shrimps played lots of tippy-tappy football which usually ended in wasted opportunities whereas the Mariners played a more agricultural form of soccer. With their very first attack of the game, their far more direct approach ended with a goal after eight minutes. With the Morecambe defence parting literally like the red sea in front of him, Elliot Embleton advanced down the centre of the pitch, took a couple of shimmies and then set himself to shoot past a helpless Barry Roche from some way out as the Shrimps’ defenders stood off and basically looked on. It was an appalling goal to concede but Morecambe seemed reluctant to put in a tackle early doors far too often throughout this contest. Having fallen behind, the visitors continued to play most of the rest of the half in the home team’s half. McKeown pulled off another excellent stop after sixteen minutes, this time from Andrew Tutte’s volley high up into the corner of his net. Almost half way through the first period, Morecambe had a let-off when Big Baz left his goal far too late and made an attempt at a tackle which resulted in a free-kick to the Mariners. A less lenient referee than Christopher Sarginson would have booked him – a more severe one would have sent him off. But he got away with it today. With half an hour played, a Vadaine Oliver effort was brilliantly blocked by Luke Hendrie only for his goalkeeper to excel himself again to deny Tutte once more with another wonder save as the move reached its conclusion. And so the half ended. Morecambe had played almost all the football but Grimsby had broken their September duck with the only statistic that matters – they scored. That said, if it wasn’t for an outstanding performance from the man between their sticks, Town would already have been behind.
Football is as much to do with luck as anything else in all truth. The pivotal point of the match – in my view – arrived after 50 minutes. Embleton made good progress down the Grimsby left and crossed for Wes Thomas to smash the ball against the angle of crossbar and post as Barry Roche was a spectator. But the ball bounced down onto the wrong side of the line from the Mariners’ point of view. On another day, it would have gone the other side and put Town into a probably unassailable lead. But not today…
Morecambe equalised with just over an hour played and I think it’s fair to say it had been coming for a while. Rhys Oakes received the ball on the Shrimps’ right and progressed powerfully towards the edge of the Grimsby penalty area, from which he unleashed a tremendous strike which finally beat McKeown’s best efforts to keep it out as it nestled low in the corner to his right. Just four minutes later, the hosts were behind with the strangest of goals. Liam Mandeville took a speculative shot which – viewed from my position right behind the Town goal – seemed to simply find its way in slow motion past the Grimsby defence and then a goalkeeper who didn’t seem to see it until it was too late. After this, there were half-chances for both teams but the Shrimps held-out to put their travelling support into wonderland. Two wins in a row. Three times the amount of points they had just seven days and two hours previously. Brilliant. They are now seventeenth in League Two. Paul Ince? Who are ya? Who are ya? Who…
But spare a thought for Grimsby. They have struggled ever since returning to the Football League two years ago. Sadly, they will continue to struggle if they don’t improve the quality of their football if today’s performance is any guide. They looked and played like a non-League team for much of the game and if I was a Mariners’ fan, I would seriously fear for them.
Grimsby Town: 1 James McKeown; 24 Harry Davis (2 Reece Hall-Johnson 58 mins); 25 Alex Whitmore; 6 Danny Collins (Y); 27 Luke Hendrie; 22 Elliot Embleton; 16 Martyn Woolford (8 Mitch Rose 68 mins); 4 John Welsh (30 Ben Pringle 68 mins); 7 Jake Hessenthaler; 39 Wes Thomas; 11 Jordan Cook (Y);
Subs not used: 15 Harry Clifton; 8 Mitch Rose; 9 JJ Hooper; 18 Charles Vernam; 23 Sam Russell.
Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche (C); 2 Zak Mills; 16 Sam Lavelle; 3 Luke Conlan; 6 Andrew Tutte; 5 Steven Old; 15 Aaron Wildig; 14 Liam Mandeville (27 Jordan Cranston 83 mins); 28 A-Jay Leitch-Smith; 9 Vadaine Oliver (12 Jason Oswell 81 mins); 18 Rhys Oates (24 Joe Piggott 89 mins).
Subs not used: 21 Mark Halstead; 14 Josef Yarney; 22 James Sinclair; 20 Lamine Jagne; 25 Ben Hedley.
Ref: Chris Sarginson.
Attendance: 3972 (57 from Morecambe )