Date: 3rd February 2018 at 5:24pm
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The Valiants were very busy whilst the January Transfer Window remained open. This week alone, they have signed three central defenders: Lincoln City`s Callum Howe permanently whilst Oxford United`s Charlie Raglan and Kyle Howkins from West Brom have signed on-loan until the end of the campaign. As manager Neil Aspin has looked to shore-up his team`s defence, this trio join Zak Jules from Shrewsbury along with at least midfielder Luke Hannant from Gateshead and strikers Donovan Wilson from Wolves and Dior Angus from Redditch United. That`s the best part of half a football team: three of them actually featured in the starting line-up for Port Vale today and one was on the bench.

So what of Morecambe and their attempts to bring in new blood to help in their fight against relegation? Manager Jim Bentley has made his frustration about his inability to sign new players known publicly this week. He had tried and failed to re-sign both former leading scorer Shaun Miller from Carlisle and ex-Tranmere striker Cole Stockton – not for the first time. But lack of resources meant that Miller signed for relegation rivals Crewe Alexandra instead and Stockton then replaced him at Brunton Park (and went on to score for them in his debut at Wycombe today). The only new deal of any sort Jim has been able to pull-off throughout January is that of Scottish Under 21 International winger Gregg Wylde, who has signed on-loan from Plymouth. To add to his quip that he had `twenty-five quid` in his transfer budget, the Shrimps` boss also said that his club were in no position to compete not only with National League clubs in terms of finances, but couldn`t even match the offers some clubs in the leagues below them were able to make to attract new personnel to their playing staffs. It`s a dire situation but as the Manager never tires of saying “It is what it is” and he just has to get on with it.

The situation Morecambe find themselves in is an inevitable result of the lack of direction and failure in purpose of the current Board. Nobody has to look very far to see how a small club with an even smaller potential catchment area than Morecambe have should be run. AFC Fylde, just a few miles away to the south and with an average gate of 1700, are exactly such an entity. Their seemingly inexorable march towards the Football League has been assured by proper management of the club, its ambitions and its resources. It produced a blueprint to be in the EFL by 2022 a whole eleven years ago when there were about 900 teams between them and that particular pinnacle. Now, five promotions later, there are only eight. How Jim Bentley must have envied them as they appeared live on the telly a few weeks ago, holding their own at their superb Mill Farm ground with high-flying Wigan Athletic; Shrimps cast-off Matty Blinkhorn outstandingly leading their line. If Fylde can do it, so could we. So why haven`t we?

Vale had already walloped Morecambe 0-3 at the Globe Arena this season and were thus looking for the double over their Lancashire rivals to propel them upwards from eighteenth position in League Two. Having said that, they didn`t win a game throughout January and have found themselves slowly but steadily dragged back into the struggle for survival in the EFL since Neil Aspin`s appointment earlier this season gave the team from the Potteries an immediate lift. The Shrimps, meanwhile, were desperate for at least a point to try and keep their heads above water right at the bottom of the EFL in twentieth place. Wylde was put straight into a much-changed first team for the visitors and Raglan lined-up for the Valiants for the first time. The Shrimps` changes were needed due to injuries to Barry Roche, Callum Lang, Steven Old and Callum Lang. A family bereavement also sadly denied the club the services of Max Muller today.

Vale probably shaded the opening part of the first period but at no time tested reserve goalkeeper Danijel Nizic in the visitors` goal. After eleven minutes, Aaron McGowan made excellent progress down the wing and slid across a pearl of a ball which new boy Charlie Raglan did brilliantly to sweep away at the cost of a corner. Wylde came close to immediately opening his account for the Shrimps when he forced a tremendous save from Rob Lainton right up in his top corner after the ball fell to him following the corner kick. Two minutes later, the debutant came even closer with a tremendous strike from twenty-five yards which Lainton did even better to keep out. Vadaine Oliver tried a spectacular overhead kick after sixteen minutes which saw his shot go over the bar. Then Garry Thompson just failed to connect with another ball into the box shortly afterwards. At the other end, the ever-dangerous Tom Pope headed a cross from David Worrall over the bar after 21 minutes. Luke Hannant then tried his luck for the visitors two minutes later but again missed the target. At the other end, Oliver headed the ball down for an unmarked Thommo after 25 minutes but the veteran striker fluffed his lines and Lainton saved easily. Alex Kenyon then shot too high over the target after good approach play by the visitors and Lainton again came to Vale`s rescue when he won his personal battle with Wylde by denying him with another tremendous stop after 34 minutes, pushing a ferocious strike from the Scottish striker against the frame of the goal and away to safety. Thanks to their goalkeeper, the half ended goalless with the visiting team having created the better chances.

Port Vale came out for the second half far more determined than they had been in the opening one and started to apply some sustained pressure to the Morecambe defence for the first time in the game. The best chance they managed to fashion in this period arrived just after an hour when Nizic did well to get down low to a free kick from Michael Tonge and hold onto the ball. The same player crossed from a further free kick for Pope to put another header wide after 64 minutes. At the other end, though, there was panic stations in the home defence after 72 minutes as Oliver threatened after a long ball was played into their box – the goalkeeper and defender Nathan Smith combined to clear the danger. The best chance of the half so far fell to Pope after 81 minutes when his header from a corner only just missed the post with Nizic struggling. Vale had another chance to take the lead with just three minutes still scheduled to play. Substitute Donovan Wilson wriggled past two defenders and made room for a shot which whistled just wide of the goal. Shortly afterwards, he was denied by a block in the Morecambe box but Shrimps` substitute Kevin Ellison then had a golden chance to pinch all three points for the visiting team at the other end which was yet again saved by the truly Valiant Rob Lainton to ensure the match ended in a scoreless draw.

The point which Morecambe battled for today kept them in twentieth position. Forest Green`s excellent win over Coventry dragged them clear of the relegation positions as Chesterfield`s loss at home saw them fall back into them. Seemingly doomed Barnet lost again to go five points adrift of the Spireites right at the bottom of League Two and the team immediately below Morecambe, Crewe, also lost again, 4-1 at Notts County. And for the record, the Coasters drew 2-2 against Eastleigh at Mill Farm this afternoon after twice being behind. They remain ninth in the National League.

Port Vale: 1 Rob Lainton; 21 James Gibbons; 24 Nathan Smith; 4 Charlie Raglan; 3 Zak Jules (8 Danny Pugh 52 mins); 6 Antony Kay (Y) (28 Donovan Wilson 78 mins); 32 Michael Tonge; 34 Luke Hannant;10 David Worrall; 31 Ben Whitfield (15 Anton Forrester 45 mins); 9 Tom Pope (C).

Subs not used: 23 Ryan Boot; 2 Callum Howe; 5 Joe Davis; 7 Marcus Harness.

Morecambe: 12 Danijel Nizic; 6 Dean Winnard; 2 Aaron McGowan; 3 Patrick Brough; 8 Andy Fleming (15 Aaron Wildig 83 mins); 16 Sam Lavelle; 24 Michael Rose (C); 4 Alex Kenyon; 7 Garry Thompson (28 Adam McGurk 83 mins); 21 Gregg Wylde; 9 Vadaine Oliver(11 Kevin Ellison 75 mins).

Subs not used: 20 Niall Maher; 17 Mitchell Lund; 25 Ben Hedley; 10 Adam Campbell.
Ref: Ben Toner