Date: 17th February 2018 at 8:18pm
Written by:

Forest Green Rovers travelled north to play Southend United in League Two today, according to their own website. So it may have been a surprise to them to encounter the Shrimps – as opposed to the Shrimpers – at the Globe Arena for the first time ever. The only Vegan club on the planet have played Morecambe loads of times in the past but this was only the second time they had met in the EFL. Last October, they managed to push Jim Bentley`s team into the relegation position they had occupied themselves at the start of the game by beating them two goals to nil. Mark Cooper`s men arrived today on the back of three straight wins in League Two, the last one just last Tuesday when they defeated Stevenage 3-1 at the New Lawn.

Back in October, Morecambe keeper Barry Roche was injured during the first half and had to be replaced by Danijel Nizic in the second. Today, with Roche suffering from an injury, the Australian Under 21 international started right from the beginning.

The match was played in bright sunshine throughout at the Lancashire seaside on a heavy pitch which rapidly cut up. Right from the beginning, though, you could see which of the two sides were really pumped up for it. And it wasn’t Morecambe… Jim Bentley`s team played throughout the first period lethargically, on the back foot and without any guile whatsoever. Kevin Ellison was played as a target man much of the time as his theoretical strike partner Vadaine Oliver wandered sometimes apparently aimlessly all over the field. He helped-out at free kicks and corners but his impact as a forward was minimal.

Rovers, on the other hand, looked confident and positive and clearly had a game plan. The visitors seemed to have a potent attacking threat in the nippy but slight shape of Christian Doidge and the chunkier Reuben Reid and individuals like Isaiah Osbourne showed some really deft touches for a big lad. The visitor’s intent was made apparent after just six minutes, when a Gavin Gunning header from a free kick went just wide of Danijel Nizic’s left post with him scrambling in its wake. Ten minutes later, Chris Clement ‘s sublime strike from all of thirty yards out beat him all ends up to put FGR one-nil up. They held onto this lead until half time but you had a feeling that if they were brave enough to really go for it, they could have led by a wider margin. They were good value for their lead but the really disappointing thing from Shrimps` supporters` points of view was the lack of either quality or any apparent commitment in their team: they were hopeless. The only time they looked like troubling the visiting defence was when Steven Old forced a good save from Bradley Collins in the Rovers` goal with five minutes of the half left to play with a superb header from a corner.

The second half was the diametric opposite of the first. Forest Green either decided to go into their collective shells and try to hang on to their lead – or whatever Jim Bentley had said to his players in the Changing Rooms at the break really went home. Plymouth loanee Gregg Wylde – making his home debut for Morecambe today – started to have a real impact on the game. Down their left flank in particular, the visitors increasingly found the Glaswegian hard to handle and started to concede a number of corners as a result of his runs as the match wore on. They also started to concede a mounting number of free kicks as they increasingly found themselves on the back foot. Wylde only just missed the target when his fierce strike after an hour or so went narrowly over the bar. But just a few minutes earlier, he had taken a shot which Collins in the Rovers` sticks found too hard to handle: without a miraculous intervention by Haydn Hollis, Kevin Ellison would have scored – when the ball finally ended-up in the Green Devils` net, referee Anthony Backhouse ruled it out for whatever reason. With an hour on the clock, Aaron McGowan went down in the `D` on the edge of the FGR penalty area. It looked like a foul to me but the referee – who, to be fair, had a very good game today – decided that he had dived and showed him the Yellow Card. As the pressure mounted, Alex Kenyon headed just over the bar with 69 minutes on the clock. Ten minutes later, Dean Winnard repeated the feat but as time started to run out for the Shrimps, it looked as if the visitors were going to take all three points home with them to Gloucestershire. Literally right at the death, though – in the 89th minute – Wylde got the reward his overall performance merited when he was able to run clear into the FGR half and finish beautifully with a low strike which left Collins clutching at thin air as it whistled low past him to his right into the bottom corner of the net. The game thus ended one goal each.

This was probably a fair result given the see-saw nature of the game. FGR were by far the better team in the first but they looked uncertain and shaky during the second as soon as the Shrimps started to play a bit. If Morecambe continue to play the way they did in the first half, they will be relegated. If they play the way they did in the second, they won`t. Simple as that. The draw puts Rovers just a point above Morecambe with one more game played. The Shrimps, meanwhile, dropped to twenty-second in League Two. With Barnet drawing and Chesterfield losing again, they remain five points clear of the drop zone with a game in hand over the two clubs below them.

Morecambe: 12 Danijel Nizic; 6 Dean Winnard (Y); 16 Sam Lavelle (28 Adam McGurk 55 mins); 5 Steven Old; 2 Aaron McGowan (Y); 4 Alex Kenyon; 24 Michael Rose (C) (Y); 14 Luke Conlan; 21 Gregg Wylde; 11 Kevin Ellison; 9 Vadaine Oliver (7 Garry Thompson 68 mins).

Subs not used: 3 Patrick Brough; 8 Andy Fleming; 10 Adam Campbell; 17 Mitchell Lund; 25 Ben Hedley.

Forest Green Rovers: 1 Bradley Collins; 2 Dale Bennett; 16 Gavin Gunning; 20 Farrend Rawson; 32 Haydn Hollis; 8 Dayle Grubb (Y); 22 Chris Clements; 34 Isaiah Osbourne; 17 Dan Wishart (31 Alex Bray 60 mins); 9 Christian Doidge; 26 Reuben Reid (15 Charlie Cooper 77 mins).

Subs not used: 12 Jordan Simpson; 3 Scott Laird; 25 Tahvon Campbell; 30 Cameron Belford; 10 Reece Brown.