David Cameron Walker

Archive for the ‘Morecambe’ Category

Morecambe FC: Top 5 of 2011

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

2011 has been a year of change for Morecambe, with Sammy McIlroy ending his extremely successful reign as manager and long-serving defender Jim Bentley taking over  managerial hot seat. The feel good factor has returned to the club and despite the current run of poor form, hopes are high that 2012 will be a good year for The Shrimps. With only two more games to play in 2011* I thought I would take the time to look back over the previous twelve months and pick out the top five games of the year.

5) Chesterfield 0-2 Morecambe – League 2 – 26th February
When Morecambe travelled to league leaders Chesterfield on the back of nine games without a win it looked like the Shrimps would be in for a tough afternoon and an almost certain defeat.

However, Sammy McIlroy’s side defied the odds and came away with a 2-0 victory thanks to goals from former Spireite Kevan Hurst and Huddersfield loanee Jimmy Spencer.

Hurst’s opener was a sweetly struck effort from outside the area that gave Tommy Lee no chance of saving. Hurst was involved again in the second goal when his cross into the area was pounced upon by Spencer who diverted the ball into the top corner.

With Morecambe looking like they were entering a relegation scrap at the time this result was a massive confidence boost and saw the team move eight points clear of the drop zone.

4) Barnsley 0-2 Morecambe – Carling Cup – 9th August
The Shrimps have enjoyed some great nights in the Carling Cup over the past five years with victories against Wolves, Preston and Coventry but this year’s triumph at Oakwell had extra meaning as it was the first win of Jim Bentleys managerial career.

An Izak Reid cross was converted by Danny Carlton shortly after half time to open the scoring before second half substitute Kevin Ellison secured the victory in the 86th minute to knock out Keith Hill’s side.

This result was an import one and kick started Morecambe’s season after a disappointing opening day defeat to Barnet at The Globe Arena. Jim Bentley would steer his side to eight league games without defeat which saw them climb to the summit of the table before a 3-2 home defeat against Bristol Rovers.

Whilst Morecambe fans won’t look back on this cup tie with the same sense of pride that they do with the games against Preston and Wolves, it will still be remembered as a great night in the clubs history.

3) Barnet 1-2 Morecambe – League 2 – 19th March
This game was a hugely important one at the time, a fact that didn’t go unrecognised by the Morecambe board of directors who provided free travel down to Underhill for fans to cheer on the Shrimps.

Morecambe were sliding closer and closer to the drop zone and found themselves just six points clear of Barnet going into this game, making it very much a relegation six pointer.

It looked bleak for the Shrimps when Mark Byrne gave the home side the lead, but Morecambe managed to turn the game around thanks to Danny Carlton making himself the hero of the day with two goals.

The victory proved to be key in Morecambe’s survival, with Sammy McIlroy’s side only picking up a further two wins that season and finishing just four points clear of relegation.

2) Port Vale 0-4 Morecambe – League 2 – 22nd October
Arguably Morecambe’s best away performance since being promoted to the Football League came in 2011, with a 4-0 victory at Vale Park.

Port Vale were full of confidence going into the game after recent excellent home displays, but a tactical masterclass from Jim Bentley on the day saw the Shrimps run out comfortable winners.

Jason Price opened the scoring before Lewis Alessandra sent Morecambe in 2-0 up at the break. A Lawrence Wilson penalty and a late Andy Fleming header completed the scoring for Morecambe.

This victory underlined the impressive start to the season that Morecambe had made away from home with it being their ninth game without a defeat on the road. This record would be extended to ten before losing in their eleventh game at Swindon.

1) Morecambe 6-0 Crawley Town – League 2 – 10th September
I don’t think there will be many that will argue with my choice of this game as the highlight of 2011 for Morecambe fans!

The hugely unpopular Steve Evans brought his expensively assembled team to The Globe Arena and was given a footballing lesson by Jim Bentley’s side.

Danny Carlton opened the scoring after nine minutes when he converted a Lawrence Wilson cross before Nick Fenton doubled the Shrimps lead with a close range header.

A cluster of goals in the final third of the game saw Morecambe go 5-0 up with Carlton scoring twice either side of a Kevin Ellison strike.

The scoring was completed through a Lawrence Wilson penalty after Gary McDonald was brought down in the area.

Shrimps fans were sent home happy having witnessed a demolition of one of the pre season favourites for the title and also saw their team sitting top of League Two.

*If a minor miracle occurs and we manage to pull off a convincing result against Accrington on Boxing Day then that result would no doubt be in this list!

Written by Mathew Seage, We Are Going Up’s Morecambe Blogger

Mathew tweets at @Seagie85

Tactics Win Prizes

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

One of the most notable things about Jim Bentley’s early reign as Morecambe manager is the attention to detail which goes into the tactics and team selection for every single game. The recent 4-0 win against Port Vale is a case in point with the Shrimps recording a resounding 4-0 victory against a team whose fans were waxing lyrical about their prospects coming into the game off the back of an impressive 3-0 home win against Northampton.

Unfortunately for them Bentley had done his homework and looked to exploit the fact they play with three centre backs by naming three strikers in the starting line-up. Seemingly the element of surprise also came into consideration with assistant manager Ken McKenna stating they knew that Port Vale had also watched Morecambe so decided to mix things up a bit to present them with a different prospect than they had spent all week preparing for.

Knowing that this would result in Micky Adams having to make some tactical adjustments, Bentley and McKenna had already put together a plan B for when these adjustments would be made. At half time Adams made the changes that the Morecambe bench had predicted, the Shrimps put into operation plan B and scored a further two goals after the break whilst also keeping a clean sheet.

This is in stark contrast to what seemingly went on last season under Sammy McIlroy when for example, after spending 15 minutes struggling to cope with Clayton Donaldoson, Chris McCready was hauled off to be replaced by the quicker Andy Parrish. The fact that Donaldson, one of the best players in the league, was quite quick and we may need to come up with a plan to counter him is something you would expect to have been highlighted with even the most basic of scouting reports.

Bentley’s ability to pick a team and system to take advantage of the opposition’s weaknesses has seen Morecambe achieve the best away record in League Two with them yet to suffer defeat on the road in the opening 8 games. Whilst this is a fantastic achievement Bentley hasn’t quite yet managed to replicate this success at the Globe Arena with three home defeats already to Barnet, Bristol Rovers and AFC Wimbledon.

The reasons for this aren’t entirely clear but it’s certainly not down to any lack of effort on the part of Morecambe players. The Barnet game aside on the opening day of the season you would be hard pushed to pick out a game where the Shrimps haven’t played reasonably well at home yet only have two wins to show for it. The defeats to AFC Wimbledon and Bristol Rovers came on days when the opposition produced exceptional displays whilst an injury time equaliser from Ross Hannah denied Morecambe three points against Bradford in a game that they looked to have sewn up.

On the face of it it’s easy to suggest that Morecambe are setup to play as the underdog, preferring to soak up pressure and play on the counter whilst exploiting the opposition’s weaknesses but struggle when the shoe is on the other foot. The 6-0 hammering of Crawley would add weight to this as anyone who has seen them play will know that Steve Evans doesn’t send his side out to defend and turning up at The Globe Arena with an attacking philosophy will have played right into Morecambe’s hands.

However, the games against AFC Wimbledon and Bristol Rovers pour cold water onto that theory as both sides attacked from the off and were constant threats to the Morecambe defence and left The Globe Arena with victories.

The next two home games against Rotherham and Gillingham should give us further insight into this with them being the top two away scorers in the league. Only Crawley, mainly thanks to the 6-0 defeat at the hands Morecambe, and Barnet have conceded more goals on their travels so it would suggest that these are teams who don’t park the bus as it were when playing away. Good results in these games would go some way to proving that Morecambe are better suited to playing against attacking sides but if things go badly for the Shrimps it would raise further questions as to why they find it difficult to pick up three points at home.

In general though it’s nothing to be too concerned about as the performances have been good and there’s certainly a case to argue that Morecambe have been unlucky by running into Wimbledon and Bristol Rovers on days that they produced absolutely fantastic displays. The 6-0 defeat of Crawley shows that this team is more than capable of turning the Globe Arena into a fortress and with Bentley’s attention to detail when it comes to tactics, Morecambe fans are quietly confident that he will come up with a winning formula before long. When that does happen, and providing the away form holds up, people will have to start talking about Morecambe as serious promotion candidates.

Written by Mathew Seage, We Are Going Up’s Morecambe Blogger

Mathew tweets at @Seagie85

Top of League Two – The Recipe for Success

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Rookie manager Jim Bentley has got off to a flying start at Morecambe with his side currently sat at the top of League Two with 6 wins on the board after only 9 games. To put that into perspective The Shrimps ended last season with 6 wins in their final 24 games, a run that saw them finish 20th and only 4 points above the drop zone.

This dramatic turnaround has had many scratching their heads wondering what Bentley has brought to the club that eluded Sammy McIlroy so badly in his final year in charge at The Globe Arena. In my previous blog I briefly covered the transformation made by Bentley this season but it’s worth looking further in depth at what has led to Morecambe’s change in fortune.

As with most successful sides Morecambe’s team is built on a foundation of a solid defence with new recruit Nick Fenton epitomising all that is good about the back line. He has slotted into the role of defensive organiser and no nonsense defender which Bentley occupied for much of the previous 10 years. Will Haining has been brought back in from the cold after finding himself out of favour under McIlroy and has even been named first team captain.

Laurence Wilson, a stand out performer in Morecambe’s team that reached the playoffs, has also rediscovered his form at left back after a below par season where he looked disillusioned with the way things were going under the previous management.

Chris McCready has continued his solid if unspectacular performances from last season whilst Andy Parrish and Kieran Charnock have both contributed to a defence that has only shipped 5 goals so far.

As usual Barry Roche has been in fine form in the Morecambe goal and has played a major part in The Shrimps having the tightest defence in League 2. A recent article I read highlighted just how impressive he has been this year having saved 90.9% of shots at his goal, a figure which sees him leading all goalkeepers in the division.

The midfield was a huge area of concern last season, especially after Mark Duffy’s departure to Scunthorpe and Sammy McIlroy’s unbelievable decision to send Craig Stanley on loan to Torquay.

Stewart Drummond, Andy Fleming and Garry Hunter were all retained over the summer with Drummond taking up the role of reserve team manager. He has kept his place in the middle of the park as a deep lying playmaker whilst also chipping in with the odd goal here and there.

Pace down the flanks has been something that Morecambe fans have been crying out for ever since Garry Thompson left the club and Bentley wasted no time in giving it to them with the signing of Izak Reid from Macclesfield. Although Reid was a full back with his former club he has been transformed into a flying winger at Morecambe, terrorising opposing defences with his blistering pace and crossing ability, in stark contrast to much protestation from Macclesfield fans that his crossing was terrible.

Kevin Ellison was brought in to play on the opposite flank, a player who will be familiar to all who have watched lower league football over the past five years or so. Ellison was Bentley’s first signing for the club and was identified for his presence in the locker room as much as his ability on the field. Team spirit is something that Bentley is a massive believer in and it was sorely missing from the squad last season but the likes of Ellison have gone a long way to rectifying that.

Completing the midfield is Gary McDonald who came to the club having spent much of his career in the SPL. He has quietly gone about his business without much fanfare but has begun to catch the eye with some impressive displays and has managed to fill the hole left by Craig Stanley who left for Bristol Rovers.

Garry Hunter has filled in where necessary in the middle of the park whilst Andy Fleming has yet to feature since the first game of the season due to injury. Many feel there is still much to come from the promising player who showed great potential last season. Paul Scott still remains on the books but there appears to be no end in sight to his injury woes which is a terrible shame for a player who looked to have been a great addition as a midfield anchor 12 months ago.

The main area for transfer speculation over the summer was definitely up front with Bentley seemingly spending half of his time trying to unearth a target man to replace the retired Paul Mullin. This proved to be extremely difficult with The Shrimps missing out on a number of targets, most notably Tom Pope who decided to join Port Vale.

After an impressive performance against Morecambe on the opening day of the season Jason Price was signed when his one month deal at Barnet came to an end and he couldn’t have dreamt of a better debut, starting in the 6-0 demolition of Crawley with him providing an assist for the third goal. The signing of Jason Price should help Phil Jevons who looked isolated at times last season without Paul Mullin up alongside him. Jevons himself will be hoping to recapture the form that saw him gain a reputation as one of the hottest strikers in the division two years ago.

Lewis Alessandra was the only new face brought in before the start of the season having been released by Oldham where had had spent the entirety of his career to that point. His performances from the bench have highlighted his fantastic movement and exceptional ball control which gives Bentley a different option from the other three strikers at the club.

The biggest surprise has been the form of Danny Carlton who has 7 goals so far which includes the first hat trick of his career in an outstanding performance against Crawley. Carlton will always be a legend at Morecambe for scoring the winning goal at Wembley in the Conference playoff final in 2007 but his career had petered out into one of a journey man since then with spells at Carlisle, Darlington, Bury, Grimsby and a loan spell at Morecambe before joining the club for a third time towards the end of last season.

Whilst always a hard worker he has never been prolific but whatever Jim Bentley has done to him over the Summer has worked wonders and Carlton now finds himself near the top of the League 2 goal scorers chart.

So there you have it, a full run down of what has made Morecambe tick this season. Fingers crossed that Jim Bentley can continue working his magic and The Shrimps can enjoy many more days like the one that saw them go top of League Two with a 6-0 home win against one of the bookies favourites for the title.

Written by Mathew Seage, We Are Going Up’s Morecambe Blogger

Mathew tweets at @Seagie85

The Jim Bentley Revolution

Friday, September 9th, 2011

When Sammy McIlroy departed Morecambe in the summer many eyebrows were raised at the promotion of the then 34-year-old former captain Jim Bentley into the role of manager. This was considered a huge risk by many in the national press and has led to the Shrimps being tipped as nailed on relegation candidates by journalists and fans alike up and down the country. However, for those who know Jim, the club and the circumstances surrounding McIlroy’s departure, the decision was a no brainer.

McIlroy’s appointment as manager back in 2006 was much needed at the time with the club struggling to achieve that final push over the finish line to gain promotion. Jim Harvey left his former Northern Ireland colleague with the basis of a squad capable of promotion but needing the finishing touches to achieve it. McIlroy completed the jigsaw in the space of a season, replacing the free flowing passing game utilised under Harvey with a more workmanlike philosophy, epitomised by savvy veterans such as Danny Adams and Neil Sorvel who had been part of his Macclesfield teams in the 90’s.

Things continued to go well for The Shrimps in the first three seasons of league football under McIlroy, the blueprint remained the same; effective football whilst relying on experienced players who had been there and done it in the Football League at the expense of anything even resembling a youth policy.

McIlroy’s luck with this approach ran out last season. The summer recruits followed the same pattern; journeymen pros looking for another pay day. Paul Scott, Chris Shuker, Tony Capaldi and Adam Rundle in particular failed to emulate the success McIlroy had with this approach in previous seasons through the likes of Phil Jevons, David Artell and Barry Roche and the knives were beginning to come out for the manager.

Rumours began circulating of poor training methods that failed to challenge the players (which eventually led to Tony Capaldi being forced out of the club due to his comments on Twitter) and a lack of cohesion in the dressing room. Numerous players fell out with the manager and as the season went on it became more and more apparent that they weren’t playing for him anymore, summed up nicely by the 7-2 hammering at Port Vale.

Despite McIlroy being offered another deal by the club he decided to turn it down, stating that he had taken the club as far as he could, a verdict shared by many Morecambe supporters at the time which meant the club were now looking for a new manager for only the second time since 1994.

Morecambe fans had become tired of McIlroy’s approach and demanded a manager who viewed the role as an honour and not something to fit around commitments to MUTV and Sky Sports whilst also providing a more entertaining brand of football and having less of a reliance on lower league journeymen.

Fortunately for the Shrimps the one man who encompassed all of these traits was already with the club and had spent the past 12 months honing his managerial skills as reserve team manager. Jimbo, as he is affectionately known, is a hugely popular figure at Morecambe having spent almost 10 years at the club, captaining the side to promotion at Wembley as well as through the early years as a Football League club.

Shrimps supporters were in no doubt that Jim would be a success, a view not shared by many outside the club who saw his appointment as a cheap option and one that was due to end in disaster as have many other reigns of club legends trying their hand at management.

The change at the club over these past few months has been described as a breath of fresh air by those in the know and Bentley has left no stone unturned in his quest to produce a winning Morecambe side. Feeling that the Globe Arena was too welcoming for away sides he has requested that the away dressing room be painted black, all the barriers around the ground painted red, flags to be put up in the home end and pictures depicting Morecambe victories be placed around the corridors for opposing players to see.

He also took the squad on a team bonding trip to Scotland in pre-season to boost morale and togetherness within the squad, something he pinpointed as severely lacking last season. Team spirit is something Jim is a big believer in and he even had the team flatty trapping (basically fishing with your feet) this past week as a bonding exercise!

The days of Morecambe signing whatever players were recommended to the club by agents are firmly over too with Bentley refusing to sign a player unless he’s personally sat down with them and looked them in the eye allowing him to decide whether they have what it takes to succeed in one of his teams.

Already fans can see a huge difference in the levels of commitment shown by the players compared to last year with the likes of Kevin Ellison and Nick Fenton providing much needed leadership whilst Lewis Alessandra and Izak Reid add more pace and movement in attacking positions than we have seen in years.

Whilst it’s still early days the general feel around the club is light years away from what it was last season where doom and gloom were the order of the day. Everyone is firmly behind Jimbo and there’s a real togetherness from the boardroom right down to the fans that hasn’t been seen at the club for years. Nobody is getting carried away with the start made by The Shrimps but all Morecambe fans are quietly confident that come May, Jim Bentley will get his side much higher up the table than predicted by the vast majority going into this season.

Written by Mathew Seage, We Are Going Up’s Morecambe Blogger

Mathew tweets at @Seagie85