As part of our Guest Content Creator series, we invited Roger Fitton to attend yesterday's home game vs Mansfield Town.
The initiative is to invite fans who regularly publish articles online relating to Morecambe Football Club to attend a behind the scenes match experience. They then write or film a version of their work that involves interviewing staff, players and management, whilst enjoying a free ticket to the match and hospitality to thank them for their efforts. If you are interested in taking part please contact Charlie Appleyard.
I’m Roger Fitton. I have supported Morecambe Football Club ever since my dad dragged me along to Christie Park way back in the 1960s. I have also been writing match reports for Vital online for longer than I care to remember and articles for award-winning D3D4 ever since its inception several years ago. Today, I was invited by relatively new member of the Morecambe Board Charlie Appleyard to visit the club as a `Guest Content Creator’ and see how it runs from the point of the view of the Boardroom.
I saw my task to be to listen to what the Board and everyone else I had never met before had to say about how they saw their role in the club and also how this relates to fans like myself. I’ve not been slow to express my own opinions in the past. But here was a chance to keep my thoughts to myself and simply listen to what other people have to say for a change.
My brief didn’t tell me what to ask – but I really wanted to pose the right questions and I thought about this long and hard.
It was a privilege to meet and speak to the Directors, the Manager and the players today. I was very conscious, however, that both players and the boss in particular had far better things to do than talk to someone like me right before a vital game when points on the board were imperative.
What I considered to be the key question I wanted to ask Manager Derek Adams, though, concerned what parallels – if any – he saw between taking over a small club in the Highlands and another small club in North Lancashire. The population of Dingwall (where Ross County is situated) is just over 6000. Morecambe’s population is almost six times this. More people turned-up at County’s Victoria Park ground by the time Derek had guided them to the Scottish Premiership than actually lived in Dingwall itself. So what hopes did he have for a similar improvement in gates at the Globe Arena?
He had lots.
“If you take Ross-Shire into it, it’s a big county - 50,000; maybe 60,000 people. So I think they are both small clubs punching above their weight. So with that, you just have to improve year on year – and Morecambe have improved to be far above where they might be.”
He saw no reason whatsoever why the locals round here should not respond to a winning team in exactly the same way the people of the Highlands did. I was left in no doubt – nor did it cross my mind to even question his belief - that he intends to drag our club away from potential threats of relegation from the EFL season after season to a much better place. And I’m sure he will, too.
When I met the players, I again didn’t want to ask them the sort of questions which they probably would have heard a million times before. So once more, I kept these short and to the point.
I was made very welcome by everyone I met at the club today and I thoroughly enjoyed being there.
I’d willingly go back – not just for the free parking; free entry and the food, which is a class apart from that on offer in the parts of the ground I normally visit.
So thank you to everyone involved and particularly Charlie Appleyard for inviting me in the first place.
Roger Fitton's Unofficial MATCH REPORT: Morecambe 1-1 Mansfield Town
Mansfield Minefield at the Globe.
Mansfield Town made the long journey from Nottinghamshire today to try and dent Morecambe’s hopes of getting further away from the bottom of the League Two table, where only Stevenage lay between them and the Outer Darkness of the National League. Graham Coughlan’s team arrived just two places but five points better-off in the division and on the back of one win and three losses in their last five league games. The only draw in this time was last Saturday, when they let a two-goal lead against Carlisle United slip at home only to draw 2-2.
The Stags were among the favourites to challenge for promotion to League One at the beginning of the season. However, following the sacking of popular Manager David Flitcroft after Town lost the Play-Off final to Tranmere last summer, fans and a Board which is currently being re-vamped at Field Mill must be rueing that decision. Be Careful What You Hope For indeed…
In previous meetings, there has only been one draw and that happened at Field Mill last August when the sides shared four goals between them. Before this, they had met fifteen times before, with the Stags winning nine of them.
For the visitors, Alex MacDonald – injured last time out against Carlisle – was replaced by Willem Tomlinson. Ryan Cooney and John O’Sullivan both returned after injury for the Shrimps.
It was cold, windy but bright for most of the game before the latest storm to cross the Atlantic started to show its teeth right at the end of the game and freezing rain started to fall from the darkness above.
There wasn’t much to report in the opening minutes with probably the most interesting thing being the pretty startling turquoise(y) kit the visitors were wearing. Cole Stockton had a free run on goal from a central position after 14 minutes. He missed the target but the whistle had already been blown because he was clearly offside. John O’Sullivan and Adam Phillips combined intelligently on the Shrimps’ right after twenty minutes or so but the move came to nothing. This was the pattern of the first half: Mansfield held back; Morecambe had the majority of the possession but chances were few and far between.
Phillips stretched to get the ball in front of goal after 21 minutes but couldn’t connect properly and visiting goalkeeper Robert Olejnik gathered the ball easily enough. It seemed to me – and most other Morecambe fans in the ground – that Town’s central defender and captain Krystian Pearce handled the ball in the penalty area when blocking a shot with twenty-four minutes played but Referee Scott Oldham was having none of it. A pretty poor game was summed-up by the dead-ball kicks taken by Jordan Cranston. With twenty-four minutes played, he hoofed a corner from the Shrimps’ left straight out of play on the other side of the goal. Just before the break, he completely wasted a free-kick from a promising position with another over-hit ball.
The closest either team came to scoring was with thirty-three minutes played: Phillips got his head to the ball but Pearce and his goalkeeper did just enough to stop it ending-up in the net. Having said that, Kelland Watts could have put the visitors ahead after 38 minutes when he had a clear header when a ball bounced-up right in front of him in the home penalty area: Christoffer Mafoumbi did well to keep his slightly mis-timed effort out of the net. So the game ended goal-less after 45 minutes.
The first good chance of the second half fell to the home team. Stockton barged his way into the penalty area and unleashed a shot which was blocked only for the ball to fall kindly for him again. But he failed to connect properly and the chance was lost. Fifty-four minutes were on the clock when – out of nothing – Ryan Sweeney conjured a shot which was cleared off the Morecambe line by a rapidly back-pedalling defender. Just four minutes later, though, the hosts fell behind. Following a set-piece, Pearce’s effort was brilliantly saved by Mafoumbi but his defence were too slow to react to the second ball and Joe Riley was able to gleefully sweep it home. Derek Adams shuffled his pack shortly after this and Alex Kenyon announced his presence with a powerful shot which was sadly straight at Olejnik with just over an hour played. Stockton then blasted a shot right over the roof of the home stand five minutes later. A minute after that, the visitors came within a whisker of extending their lead: Riley swung over a perfect cross which Nicky Maynard contrived to head wide of the target.
It was a let-off which Mansfield were to come to regret. Almost immediately, they could have found themselves level again.
Their goalkeeper fumbled a low cross; the ball went up into the air and landed in front of Stockton – and again, the big striker’s effort was completely mis-hit. Town continued to play effectively on the break and the Shrimps looked totally dis-organised and sometimes panic-stricken at the back. But they clawed their way back into the game after 84 minutes.
In the lead-up to this, there seemed to be another clear hand-ball in the Mansfield area by one of their muscular defenders. But the officials just gave a corner. The ball came over, Kenyon appeared in the right place at the right time and booted the ball into the back of the net.
From then on in, only one team was going to win it. Official Man-of-the-Match Ryan Cooney brilliantly intercepted the ball and rushed up the Morecambe right to deliver a cross which went for a goal kick when better things might have happened in injury time. But an absolutely golden chance to sew-up all three points arrived even later than this. Cooney again did well to get the ball into the Mansfield penalty area, where it fell to unmarked sub Jordan Slew. Virtually any connection would have meant a goal. But he allowed the ball to bounce away from him and then slashed at it only for Olejnik to again provide a key save at a vital moment.
So the game ended – probably fairly – all-square. Elsewhere, Stevenage were losing again – 2-1 at Exeter. So a point was a lot better than nothing today in the minefield at the bottom of the EFL. Borough stay bottom, now five whole precious points behind the Shrimps – who are just one place above them. With even more trouble brewing at poor old Macclesfield – who nevertheless managed a commendable 1-1 draw in Leyton today – Derek Adams can breathe a little more easily tonight. Mansfield, in the meantime, remained in twenty-first place.
Morecambe: 37 Christoffer Mafoumbi; 30 Ryan Cooney; 7 John O’Sullivan (4 Alex Kenyon 61’); 33 Jordan Cranston; 5 Steven Old; 16 Sam Lavelle (C); 31 Adam Phillips; 15 Aaron Wildig (29 Jordan Slew 71’); 32 Toumani Diagouraga 19 Carlos Mendes-Gomes (27 Christian Mbulu 71’); 9 Cole Stockton.
Subs not used: 21 Mark Halstead; 3 Luke Conlan; 27 Harvey Bradbury.
Mansfield Town: 12 Bobby Olejnik; 15 Kelland Watts (Y); 5 Krystian Pearce(C); 17 Ryan Sweeney; 18 Joe Riley (21 James Clarke 82’); 6 Neal Bishop; 16 Willem Tomlinson; 3 Malvind Benning; 23 Henry Charsley; 32 Danny Rose (9 Craig Davies 92’); 11 Nicky Maynard (22 C.J. Hamilton 76’).
Subs not used: 31 Aiden Stone; 4 Matt Preston; 28 Jimmy Knowles; 14 Jack Evans.
Ref: Scott Oldham.