The D3D4 Correspondents give you their take on the weekend’s action in League One and Two starting with the Friday night cracker at the Globe Arena…
MATCH REPORT: Morecambe 4-3 Yeovil Town
Morecambe Step Back From The Edge of the Abyss.
Morecambe entertained Yeovil on a wet and windy evening by the Irish Sea on Friday evening. The two clubs have met no less than eighteen times previously, with the Glovers slightly ahead with seven wins to the Shrimps’ six. None of their previous meetings had anything like the significance that the one tonight at the Globe did however. The fact that nobody else from League Two would play until the following day gave the Shrimps scant consolation that whatever was to happen, they would not be bottom of the Division until at least Saturday if they were to lose again. Following what Manager Jim Bentley described as an `alarmingly poor’ display against Notts County at the same venue on Boxing Day, Jim again shuffled his pack with five changes from the team which started that match. Yeovil arrived in nineteenth position, just two places higher but a whole five points better off than their hosts, having won at Cheltenham three days ago.
The game could not have started worse for Morecambe. As Steven Old and Callum Lang basically got in each other’s way, Jake Gray simply made his way past them into the Morecambe penalty box and blasted the ball past Barry Roche to put the visitors one goal up. This was with just 25 seconds on the clock. With ten minutes played, Yeovil had forced two corners to Morecambe’s none but Andy Fleming had warmed Artur Krysiak’s hands with a decent effort after three minutes. The home side produced their second effort on goal after twelve minutes when Kevin Ellison blasted the ball over the bar following a scramble in the Glovers’ area after a long throw from Michael Rose. A minute later, Vadaine Oliver tried his luck from all of 35 yards out and although the shot beat Artur Krysiak in the visitors’ goal, the ball bounced back off the post and Yeovil survived. In fact, they not only survived but actually flourished. Only seventeen minutes were on the clock when Otis Khan robbed Rose, exchanged passes with Gray on the edge of the Shrimps’ area and then unleashed a sublime curling strike which had Roche clawing at thin air as it whistled past him into the top corner of the net to pile up the agony for the Lancashire club and its supporters.
Yeovil basically just needed to keep possession after this tremendously positive opening. Oliver had a good opportunity to reduce the arrears after about half an hour but headed Rose’s precise free kick over the bar but other than this, they had little to trouble them during the first half. Max Muller was booked for a bad foul on Sam Surridge and lasted only another quarter of an hour before his Manager decided to withdraw him altogether, presumably fearing that the German might be sent off otherwise.
What Jim Bentley said to his players at half time is probably best left to the imagination. However, there is only so much anyone can say to players who seemed to be collectively too poor to compete at this level. After all, nobody can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear and Jim’s options – to basically revert to the team which let him, their supporters and themselves down so badly three days ago – have always been severely limited. But whatever he did say – it worked…
The Shrimps belatedly at least put on more of a show at the start of the second half. Fleming narrowly missed with a shot after 52 minutes and within four minutes, Sam Lavelle had two headed chances from Rose’s corners. He missed with the first one and virtually hit Krysiak with the second one but at least the hosts were getting closer. With the pressure gradually building and Oliver forcing Krysiak into an excellent save after being played-in by Old, the Shrimps finally made the breakthrough they needed after 72 minutes. Callum Lang made good progress down the left and took a shot which was blocked only for Kevin Ellison’s follow-up to be booted off the line by Connor Smith. But the ball spun up into the air and Oliver was quickest to react and head it into the Glovers net to reduce the arrears on the night. Encouraged by this success, the Shrimps continued to boss the contest. Their belated efforts were rewarded in the 79th minute when Lang made it Third Time Lucky when his header from Rose’s latest cross finally beat Krysiak to level the contest. But there were more twists in the tail still to come in this extraordinary match. First of all, in their second meaningful attack of the half, Yeovil went ahead again. In their first one after 84 minutes, Tom James drew a fantastic save from Big Baz with a pile-driver of a free kick from 30 yards out. Then Omar Sowunmi went one better when he headed Gray’s cross past Roche in the eighty-sixth minute following a corner to give the visitors a seemingly unassailable lead. But straight from kick-off, Morecambe swept back down the pitch and Lang scored again to level the match at 3-3. Even then, the Shrimps continued to press and in injury time, substitute Alex Kenyon sent over a fabulous cross which Kevin Ellison brilliantly headed past Yeovil’s Polish goalkeeper to complete a simply phenomenal comeback for the home team.
Jim Bentley will sleep easier than his opposite number Darren Way tonight. The three points Yeovil’s players dropped on the road this evening mean that the Glovers have been well and truly dragged back into the pack scrapping for points right at the bottom of the EFL. As for Morecambe, regardless of whether or not Forest Green, Barnet or Chesterfield manage to get more than two points by tomorrow night, the Shrimps will start 2018 clear of the relegation positions. Despite their extremely poor performance during the first half, virtually the same team grabbed the game by the scruff of its neck and put on a battling performance which cannot help to give the players, management and fans alike more reason to feel positive about the future than was the case less than an hour before the end of the game. Well done the Shrimps. Well done Jimbo. Happy New Year everybody.
Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 2 Aaron McGowan; 5 Steven Old; 22 Max Muller (Y) (4 Alex Kenyon 40 mins); 16 Sam Lavelle; 24 Michael Rose (C)(Y); 11 Kevin Ellison (Y); 14 Luke Conlan; 9 Vadaine Oliver; 8 Andy Fleming (7 Garry Thompson 86 mins); 29 Callum Lang.
Subs not used: 12 Danijel Nizic; 10 Adam Campbell; 27 Luke Jordan; 17 Mitchell Lund; 21 Elliot Osborne.
Yeovil Town: 1 Artur Krysiak (Y); 5 Bevis Mugabe; 3 Nathan Smith (Y); 17 Omar Sowunmi; 23 Tom James; 10 Jake Gray; 4 Matthew Worthington; 8 Connor Smith; 7 Otis Khan (15 Jordan Green 73 mins); 13 Francois Zoko (C) (24 Olufela Olomola 70 mins); 14 Sam Surridge.
Subs not used: 12 Jonathan Maddison; 6 Keston Davies; 25 Sid Nelson; 30 Alefele Santos.
Ref: Darren Handley.
words Roger Fitton, D3D4 Morecambe Correspondent
MATCH REPORT: Carlisle United 0-1 Coventry City
In each team’s final match of 2017, a freezing cold Brunton Park played host to two teams who were thoroughly aiming for promotion this season.
For the third match running, Keith Curle named an unchanged lineup although Mark Robins changed his formation from a 4 to a 3 man back line to match his opponents system.
The last game of the calendar year got off to a slow start and neither team had a firm grasp on it as chances during the opening stages were rare. A few corner kicks for Carlisle and a number of counter attacks from Coventry resulted in both goalkeepers, Jack Bonham and Lee Burge respectively, not being worked as they picked up the pieces and played out from the back. An early change was needed for the Sky Blues as centre-back Jordan Willis picked up a very early knock and was eventually replaced by Dominic Hyam as they aimed to stop the in-form home front pairing of Hallam Hope and Richie Bennett winning much both on the ground via through balls from midfield and long balls from the defence.
The biggest chance of the half when Reggie Lambe utilised his quick feet to shuffle into space on the edge of the box to fire a shot from the centre that whipped past the top left-hand post. With a lax and jaded display from both sides, the first half was one to be forgotten.
There was much more drama in the second half but the majority came from errors by the respective opposition. Despite just minutes of post-interval play passing, it was Coventry who took the lead due to one of those mistakes. A ball from deep the left was totally misjudged by Clint Hill in the middle and Tom Parkes could only watch Mark McNulty speed past him and finish in front of a noisy travelling crowd.
As the goal celebrations ensued, captain Michael Doyle decided to take a dig at some of the Carlisle contingent including Curle and Hill on his way around the pitch from some currently unknown reason – even though he was headlocked by Hill in the next physical brawl between the two as the ball hung in the Brunton Park winter air.
It was an odd occurrence when another away substitute in Duckens Nazon picked up a knock early after coming on and was taken off as a result just minutes post-interval as Maxime Biamou was the switch. From then on, the pushing Cumbrians which now has last week’s saviour Shaun Miller on for Hope and the often impactful John O’Sullivan on for Parkes but could not get through the resulting Sky Blues who themselves were a constant threat as they captitalised on their opposition often rushing and overcommitting men leaving gaps. A goal was disallowed for Robins’ men as Bonham made a superb initial stop onto the post and Biamou tapped in but was flagged offside. However, when another counter came, the usually reliable Mike Jones – last time out’s man of the match – blatantly took down his marker in Jordan Shipley for a clear penalty. To give his team some hope, there were more heroics from eventual man of the match Bonham as he again saved down low from the spot like he has done previously this campaign.
Not long after, the loanee who will now be at the club until the end of the season was called on once more as Shipley fired in. Hopeful punts towards Bennett were failing as usual and Carlisle simply could not open up chances even when Lambe’s replacement Kelvin Etuhu nearly slotted in after Jamie Devitt (who clash with Biamou late on which caused a minor scrap) did well on the right of the penalty area in the depths of added time. Although it was a largely quality-devoid encounter, the superior solidarity Coventry showed meant they came out victors as the final whistle blew to signal the end of a 2017 for these teams which was a real battle throughout.
It won’t be such a happy new year for the home side now that they finished the year with just 5 home league wins but the away side will be buoyant on their way home as both are set to regroup to face their next tests in less than 48 hours on the first day of the next year.
Grainger 66’ Devitt 85’
Davies 80’ Biamou 85’
Attendance: 5,807 (847)
Referee: Scott Oldham
words Nathan Ridley, D3D4 Carlisle United Correspondent
MATCH REPORT: Portsmouth 3-1 Northampton Town
Northampton slumped to a second successive heavy defeat after a ruthless Portsmouth side put three past them in a lively contest at Fratton Park.
In a match played between two teams who are at an almost diametric contrast in the form book, it was Northampton (who had won just 2 of their 12 away games this season) who started the better, with Pompey keeper Luke McGee forced into making good saves in the opening minutes from a Matt Grimes strike and Sam Hoskins’ audacious attempted lob.
Portsmouth were on the back foot for much of the first half and suffered another setback after 20 minutes when Danny Rose hobbled off injured after coming off worse in a clattering with John-Joe O’Toole. Scans later revealed that Rose suffered a fractured leg.
Pompey did see chances in the opening half hour, including a long-range effort from Ben Close (who was making his 50th appearance for the club) and Matty Kennedy’s deflected shot, but both went narrowly over the crossbar.
Northampton went ahead after 38 minutes when Lewis McGugan played an incisive ball through to Chris Long, the Cobblers striker finishing composedly for his sixth goal of the season. But the Cobblers’ lead was short-lived as Matty Kennedy equalised for Portsmouth just five minutes later, powering a shot into the bottom left corner from the edge of the box.
Portsmouth then took the lead just before half time when Matthew Hawkins got in behind the Cobblers’ high defensive line and produced a sublime looping header to beat Matt Ingram from 18 yards out.
It still seemed that the game could go either way at half-time, Portsmouth perhaps not being entirely deserving of their lead at the interval on the balance of play, but the home side pressed home their advantage to devastating effect in the second half with Northampton found wanting.
Pompey took just three minutes after the restart to build on their lead, as Matthew Hawkins notched up his second headed goal of the match when he rose higher than Cobblers skipper David Buchanan at the back post to nod in a Dion Donohue cross.
Northampton manager Jimmy Floyd Hassellbaink made three attacking substitutions in an attempt to get his side back into the contest, including bringing on winger Daniel Powell and striker Marc Richards, but the Cobblers gaffer’s efforts were in vain as Portsmouth went through the gears in the closing stages and were unlucky not to score two or three more. Matt Ingram made a number of crucial saves in the Cobblers goal to keep the scoreline respectable as the away side floundered badly in the final quarter of an hour.
Northampton have now won just one of their last eight games, whilst Portsmouth made it three wins in a row at Fratton Park and are sitting pretty in the playoff places of League One.
Pompey assistant manager Joe Gallen was chuffed with the way his side came back from a goal down to win so impressively, saying:
“It was a really good performance today. We showed a lot of character when going one-nil down in the first half, and to come back that strong and to create three goals and a numerous amount of chances… we’re really pleased with that one.
“We haven’t gone a goal down at home for a while. This is a big club with a big crowd and big expectancy, people look at the table and where we are and sometimes to go a goal down can have a big effect but I thought we coped admirably. Matty Kennedy- well done to him for coming up at the time when we needed something. That first goal got us going and that should give the team a lot of belief in the future because we’re going to need it.”
Northampton manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink lambasted referee Lee Swabey in his post-match interview, accusing him of being “inconsistent”. Hasselbaink said:
“I thought we started really well. We had more of the game and in the wide areas we overloaded them. We dominated in midfield and then scored a brilliant goal. It was what we worked on. At that part, I think the referee lost the game a little bit. We didn’t get free kicks. It’s not an excuse but I am just saying how it was. When you are not getting free kicks it is hard for us mentally. We couldn’t sustain it, and we wanted to go into the dressing room 1-0 up. Even at 1-1 you have a chance. But their second goal was a freak goal, and well taken, and then we are all up against it, and you could see that in the second half.
“Lewis McGugan got a yellow card for stopping a counterattack. They did the same but they didn’t get a yellow card. It was very inconsistent. Psychologically, that was a hard one for us to take.
“Confidence is fragile and we need to regroup and try to get that confidence back up. Something needs to go for us at the moment. But we need to keep on going and find our own luck. If we keep on working hard and keep on doing the right things then it will change. At the moment, things are going against us.
“It’s better for us at the moment to play at home. Today was disappointing. We started ever so well and we wanted to get the three points here. Everything was positive but it wasn’t meant to be.”
Hassellbaink would not be drawn on whether he will take immediate action in the January transfer window, either through signing new players or releasing under-performers, insisting that “we have made our plans, but that is irrelevant for the moment. We need to concentrate on the next game”.
Teams and Man-For-Man Marking
Portsmouth: 4-2-3-1: McGee 7/10, Thompson 6, Burgess 7, Clarke 7, Donohue 7, Rose 6, Close 7, Evans 6, Pitman (c) 7, Kennedy 8, Hawkins 8
Subs: May (for Rose, 29 mins) 6, Lowe (for Evans, 45+6 mins) 6, Chapman (for Pitman, 89 mins) 6
Northampton: 4-4-1-1: Ingram 7, Moloney 6, Taylor 6, Poole 6, Buchanan (c) 5, Grimes 5, McGugan 7, Hoskins 5, Crooks 5, O’Toole 5, Long 7
Subs: Foley (for O’Toole, 59 mins) 6, Powell (for Hoskins, 64 mins) 5, Richards (for Long, 72 mins) 6
Referee: Lee Swabey
Attendance: 18,539 (538 Northampton fans)
Men of the Match: Matty Kennedy for Pompey and Lewis McGugan for the Cobblers.
words Toby Foster, D3D4 Northampton Town Correspondent
MATCH REPORT: Lincoln City 2-1 Forest Green Rovers
My final game of 2017 took me to Sincil Bank for the meeting of the two promoted clubs from last season’s National League. Lincoln knew a win in this clash with bottom placed Rovers could put them in the automatic promotion places while FGR boss Mark Cooper would take any sort of positive result after an awful run of form.
As expected Lincoln were quickly on the attack & took the lead on 8 minutes, a Neal Eardley cross was missed by the FGR defence leaving Imps striker Matt Rhead with a simple header to open the scoring. Lincoln kept up the pressure, chances came & were missed, mainly by Rheads striking partner Matt Green, but Nathan Arnold & Harry Anderson missed good opportunities too.
Little was seen of Rovers as an attacking unit until they surprisingly equalised just shy of the half hour mark with a good turn & finish in the area by the prolific Christian Doidge ( surely a club will come in for him in January? Hope Paul Warne is reading this!!). The first half petered out after this goal, probably Lincoln shocked by conceding after being so in control had something to do with it.
HT Lincoln 1 FGR 1
Imps boss Danny Cowley clearly had a job to do at half time to re motivate his side. The team talk had the desired effect as Lincoln went back in front on 56 minutes through a close range Rhead finish after a driving unchecked run by Anderson. The rest of the match was almost all Forest Green attacking, mainly because strangely Lincoln took off BOTH their strikers, Rhead & Green, replaced them with midfielders Whitehouse & Palmer & decided to park the bus. If it wasn’t for a fine goalsaving block by Michael Bostwick & an even better save by Lincoln Keeper Vickers from Doidge in added time, the Rovers may well have stolen an unlikely point.
FT Lincoln 2 FGR 1
I always enjoy a visit to Sincil Bank. Lincoln are a lovely club with friendly committed fans & seem to be a club going places. An 8900 crowd with only 86 away fans shows the public of Lincoln are buying into the club.
words Ian Bradley, D3D4 Rotherham United Correspondent and roving reporter