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 eight 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