Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Pat Bell
26 February 2017
Morecambe 1 Grimsby Town 0
Off the train, I made straight for the promenade and looked out over a sandy beach with views of the Cumbrian fells, shrouded in mist. Morecambe seemed like a place you could spend a very good afternoon. Just don't go to the football.
I looked for refreshments. The Wetherspoons is called the Eric Bartholomew. On the prom there's Eric's Cafe. Just behind it is Brew Me Sunshine. The secret was out: Ernie Wise was born in Bramley, Leeds.
Morecambe have a new ground, we are told. The concrete terrace with the harsh acoustics hasn't changed. There is still no stand down one side of the ground. Meet the new ground. Same as the old ground. Then get on your knees and pray we don't get fooled again.
The teams came out looking like they'd been at the dressing-up box. Morecambe wore various shades of red, with black shorts. Town wore bright red shorts.
I guess the plan was a kind of 4-1-3-2 formation: McKeown, Mills, Collins, Pearson, Andrew, Gunning, Bolarinwa, Osborne, Clements, Sam Jones and Dyson. But plans are soon forgotten.
After a few seconds of post-kick-off nothing, the ball was played down our right touchline. A Town defender let himself get hustled off the ball and it ran out for a corner.
The Morecambe players had seen the odds being offered that they wouldn't score in the first minute. They spent some time standing over the corner, carefully signalling they were not going to kick it into the box. All the Town players filled the box. Eventually the ball was rolled to the left-back Molyneux, who forgot the transfer window had closed and issued a "come and get me" plea. No Town player came to get him. Finally Molyneux glanced over his shoulder at the stadium clock, saw that the first minute had passed, and shot low into the far corner.
The moment cried out for David Coleman, he of the told-you-so "one-nil". Town players shook their fists at each other. They'd have got away with it if it hadn't been for Morecambe being a team of reasonably well-organised, adult footballers.
And that was that for the first half. Mills and Bolarinwa had the beating of Morecambe's left but only once did one of them get in a cross that found a Town head. Dyson met the ball on the six-yard box and headed it true, straight into Morecambe goalie Roche's midriff. A couple of times Osborne picked up the ball in midfield, turned to face goal and ran. If the ball didn't run loose, it ended with a shot from the edge of the area being dedraggled wide. Once Sam Jones accused Osborne of ignoring the left, but why not when Marcus Bignot, indeed the entire country, is doing the same.
After about half an hour, Morecambe attacked again and won their second and third corners. Both resulted in a Town defender having to scrape the ball off the line near the right post.
And that was the first half that was. Morecambe had three attacks, scored once and almost scored from the other two. Town dominated possession and created just one clear chance.
After half time, Town changed shape. I'm sorry, I'll read that again. After half time, Town lost all shape. In the first half, Bolarinwa had been causing problems despite the right touchline, below Morecambe's main stand, being a sticky mudpatch. We clung to the hope of the damage he might cause on the grassy far side where the ball would run fast and true. But in the second half Bolarinwa rarely ventured onto the wing. With his crowd-pleasing quips and emoting, Bignot might come across as a populist, but now he had the side lined up in a technocrat's dream, ignoring both left and right.
Substitutions were made: Asante for the leg-weary Osborne; Davies for the largely ineffectual Gunning (one very good clearing header aside) and Yussuf for the unmoored Bolarinwa. The game stayed the same.
Late on, we had a chance. I guess it must have been Jones who got the ball close in with his back to goal. He controlled the ball well, then whipped round on to his left, a few yards out and with a clear sight of goal. Perhaps he was off-balance; his shot dribbled straight at Roche.
Morecambe? They had several chances. Every time they got the ball just inside their own half, vistas opened up through a brittle Town midfield. Mullen is the kind of nippy pest our one-paced defence can't cope with. He headed against the bar from inside the six-yard box. McKeown might just have got a touch on it. He certainly got a touch on another shot, late on, which rolled against the inside of the post. Ellison tapped home the rebound but was offside. He'd also been offside when he took advantage of some Town defensive dawdling to shoot home from near the penalty spot. And McKeown absolutely definitely saved, diving and parrying at his near post when more dawdling gave a Morecambe player the freedom of our left.
That Ellison, by the way, isn't the son of the Kevin Ellison we regularly used to come up against in the north-west when we were last in the fourth division. It's the same Ellison. It's good to know that whatever might happen to Town over the next decade, it will almost certainly lead to us playing a north-western team featuring Kevin Ellison. Perhaps, like the Barnstoneworth United hero in the Ripping Yarns episode, he'll have more hair by then.
The final whistle brought a cavalcade of boos, unexpected after an admittedly flattering 1-0 defeat and after frustration until then had largely expressed itself in sarcasm. Boos were undercut by applause when a couple of Town players acknowledged the support, but no-one came too close to the terrace. A throng of fans had gathered next to the hoardings as though expecting another episode of Marcus Bignot's Question Time, but Bignot seemed in fact to be shepherding his players to the safety of the dressing room.
Town had huffed and puffed but had always looked like going two goals down.