Morecambe visited Derbyshire today to be entertained by a club with which they have spookily far too much in common. Both teams moved from their original homes to new stadiums in 2010 and in recent times, their Chairmen have precipitated crises on and off the field which could yet spell disaster for either or even both football clubs. The hosts were rock-bottom of the League Two table before the match with only five points on the board this term and just one win out of twelve matches so far. In September, they lost five of seven League Two matches and drew the other two and have already lost their only league fixture of this month, 2-1 at Lincoln City seven days ago. Gary Caldwell`s brief tenure at the helm this year ended in mid- September when interim boss Guy Branston was only allowed two games (both of which Chesterfield lost) before he also received his marching orders. Since then, former striker Jack Lester has been given the job of trying to keep the Spireites in the EFL. If he has even a slight chance of doing this, the club need to start picking up points rapidly and particularly against the teams hovering just above them in the relegation zone. It seems ridiculous – with Xmas stock still beginning to appear in the shops – to talk about crunch matches, relegation and six pointers with the season barely two months old. But clashes like the one at the Proact Stadium today could dramatically improve the fortunes of whichever team came out on top. Morecambe went into the game just three positions higher than Chesterfield but with double the amount of points: ten. With Manager Jim Bentley and Assistant Ken McKenna both putting pen to paper this week on contracts which could see them remain at the Globe Arena until June 2020, the Shrimps have the consolation that whatever new horrors await off the field, there is at least continuity and steady pairs of hands on it.
The match started in bright sunshine with Chesterfield lined-up in a 4-4-2 formation whereas Jim Bentley`s men were in a 4-3-3 shape. The visitors carved-out the first chance of the contest after five minutes with Adam McGurk setting up Andy Fleming for a shot on goal which was well held by Joe Anyon. The hosts soon troubled the Shrimps` rearguard though and after eleven minutes, Chesterfield Old Boy Barry Roche did well to palm away a long-range shot from Kristian Dennis and even better to recover to push the follow-up effort by Chris O`Grady away from goal only for Dennis to head the cross which was immediately swung towards him over the bar. At the other end, though, the opening goal arrived after just over a quarter of an hour. McGurk – newly-returned from injury today – took a free kick from all of 30 yards out and Anyon seemed to lose the flight of the ball as it went beyond him to his left and straight into the back of the net to put his team in a position they have known only too well in recent times: losing again. The home team huffed and puffed a bit after going behind but did not test their former goalkeeper after his heroics early on until the forty-second minute. As the home supporters started to become restive, Dennis collected the ball from a Morecambe corner and found Robbie Weir, whose 25-yard thunderbolt beat Roche all ends up but slammed against the woodwork and bounced harmlessly away. At the other end, however, away Captain Alex Kenyon had already headed narrowly wide with ten minutes of the half still scheduled to play and Aaron Wildig was played-through into the clear four minutes later only for Scott Wiseman to make a last-ditch tackle on him as he tried to lob the goalkeeper, who managed to grab hold of the ball before anything worse happened for the home team. So the half ended with the team from Lancashire a goal to the good and more grumblings of discontent among the fans clad in blue.
These grumblings got much louder within two minutes of the re-start. Luke Conlan went on a run down the left wing and crossed the ball to Garry Thompson, whose header at the far post flew past Anyon into the net after being deflected by McGurk to put the Shrimps two goals to the good. Chesterfield`s response was to immediately try and pull a goal back and Louis Reed played in Dennis who steadied himself before taking a shot which Big Baz again performed miracles to palm away from the goal. As Chesterfield tried desperately to get back into the game, Roche used his legs this time to stop an effort from Bradley Barry with almost an hour played. As the match seemed to be becoming Chesterfield New Boys versus Chesterfield Old Boy, Baz showed the home crowd yet again what they have been missing when he first of all brilliantly thwarted Joe Rowley`s close-range shot with his feet after 66 minutes and then saved an on-target header from Ian Evett just a minute later. At the other end, however, Morecambe were still striking on the break and they advanced up the left wing again after 71 minutes for Vadaine Oliver to pull the ball back to Wildig, whose effort was again blocked by the Spireite defence. A minute later, the same player saw his shot parried by Anyon only for substitute Michael Rose to hit the rebound well wide of the target. With Roche again saving first from Dennis, who shot straight at him after 75 minutes and then from substitute Jordan Flores` volley a minute later, the visitors were beginning to cling-on to their lead against an increasingly dominant, albeit desperate team. But try as they might, Chesterfield could not break through and at the end of the game, they faced the ignominy of their sixth defeat in a row in League Two. With Port Vale showing signs of recent improvement, only the poor form of fellow-strugglers Forest Green Rovers seems to offer Chesterfield hope of not being marooned alone at the bottom of the EFL. They remain on five points whereas the potentially critical win pushes the Shrimps up to twentieth position in the division with thirteen points. Surprisingly perhaps, Jim Bentley pronounced himself `as flat as a pancake` after the game. “I`ve never had to change the formation as often as I did during the second half” he said and bemoaned his team`s apparent lack of belief in being able to manage a game when in a winning position. The win, he suggested, had more to do with Barry Roche`s determination not to beaten than it had to do with anything else. But a win is a win and I for one would doubt that he would like to swap positions with his opposite number tonight: on this showing, Jack Lester`s task to keep his club in the Football League will need nothing less than a miracle if he is to succeed.
Chesterfield: 12 Joe Anyon; 5 Scott Wiseman; 6 Ian Evatt; 9 Kristian Dennis; 10 Chris O`Grady (19 Diego de Girolamo 60 mins); 15 Joe Rowley; 24 Andy Kellett; 25 Louis Reed; 26 Jak McCourt (17 Connor Dimaio 49 mins); 27 Bradley Barry; 28 Robbie Weir (C) (Y) (23 Jordan Flores 64 mins).
Subs not used: 34 Brad Jones; 4 Sam Hird; 18 Delial Brewster; 32 Matthew Briggs.
Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 5 Steven Old; 2 Aaron McGowan; 22 Max Muller; 14 Luke Conlan; 8 Andy Fleming; 4 Alex Kenyon (C) (Y); 7 Garry Thompson (24 Michael Rose 72 mins); 15 Aaron Wildig (21 Elliot Osborne 89 mins); 28 Adam McGurk (18 Rhys Turner 60 mins); 9 Vadaine Oliver (Y).
Subs Not Used: 12 Danijel Nizic; 17 Mitchell Lund; 16 Sam Lavelle; 10 Adam Campbell.
Ref: Darren Drysdale