Jim Bentley: January biggest month in Morecambe's history
Morecambe boss Jim Bentley geared up for the festive period by claiming January will be '˜the biggest in the club's history.'
The Shrimps head to Mansfield Town on Boxing Day, smarting from last weekend’s 2-1 defeat against Cheltenham Town.
A squad reduced to 16 players through injuries, suspension and player unavailability took a further hit through first-half knocks for Liam Wakefield, Rhys Turner and Peter Murphy, along with a straight red card for Alex Kenyon.
It gives Bentley yet more problems ahead of January, which sees his 20-man senior squad set to be cut by 20 per cent.
Top scorer Cole Stockton, Alex Whitmore, Ntumba Massanka and James Jennings all see their loan periods expire next month.
However, any decision on whether those players can return remains up in the air pending any green light from the club’s hierarchy.
It’s understood there is also frustration concerning the club’s training facilities, giving Bentley yet another headache to address.
“We’ve got problems with the squad and problems off the pitch,” he said.
“This is the worst it’s been while I’ve been here and, in my opinion, the next month is the biggest in the club’s history.
“We have things that need looking at on and off the pitch.”
As far as on the pitch goes, the Shrimps had gone into last weekend with Kevin Ellison and Alex Whitmore suspended, Aaron Wildig (calf) joining Stockton on the sidelines and Jennings unavailable under the terms of his loan from Cheltenham.
Those absences further weakened a Morecambe squad still recovering from Tom Barkhuizen’s October departure and the early cancellation of Jack Dunn’s loan move from Liverpool.
It left the manager bemoaning a situation which left him without his principal attacking threats so far this season.
“We are stretched because Tom Barkhuizen has gone and he’d scored five or six goals,” Bentley said.
“Jack Dunn scored six, we had Kevin Ellison suspended and Cole Stockton was out so that’s around 25 goals we had missing.
“Aaron Wildig has arguably been our best player over the last couple of games, while Rhys Turner has caused no end of problems.
“We’re feeling it because we have suspensions and injuries, so we have so much work to do in January.”
Defeat against Cheltenham capped a miserable time of it for the Shrimps.
Having been good value for Murphy’s early opener against a Town side without a win since October, Kenyon’s controversial red card turned the tide in the visitors’ favour.
Bentley’s anger at Kenyon’s red card saw him sent to the stands, swapping places with his assistant, Ken McKenna, who had been watching the game from a different vantage point.
It left him questioning the performance of referee, Michael Salisbury, and his decision-making process.
“I lost my head and I let myself down,” the manager acknowledged.
“Certain things have gone which I didn’t agree with and we seem to be talking about the same things every week.
“We’ve been fined before for surrounding the ref so let him do his job.
“I don’t think we’re a dirty team; we’re mid-table in the disciplinary standings this season and we’ve spoken to the players, saying we can’t afford to get fined.
“There are new guidelines where only one or two players, including the captain, can ask the ref.
“Ten seconds in and there’s a bad tackle on Peter Murphy but he’s waved play on and then, second half, there’s a terrible tackle on Aaron McGowan but only a talking-to.”