Morecambe 2019/20 season review: January proves a busy time on and off the pitch
With the 2020/21 season drawing ever nearer – and Morecambe having been out of action since early March – we thought we’d take a month-by-month look back at the 2019/20 campaign.
This week, we go back to January when the Shrimps posted some mixed results and there was a large injection of fresh blood into the playing staff...
January was always going to be a busy month for the Shrimps, on and off the field.
On it, they had six games to navigate in their bid to pull away from the foot of League Two.
Off it, boss Derek Adams had his first transfer window to overhaul the squad and bring in players to drive Morecambe up the table.
The year started with a 1-0 loss to Bradford City on New Year’s Day.
Despite a much-improved performance where the Shrimps dominated for long periods, they were undone by a late goal from Aramide Oteh.
The Shrimps started the game on the front foot with A-Jay Leitch-Smith seeing an effort blocked by Ben Richards-Everton and Steven Old heading against the bar from Luke Conlan’s free-kick.
As the half came to an end, Bradford threatened again with James Vaughan looping a header over.
After the break, Carlos Mendes-Gomes fired straight at Richard O’Donnell from the edge of the area and Tom Brewitt saw an effort superbly blocked by Paudie O’Connor.
Bradford took the lead with a rare foray on the Morecambe goal as a quick free-kick caught out George Tanner with Dylan Connolly given space to cross from the left for Oteh to stab the ball past Mark Halstead at the second attempt.
It also proved the end of an era for the away fans present as Kevin Ellison’s late cameo was to be the last time he wore a Morecambe shirt.
Port Vale’s FA Cup involvement at Manchester City meant the Shrimps had to wait 10 days for their next game – and Adams was a busy man in that period.
Twenty-four hours after defeat at Bradford and Morecambe announced four new arrivals.
Burnley youngsters Ryan Cooney and Adam Phillips joined on loan for the remainder of the season, while Toumani Diagouraga and Jordan Slew also came in on deals until the end of the campaign.
Andrew Tutte and Adam Buxton, meanwhile, were told they could find new employers, Kyle Hawley was loaned to FC United of Manchester and Joe Lynch departed the club.
All four new boys made their debuts in the next game against Colchester United as Adams made six changes in all from the loss at Bradford.
It paid off as the Shrimps snapped a three-game losing run with a 1-1 draw thanks to Phillips’ debut goal.
The deadlock was broken on 35 minutes in contentious fashion as far as the home players were concerned.
Sam Lavelle’s clearance seemed to hit an opposing player on its way out, only for referee Robert Lewis to award Colchester a throw.
If that was fortunate, there was nothing lucky about the way that Ryan Clampin got free down the left with his cross finished emphatically by Frank Nouble.
It was almost 2-0 before the break but, fortunately for the Shrimps, Harry Pell’s deflected effort went narrowly wide.
They went within inches of going two goals down as Halstead turned Kwame Poku’s angled shot onto the upright.
Slew missed Morecambe’s best chance when he blazed over after Dean Gerken had kept out Phillips’ shot but the Shrimps drew level on 69 minutes.
Moments after his introduction, John O’Sullivan whipped in a fine cross from the right-hand side and Phillips finished clinically.
Three days later and Morecambe made it four points from two home matches with a 2-1 defeat of Port Vale.
First-half goals from Old and Cole Stockton saw them well in charge at half-time in their quest to climb the League Two table.
James Gibbons pulled one back for a Port Vale side who had the better of the second half but could not get themselves on level terms.
Morecambe had the ideal start when they opened the scoring on six minutes, Old glancing home Phillips’ corner.
If that was good, then the Shrimps’ fans must have thought they were in dreamland six minutes later.
Cooney released Phillips down the right-hand side and his first-time cross was swept home by Stockton.
Stockton, Cooney and Lavalle all had chances to score a third before the visitors pulled one back as Gibbons curled a fine finish over Halstead.
Halstead preserved the lead with a fine low save to keep out David Amoo’s header but, despite five minutes of added time, Morecambe were able to claim victory.
Four days later brought a trip to Northampton Town with another new face joining in time for that trip.
Blackpool keeper Christoffer Mafoumbi came in on loan, though Halstead kept his place for a 4-1 defeat which sent Morecambe back to the foot of League Two.
The home side scored two goals in either half to win the game but the scoreline was certainly flattering for Northampton as Morecambe played well for much of the game but missed a number of chances.
Slew, Tanner and Stockton all had chances before the hosts took the lead as Paul Anderson’s teasing ball was missed by Jordan Turnbull and Halstead, before nestling into the bottom corner.
Anderson brilliantly blocked from Diagouraga before creating Northampton’s second when his cross-cum-shot was flicked in by Ryan Watson.
A third goal came 10 minutes after half-time when Halstead punched Chris Lines’ cross straight to Nicky Adams, who shot through a defender and into the net.
Morecambe pulled one back just after the hour when Stockton’s shot was well saved by Cornell but the rebound fell neatly for Phillips to score.
As the Shrimps pushed forward for a second they conceded a fourth with a goal of quality from Lines.
Adams again did well down the left and crossed to the far post for Lines to smash a fierce volley past Halstead from the edge of the box.
Cambridge United were the next opponents seven days later with yet more activity behind the scenes.
Tanner was recalled by Manchester United, while Lewis Alessandra departed at the end of his short-term deal.
Coming in was Christian Mbulu to boost the Shrimps’ defensive options.
He was on the bench as Morecambe and Cambridge drew 1-1 in a game where Mafoumbi made his first start for the club.
The home side began brightly with Stockton flashing a shot across goal and Old looping a header over.
The closest either side came to scoring in the first half came when Jack Roles’ shot was kept out well by Mafoumbi.
Sixty-one seconds after the break, the deadlock was broken when Slew’s shot was blocked and Phillips slammed the ball into the roof of the net.
However, they were pegged back when a header was blocked and Harvey Knibbs was first to the loose ball to finish emphatically.
On the field, the month ended with a welcome 2-0 win at Walsall.
The game swung from end to end in the first half with Walsall having the best chance to take the lead when they were awarded a penalty on 22 minutes.
Wes McDonald was felled by Mendes-Gomes, only to see his spot-kick saved by Mafoumbi.
From there it was Morecambe who had the better chances with Cooney drilling a shot straight at Liam Roberts and Phillips hitting the bar.
Old headed Morecambe into the lead midway through the second half but Walsall came close in added time when Dan Scarr hit the post and the ball fell into Mafoumbi’s hands.
Adams’ side took full advantage of their good fortune as they sealed the points moments later, breaking clear with Mendes-Gomes curling a shot home and moving them four points clear of bottom side Stevenage.
Transfer deadline day came three days later with Morecambe bringing in a seventh signing of the month.
The man in question was striker Harvey Bradbury, who joined on loan from Millwall to provide Stockton with competition for his starting berth up front.
Next week: The final part of our review as February and March see the Shrimps’ season finish unexpectedly early....