Morecambe back in action at Scunthorpe
Morecambe return to action at Scunthorpe United tonight after a pre-Christmas break which left manager Jim Bentley in two minds.
The Shrimps travel to Glanford Park in the Checkatrade Trophy after 10 days’ time off caused by their FA Cup first round defeat at Coventry City.
Bentley’s players will be aiming for a similar result and performance to their last outing, the highly impressive 2-1 defeat of Plymouth Argyle.
“When you win a game, you usually want another one straight after,” Bentley said.
“However, we’d had a busy run of games, we’ve had injuries and we had Alex Whitmore suspended.
“Although there has been this break between games, our training regime is all structured.
“We know what we’re doing in terms of training until January 5 and we won’t go too far away from that.
“The only problem is that we hadn’t trained on grass for two weeks before Plymouth.
“Artificial turf isn’t ideal but we aren’t blessed to have those training facilities you need.
“Whether this break we’ve had is a good thing or not, we needed the Plymouth win.”
The only game the Shrimps have played in the last week-and-a-half was last week’s 3-0 loss for the reserves against Burton Albion.
Bentley has to make at least one change for tonight’s outing.
James Jennings is ineligible after featuring for Cheltenham Town at Blackpool in August.
However, Whitmore can figure despite being in the middle of a four-match league ban.
The on-loan centre-half cannot figure in a league game until Boxing Day after collecting his second red card of the season in last month’s home loss against Luton Town.
Kevin Ellison can also take part tonight before sitting out Saturday’s trip to Newport County after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season against Plymouth.
Victory tonight will also be worth £20,000 to the winners as well as a place in the last 16, when the competition is no longer regionalised.
With every penny vital at the Globe Arena – in common with most clubs at the lower end of the pyramid – it means there is a dual incentive for victory.
Those financial problems had seemed a world away earlier in the season when things seemed to going to plan on and off the field.
On it, the Shrimps bounced back from an opening day defeat at Grimsby Town to win their next four matches.
That saw them top the League Two table at the end of August; a run which saw Bentley named as Manager of the Month and keeper Barry Roche shortlisted for the players’ prize.
There was also Diego Lemos’ acquisition of a majority shareholding which hinted at a rosier future after years of battling at the wrong end of the table.
That seemed a long time ago when the Shrimps’ season began to hit the rocks.
Despite excellent form away from the Globe Arena, Bentley’s players set an unwanted piece of history with a club record run of seven straight league defeats at home.
That saw them drop like a stone down the League Two table where they now sit in 17th place.
However, the congested nature of the division means they are five points from the play-off spots and relegation places.
Off the pitch, players and staff were not paid on time at the end of October, leading to consultation between the club with the Football League and Professional Footballers’ Association.
Although those wages were eventually paid, it still saw Tom Barkhuizen have his contract terminated by mutual consent before joining Preston North End.
That move saw the Shrimps collect a compensation fee with the deal set to go through on January 1.
All in all, it’s been an interesting time to say the least for Bentley, English football’s third longest-serving manager after five years in charge of the club.
He admitted: “It’s been my hardest spell as manager, definitely.
“We’ve had those difficult home results and performances, but although some of them have been good, they have been the cumulation of everything that’s been going on.
“We’ve been struggling with regards to everything like our training facilities and budget.
“Everything is stacked against us but, every week, we keep going.
“There have been a lot of things going on behind the scenes like the late payment of wages the other month so it has been really difficult.
“However, when you can beat the top-of-the-table team like we did with Plymouth, then it gives everyone a lift.”