Why it didn’t pay to leave Morecambe’s matches early last season

Kevin Ellison scores one of his four late goals this season during November's draw with Notts County at the Globe Arena
Kevin Ellison scores one of his four late goals this season during November's draw with Notts County at the Globe Arena

Morecambe might have finished the League Two season in 18th place but there was a feeling that they might have done better.

Seven wins from their final 15 games lifted Jim Bentley’s players well clear of the bottom two and into a position of relative comfort.

Missed chances undoubtely played their part with Aaron Collins ending the season as their top scorer with eight goals – despite only joining the club in February.

Injuries also had a role with Bentley, at one point, missing as many as 11 players from his first-team squad.

However, what was arguably the club’s biggest weakness in the 2018/19 season was the Shrimps’ costly habit of conceding late goals.

They had the division’s third worst goals against record with 70, beaten only by Macclesfield Town (74) and Notts County (84).

However, almost a quarter of those goals – 16 to be precise – were scored later than the 80th minute of matches.

Seven of those were not game-changing strikes as they were in matches where the Shrimps were already behind or, as at Cambridge United, two goals ahead.

Of the other nine, however, six directly saw Morecambe turn a winning position into a draw and another three convert draws into defeats.

As a result, they squandered 15 points which would have seen them in the top half of the table – and within one win of the play-offs.

Bentley said: “It’s another Achilles heel, not just the last five minutes of the second half but the last five of the first half as well.

“They have been a bit of a hindrance and that’s where we have to improve.

“That’s where you want your leaders to step up a bit more.

“A few things have gone against us but there were things we could have done better.

“We show the players examples and they have to make sure they make the right decisions; there are things for us to learn.”

As the Shrimps’ boss touched upon, the five minutes building up to half-time have also seen his players similarly generous to their opposition.

Nine more goals were conceded from the 40th minute onwards over the course of the season.

Only one of those came in a match where Morecambe had been in front; the 2-2 draw at Cheltenham Town in October.

Three of those were in games where Morecambe were already losing, leaving them with a more difficult job in the second half.

Five of the remaining six were in matches where Morecambe were on level terms, giving their opponents the initiative after half-time.

Going the other way, the Shrimps scored 54 times in their 46 league matches, the eighth lowest tally in League Two.

As with their defending, it didn’t pay to try and beat the traffic with 16 of Morecambe’s goals coming in the 80th minute or later.

Of those goals, Collins and Kevin Ellison clearly liked the latter stages of matches as both players netted on four occasions in the final 10 minutes of proceedings.

However, of those 16 goals scored, only four had a direct influence on the result.

Aaron Wildig’s effort at Forest Green Rovers, Collins’ goal at Oldham Athletic and Liam Mandeville’s header against Crawley Town turned what looked like draws into victories.

The only other decisive goal in Morecambe’s favour came when Ellison snatched a late equaliser against Notts County at the Globe Arena in November.

While the Shrimps had issues defensively in the last five minutes of the first half, the same could also be said going forward.

They only netted twice in the last five minutes of the first half, A-Jay Leitch Smith with the winner against Northampton Town in August and Jason Oswell scoring his only league goal in December’s 2-2 draw with Port Vale.