By Jon Harries
Well, what can you say about Tuesday night? A tough game on paper against a promotion rival away from home and for the first half mainly it was like a game of chess. Both teams had spells of possession without too many clear-cut chances. Fisher made a decent save from Bannan and Twine when played through blazed over the bar. O’Hora had a half chance at the back post from a set piece but it remained all square at Half Time.
Sheffield Wednesday came out second half and pressed us higher up the pitch, although that didn’t stop us talking the lead. Fisher found the head of Kioso, who found Boateng. He played it to Twine who took a touch out of his feet and found the top corner, another moment of magic from the Wiltshire Wizard.
Then we started to sit back deeper and deeper allowing Bannan time to dictate play, Watters came off with a foot injury to be replaced by Eisa then the miss of the season by the Owls. O’Hora and Fisher got in a tangle on the edge of the box, the ball fell to Hunt who hit the post from an open goal, Kasumu clearing the rebound from Gregory who was waiting to pounce.
The impressive Baldwin was replaced by Darling to freshen up the defence then a double sucker punch. Firstly, Gregory flicked a near post header into the far corner of the net after losing his marker from a corner (Wednesday very dangerous all night from corners) then after some constant pressure Bannan found substitute Josh Windass whose air shot kindly broke to him to sweep the ball in. Delirium for the home fans, who you can’t begrudge the win given their second half dominant display, dejection for the away side who were their own worst enemy at times in the second half.
Saturday sees another away day this time at promoted Morecambe. Currently just outside the relegation places the Shrimps secured a very unlikely promotion with organised football and a ruthless streak in front of goal, winning the play off final v Newport County last season.
Their manager at the time Derek Adams left for pastures new over in Bradford and Steven Robinson was drafted in from Scotland to oversee what most pundits see as a survival season. They got off to a respectable start drawing away at Ipswich and beating Sheffield Wednesday at home. two stand out results.
In their last 5 league games though they have Won 1, Drawn 2, and Lost 2 and are slowly getting sucked into a relegation battle.
On Tuesday night they drew with rapidly improving Charlton Athletic, Jaiyesimi and Washington giving the Addicks a two-goal lead before Cole Stockton (more on him later) pulled one back before half time. Anthony O’Connor then equalised in the second half for a valuable point.
When you have recently been promoted, home form is key and currently 18th in the home form table, Morecambe are going to have to improve dramatically (MK Dons are 6th best in the league currently on both home and away form).
Jokul Andersson is an international goalkeeper for Iceland (loan from Reading) former Don Scott Wootton marshals their defence rotating with Captain O’Connor or Ryan Delaney. Greg Leigh is a decent LB with good delivery into the box. Midfield options like tricky Wes McDonald (Walsall), Adam Phillips (loan from Burnley for a second time) and Alfie McCalmont they possess technical players given their budget. Jonah Ayunga and Courtney Duffus are the foil to the Man in Focus below.
With 13 goals in 18 games Stockton is in the purple patch of his career. For Morecambe to achieve anything much will depend on whether he is there on 1st February. Scorer of a variety of goals, penalties, headers, and sublime bits of skill Stockton doesn’t care for distance, scoring two goals one from just inside the opposition half (Opponent at home) then he surpassed that with what can only be described as a Puskas nominee hitting a sweet half volley from inside his half v Fleetwood in the 94th minute last Saturday.
He’s averaging over 3 shots a game so far this season and his hold up play is not to be sniffed at. His heat map suggests he’s most dangerous in and around the box so the back 3 are going to have to be focused from the start. The fact the next top scorer for the Shrimps is Adam Phillips on 5 suggests keeping Stockton quiet and you stand a chance.
Predicted Line Up
Kioso – Baldwin – O’Hora – Lewington – Harvie
Kasumu – McEachran – O’Riley
Twine – Eisa
I’m hoping that Watters injury isn’t too serious as he is the only person who I feel can successfully play the lone striker role in the squad. At the time of writing, Parrott is still unavailable due to the Covid protocols so even if he can make the bench, it would be a bonus.
It was no coincidence to anyone watching Tuesday night once Baldwin was replaced, we conceded two goals. He feels like a leader at the back which is what we lack vocally. It’s imperative Mo Eisa gets support as I feel he can be too isolated at times. He will get goals at this level but currently expecting him to outmuscle seasoned defenders in a lone role is too much to expect, saying that I just feel he needs a goal to get on a run, but it must be a ball he can run on to and not something he has to fight for.
I predict a 3-1 away win O’Riley, and Eisa x 2 with the goals. With no league game after Saturday until Plymouth midweek it’s imperative we bounce back from Tuesday’s loss.
Photo Credits – thevistitor.co.uk & Behance