After a first-half on Tuesday night to make you question the concept of football as entertainment, we managed to secure all three points via a scramble from a corner that wasn’t really a corner and a counter-attacking goal of genuine quality. While the outlook is a lot rosier than a month ago, we’re still not out of the woods with just a three point cushion above the relegation zone and a difficult run of fixtures ahead.
Just how safe we are in the league though is a concern for another day with our next two fixtures coming in the FA Cup and EFL Trophy respectively. Maintaining a sense of momentum to take into those difficult league fixtures could prove to be an important edge, in addition to the glory of advancing to the next rounds of the cup competitions.
An away trip to a team in a lower division presents something of a banana skin if we’re unable to match the intensity of our opponents. While we’ve showed an ability to stand up to a physical inspection of our credentials in the wins against Rochdale and Chesterfield, Mark Venus has to contend with a depleted squad for this trip to Morecambe.
Suspensions to Lewis Page and Gael Bigirimana, along with injuries to Chris McCann and Vladimir Gadzhev, as well as Dan Agyei being made unavailable by his parent club leave us short in midfield and defence in particular. Jamie Sterry has been made available for the FA Cup by his parent club and with Ryan Haynes reportedly not fully fit to take advantage of Lewis Page’s suspension at left-back, Sterry is likely to slot in on the left of the back four, like he did in the closing minutes against Chesterfield and for most of the game against Charlton.
That would likely mean Sam Ricketts would step into the back four to play central defence alongside Jordan Turnbull, with Jordan Willis moving to right-back. Elsewhere, Andy Rose is likely to move into a deeper midfield position to play alongside Ben Stevenson due to a lack of other midfield options. Mark Venus may be tempted to hand opportunities at some point in the game for George Thomas, Jack McBean and Devon Kelly-Evans who have each scored seven goals at under-23 level this season.
Last Time We Met
The most prominent memory that Coventry City fans will have of playing Morecambe will have been in the League Cup back in 2010 where Aidy Boothroyd’s Sky Blues were dumped out of the competition in a poor 2-0 defeat. However, our most recent meeting with Morecambe came in this competition at the Ricoh Arena back in 2012. Mark Robins’ resurgent Coventry City professionally put their League Two opponents away thanks to a Gary McSheffrey penalty and a Carl Baker goal either side of half-time.
How Are They Doing?
Morecambe have been caught in a recurring loop in League Two for most of manager Jim Bentley’s five years at the club. They always tend to start the season really well, scoring goals from all over the place, and then drop off but never quite to the extent where they’re overly threatened by relegation. This season looks like panning out in pretty similar fashion, they won four of their first five league games before tailing off when September came around.
The Shrimps have particularly struggled at home this season, having won just two of their eight home league games, and have been much better away, sitting fourth in the League Two away table. However, that may be more indicative of a side best suited to being the underdog rather than one with a genuine mental block.
The main strength of this team is their strikers, with Jim Bentley seeming to have a knack of getting the best out of forwards who have struggled elsewhere. Their top-scorer Cole Stockton is on loan from Tranmere, who are in the league below Morecambe, and is a strong, mobile young forward with the occasional wonder goal in his locker. Liverpool loanee Jack Dunn started the season in excellent form and is smaller, quicker type of striker. Former Blackpool youngster Tom Barkhuizen has also chipped in with a decent return this season and is a quite quick and hard-working player who can also operate out wide.
It would be remiss not to mention Kevin Ellison, who is almost the most typical League Two striker currently operating. Aged 37, Ellison is an expert of drawing fouls, getting into the faces of defenders and being a general nuisance to opposition defenders and fans. If Morecambe are to pull off an upset, it will be because he’s done a real number on Turnbull and Ricketts at the back.
It’s as you would expect from a low-budget League Two side elsewhere, with most of the side filled-out with journeymen lower league players. Peter Murphy in midfield can chip in with the odd goal from the centre of the park and his central midfield partner Michael Rose has a good set-piece delivery on him. Former Blackburn youngster Ryan Edwards in central defence has been watched by clubs at a higher-level but hasn’t been in great form over the past year or so in a defence that is hardly water-tight.
It’s a cliche but one that I think is relevant for this current Sky Blues side, whoever gets the first goal is highly likely to win this game. If we start strong and take the lead, the increasing composure on the ball and effectiveness on the counter-attack we’ve developed in recent weeks should see us through. If we’re start sloppily and Morecambe take the lead, I’m not sure we have the ability to grind a team defending for their lives down.
The depleted squad further adds to the difficult dynamic that the FA Cup brings to a fixture that you would ordinarily expect us to win. If Mark Venus can keep the amount of changes to the side to a minimum and we can approach this game as we have done our recent league games, I would still expect us to come out with the win against a Morecambe side who aren’t in great form and have been poor at home this season.
Coventry City to win 2-0.