After a performance on Saturday that managed to be simultaneously encouraging and concerning, we’re simultaneously looking up towards the play-off places and down below at the relegation spots. What exactly we can take away from a narrow loss against the league leaders where we had chances to win the game, will have to wait until league action resumes on Saturday. For now, it’s another shot at cup glory.
The biggest issue apparent on Saturday was the lack of cohesion in attack, not only did the personnel selection not seem quite right but the movement wasn’t either. The wide forwards in our 4-3-3 shape appear to be instructed to hug the wing, which leaves the centre-forward isolated and our attacks easy to defend against. Whether that can be corrected by getting the player selection right remains to be seen, Mark Venus could well use this cup tie to resolve some of the issues in attack.
With Dan Agyei not available for selection, there should be an even greater reason to play Marvin Sordell through the middle. Not only does Sordell offer a threat with his pace, but he’s displayed an ability to link the play that none of our other centre-forward options have offered. Even if what Sordell has shown in brief spells towards the end of our past two home games doesn’t prove to be representative of what he could do over 90 minutes, it’s at least worth a go considering our lack of attacking cohesion of late.
Lewis Page is another made unavailable for his parent club and if Venus plays Jamie Sterry instead of Ryan Haynes in Page’s stead, we’ll know Haynes has little future at this club. Venus can name a full-strength side elsewhere but may be inclined to offer the likes of Jodi Jones and Vladimir Gadzhev the chance to show what they can do, with both currently on the fringes of the starting XI.
Last Time We Met
It wasn’t that long ago actually that we last played Morecambe. We fell behind early in the second-half from a corner having been second-best for much of the opening hour of the game against League Two opposition. Without improving that much though, we managed to salvage a replay when Jamie Sterry – playing at left-back – cut inside onto his right foot and placed a shot past Barry Roche in the Morecambe goal.
How Are They Doing?
Prior to that game ten days ago, it had emerged that Morecambe had failed to pay their players for the past month. There have reportedly been issues surrounding a takeover of the club earlier in the summer and this has forced Morecambe to let their best player – Tom Barkhuizen – go for free. With the future of the club possibly at stake, a run in the cup could go a long way to easing the woes at Morecambe.
Although we won’t be up against the pacey and direct Barkhuizen, Morecambe showed against us that they have a few others who could cause us problems. Striker Cole Stockton offered a real physical presence up front and manager Jim Bentley can call on the nippy Paul Mullin and Jack Dunn in support or more physicality in the form of the talismanic Kevin Ellison.
Jim Bentley deployed a five-man defence in their last match and could well be tempted to take the pragmatic approach again for this game and look to hit us on the counter-attack. Morecambe have a fairly slow defensive unit who don’t really like being on the ball, a hard-working midfield and a combination of physicality and pace in attack. With the players playing for their livelihoods, it could well be an attritional contest.
The loss of Tom Barkhuizen, should make this a more straightforward task than it was first time around. However, Morecambe are a side that have tended to do better away from home this season and will be desperate for the windfall that a run in the FA Cup would provide. There is still a major banana-skin factor to this game.
If Venus selects as strong a team as possible and we approach the game in the right manner, we should win this game fairly comfortably. I’m going to stick to the side of optimism and go for a 3-1 win for the Sky Blues.