|Ipswich Town 2 v 2 Morecambe|
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 7th August 2021 Kick-off 15:00
A Brand New Bright Tomorrow! - Notes for Morecambe
Saturday, 7th Aug 2021 09:15 by TomTheWriter
Ahead of Saturday’s opening game of the season at home to Morecambe, TWTD introduces a new take on a familiar favourite as TomTheWriter assesses the mood in the opposition camp.
The beginning of the 2021/22 League One season is only a few days away and the hope is that the local friendlies, triple training sessions and valuable bonding time has culminated in a tight-knit squad ready to go to battle at Portman Road.
The first team on the chopping block, recently promoted Morecambe FC. An unexpected fairytale came true at the Mazuma Stadium last season with the Shrimps defying the pre-season odds predicting another relegation scrap, forcing their way up the ladder and picking up the coveted League Two play-off final trophy at Wembley Stadium.
The Shrimps ended the league campaign with 23 wins, nine draws and 14 losses, finishing only one point behind third-placed Bolton Wanderers, who confirmed automatic promotion on the final day.
With only 11 clean sheets to their name across the season, the club had their attackers to thank for getting them over the line.
Cole Stockton led the line impressively, with Carlos Mendes Gomes putting on the stellar performances one after the other, leading to a big money move to Luton Town this summer.
Adam Phillips was recalled by Burnley in January, but not before getting 14 goal contributions in 25 games. The frontline looked dangerous and will need to be this season to defy the odds once more.
“Thank you Derek for bringing this club of ours back to life”, “That was a season we all dreamed of for years”, “He got us up, but to leave straight away, I think is very poor”, “Somehow, I think Derek Adams leaving is going to be best for both us and him.”
Derek Adams’s departure in June was a shock, especially as he opted to drop back down to League Two to manage Bradford City. Ex-Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson has been tasked with leading Morecambe into their first ever campaign at third-tier level.
Stephen Robinson - Former Motherwell manager
“Welcome Stephen and good luck to you”, “We have a new manager in Stephen Robinson who looks and sounds really enthusiastic about his task”, “Robinson looks like a proper coach. Always instructing and at the players during the game”, “Stephen Robinson has over exceeded my expectations with the retained, loans he's attracted and permanent signings. We have a nice blend of experience and high potential younger players.”
Robinson’s time in Scotland saw him guide Motherwell to two consecutive cup finals before losing both the Scottish League Cup and Scottish Cup to Celtic.
“Robinson and the players have mentioned quite a few times in interviews that they've been working on pressing, what might suggest 4-3-3 and defending (pressing) from the front with a high defensive line”, “It appears that the style of play that Robinson will bring is completely opposite to what we saw with Adams”, “Off the ball I expect us to be very organised and patient.”
Robinson’s style of play looks to be high aggression, quick movement and high pressing from the frontline, whilst also keeping his defence slightly further up the pitch. It will give them a lot of attacking impetus, but might leave them open at the back on occasion.
The Rebuilding Phase
“It’s been a bit of a mad summer really”, “The break-up of the squad is what I’m really worried about. Finding a manager close to the level of DA [Adams] is hard enough – finding at least six or seven players good enough to try and replace the void left is even more difficult”.
“Mr Robinson seems to have been a busy man today”, “The season will go one of two ways. All the signings end up struggling and we finish rock bottom, or SR [Robinson] turns out to be a genius, develops all the players into a really good team, and we finish in the top half”, “If Burton and Accrington can stay in League One with average crowds of 2,900, then why can’t we?”
Despite Morecambe’s heroics in the League Two play-off final last year, they were unable to keep a strong core of players at the club. Carlos Mendes Gomes was the high-profile exit, leaving for the Championship. “It’s safe to say the money we got for Carlos definitely aided out business this summer.”
Nathaniel Knight-Percival joined Tranmere Rovers, whilst Yann Songo’o joined up with Adams at Bradford City. “Most of us thought departing manager Derek Adams would have lured more than just Yann Songo`o to Bradford City.”
Harry Davis and Alex Kenyon reunited at Scunthorpe United, whilst wingers John O’Sullivan and Liam McAlinden departed for Accrington Stanley and Wrexham AFC respectively. Five players were released from their contracts, yet to find a new home.
With the large turnover of players through the doors at Morecambe, the remnants of the squad that lifted the trophy in May are few and far between. Seven of the starting XI from the Newport victory are still with the squad, but the depth of the team looks a lot different.
Two key areas for Morecambe this season. “[It is] impossible to separate the two goalkeepers, which is great for competition”, “Central midfield is probably our strongest area of the team going into this season, with a mixture of important members from last seasons’ promotion winning team and so new addition.”
Morecambe’s midfield looks to be their strength, with Wildig, McCalmont and former Blues loanee Toumani Diagouraga forming an excellent triangle already in pre-season.
On the other side, “we’ve always operated with a tough-tackling ball winner, particularly last season with Yann Songo’o and Alex Kenyon. I do worry that the lack of this style of player could potentially hurt us at some point this season”, “Our wide players, particularly McDonald and Gnahoua, have a reputation from their previous clubs’ fanbase of going completely missing for many games.”
“Deserves his new contract after some incredible saves in the play offs”, “[Letheren] grew from strength to strength as the season went on after a shaky first couple of games.”
Kyle Letheren’s signing in the winter was an astute one for Morecambe, giving them an experienced man in the sticks for the final six months of the season.
“Great young keeper”, “Potential star of the future”, “I’d expect Jokull to be the first choice this season, but wouldn’t be surprised to see Letheren start the season.”
Jokull Andresson’s loan signing from Reading marks his third spell with the club in the last year. He will be looking to battle Letheren for the number one spot.
“Sidelined with an injury in pre-season, so he’s a player that the majority of Morecambe fans are yet to see play.”
Morecambe’s back-up goalkeeper Andre da Silva Mendes didn’t feature for the Shrimps last season, but that isn’t surprising when you learn that he is just 18 years old.
“He's a smart player and manages the right flank pretty well positionally” , “Another decent option, but I’d expect [Ryan] Cooney to start opening day.”
Kelvin Mellor looks to once again be battling Ryan Cooney for the right-back spot next season. He doesn’t have the defensive awareness of Cooney, but has proven to be an adequate back up for the Shrimps.
“Earned his chance at this level after being solid of the last few seasons and is probably destined to go up another level after this season.” Morecambe’s captain fantastic Sam Lavelle deserves all the plaudits he can get. A towering figure at the back, he was unbreakable at times last season.
“Delaney is a unit”, “Delaney had a solid first half but looked considerably shaky in the second”, “Has looked a little shaky at times during pre-season and doesn’t have a particularly glowing report from previous clubs.”
A summer signing from Bolton Wanderers, Ryan Delaney, who trained with Town in Ireland in pre-season ahead of 2016/17, will want to kick on after a stop-start season with the Trotters.
“Of the new boys I thought latest signing [Jacob] Mensah looked a class act as did all the new central defenders but remember that Workington are six divisions below us so difficult to judge”, “He’s only 21 and was regarded as one of the better young players in non-league, and has looked pretty solid during pre-season.”
The young defender from Weymouth shouldn’t be expected to shine from the beginning, but will provide adequate back-up for the experienced centre-halves in front of him.
“Gibson fairly solid defensively but struggled in possession”, “Gibbo is a great one-on-one defender, and has some of the best tackles stats in the division last season.” Another defensively sound full back, Liam Gibson may need to adapt his game to fit the free-flowing ways of the League One full-back.
“Cooney was excellent today”, “A magnificent beast”, “Ryan Cooney enjoys pressure in the big games. He’s a composed yet aggressive, technically strong defender who plays like an experienced veteran beyond his years.”
Morecambe’s loan-man-turned-summer-signing has returned to the club for another spell with the Shrimps, looking to improve on a very successful loan. Cooney ranked above average for his interceptions and tackles last season, excelling when tasked with a tough winger.
“I didn’t think we’d even get him back on loan, never mind a permanent signing. That was a great move”, “We were shocked we were able to get him permanently as the lad’s got bags of potential and is probably good enough now for a more established League One team.”
The expectation amongst supporters was for Ryan Cooney to find himself snapped up by a more accomplished side, but he decided to return to Shrimps for a third spell.
“A great addition at the back”, “[O’Connor] captained the side during pre-season whenever Lavelle hasn’t been playing.”
O’Connor moved to Morecambe from League Two Bradford City, making the jump to the third-tier to form a decisive partnership with Sam Lavelle.
“O’Connor, I thought wasn't as effective as Sam [Lavelle] who was on the bench the whole game and would like to see Sam partner up with Delaney at the back who I thought had a good game”, “O’Connor seems really calm and assured.”
O’Connor, despite playing in a below average Bradford side, turned himself into one of the best centre-backs in League Two last season. His defensive stats were through the roof, ranking second for interceptions.
“Freddy Price is a machine!”, “Made his breakthrough into the first team last season”, “Freddie’s chances will be limited this season due to the step up in division and having a larger squad.”
Freddie Price is Morecambe’s starlet just out of the academy, and will find the environment very helpful for his development this season.
“Alfie is pulling the strings”, “I’ve no doubt he’ll be one of the main men for us this season”, “One of our more impressive signings after his brilliant season at Oldham”, “McCalmont loves a long range effort. Five of Alfie’s eight league goals at Oldham last year came from outside the box.”
The Leeds loanee “will be waiting to pull the trigger with any second balls or third balls at the edge of the box”.
“Jones from Hull looked composed when he came on as well”, “He had a few games here and there last season, and has big expectations by those at Hull”, “A composed operator on the ball considering his age.”
Callum Jones (Hull) v Jack Wilshere (West Ham)
Morecambe’s signing of Callum Jones on loan from Hull City should cover them in the central areas, without the youngster making too much of a splash this year.
“Adam is back with his tail between his legs”, “Phillips was one of the best midfielders in League Two for the first half of last season, with his goals and creativity , “We all thought we’d drop down the league when he left us at the midway point.”
Ex-loanee Adam Phillips returns for another stint at the Mazuma. His departure in January was hard for fans to take, making the jump to Accrington rather than continuing his successful loan spell in League Two.
“Leigh, the Jamaican international, definitely has a different skillset to Gibson, with his pace and power being much more evident”, “Leigh is the more proven left-back”, “[He] has suffered with injuries over the past couple of years and has had a bit of a slower pre-season.”
A winger capable of playing as a full-back, Greg Leigh’s versatility will surely help Morecambe as they enter the busy winter periods.
“He brings a skillset we've sometimes lacked at the club and looks to have had an excellent pre-season”, “A player with mixed reviews from Walsall fans as he was often inconsistent”, “Hopefully he can find a bit more consistency at this level.”
Morecambe’s acquisition of Wes McDonald looks smart on all accounts, another who offers a versatility option for Robinson. His 64 successful dribbles last season has him as the number one dribbler in League One this season.
The Ipswich Pair
“Toums got caught in possession for [Blackpool’s] goal, but it’s better to be making that mistake now than in a week’s time”, “Former Tractor Boy Diagouraga signed a new deal, who is an absolute Rolls-Royce in midfield with his twinkle toes and composure on the ball.”
Toumani Diagouraga joined Ipswich Town on a six-month loan deal from Leeds United in January of 2017, spending the final part of the season helping Town slump to a 16th place finish.
Diagouraga himself revealed that he was open to a permanent move to Portman Road in the summer of 2017, but Mick McCarthy rejected the chance to bring the former loanee back.
“A versatile midfielder with a fair bit of experience in League One and a solid player to have around the squad.”
Shane McLoughlin was developed in the Ipswich Town academy, joining the club at the age of 16, before leaving in 2019 to join AFC Wimbledon. McLoughlin stepped on the pitch only twice for the Tractor Boys, winning a penalty in his final game for the club in May of 2017.
“Cracking signing, looking forward to seeing him play.” Rangers’ flying Scotsman finds himself back in the English leagues after his successful six months with Harrogate Town last season.
Josh McPake was one of the most impressive wingers in League Two last season, scoring four times for Harrogate Town as they adjusted to life in the Football League.
“He’s looked good in pre-season, likes to take on his man and the ball is seemingly stuck to his feet at times.”
McPake ran defences ragged last season, completing the third most dribbles of all the left wingers in League One this season, whilst also proving to be consistent in front of goal, with his shots on target ration very impressive for a wide player.
“Aaron Wildig was retained, scorer of a fair few important goals last season and started every game when available.”
Every team needs a goalscoring midfielder, and that’s what Morecambe had last season. Aaron Wildig, like Cole Stockton, produced the most enthralling attacking season of his career last year, scoring nine goals from midfield.
“Wildig grew into the game after a tough start”, “Wildig picked some great spots in the attacking third just outside the area – lovely.”
Wildig kicked himself into gear for Morecambe’s most recent friendly with Blackpool, and will be the main source of goals from the midfield areas.
“His greatest contribution I felt was that he understood the assignment from Robinson”, “He’s shown glimpses of quality in pre-season, but he’s very in-and-out of games.”
Another summer signing from Bolton Wanderers, Arthur Gnahoua will be hoping to take his ‘super-sub’ tag from the Macron and transfer it to the Mazuma this season.
“Bags of experience at this level”, “Shame about Obika’s injury, and hopefully he can figure in the second half of the season”, “Shame about Jonathan Obika as he looked quick and a handful.”
Obika has been away from the English game for a few years, spending time with St Mirren up in the Scottish Premiership. He’s back to help Morecambe survive, but unfortunately picked up a severe hamstring injury in training, and is set for a five-month spell on the sidelines.
“Jonah looks a handful”, “Ayunga carries the ball better and likes to take a man on”, “The first player we paid an actual transfer fee for since around 2009”, “It’ll be a tough battle between him and Stockton for the number nine spot.”
Jonah Ayunga’s signing from Bristol Rovers is quite surprising because he didn’t light up League One last season. Robinson must see something in him, but he shouldn’t be the leading man next season.
“Stockton is obviously unbelievable at holding the ball up and bringing others into play , “Vital part of how the team played due to his brilliant hold-up play.”
Stockton was Morecambe’s leading man and needed to be to drive them up the table. His 15 goals went a long way to their promotion, but his link-up play with Wildig and Mendes Gomes was as impressive.
“I am sure he’ll be a handful for League One defenders”, “I’m unsure if he’ll match the 15 goals he got last season.”
Despite his strong year last time out, the general consensus is that not much expectation is being placed on Stockton’s shoulders, with not many expecting him to shine in the goalscoring chart next season.
Shrimps Fans’ on ITFC
“Saturday will be incredible, especially for us oldies”, “First time we met you were in the Premiership five leagues above us, how times have changed”, “We will give you a game be sure of that, in front of what will be the largest crowd we've played in front of in the League”, “My first ever away match following Morecambe was Ipswich away in the FA Cup third Round, January 2003, where we were just Conference minnows against the big boys.”
“Vaclav Hladky was one of the best keepers I’ve seen at League Two level when he was at Salford last season, and it was obvious that he wasn’t going to be there long”, “Paul Cook is a manager that I’ve always liked and has done brilliant jobs in the EFL in the past, and I’ve no doubt he’ll add another promotion to his CV before long”, “Us Morecambe fans has always had a real soft spot for Ipswich after our FA Cup ties in 2001 and 2003, so we’d be delighted to see you get back to the levels you were previously at.”
“Some Ipswich fans were often seen at southern Morecambe away days to cheer us on. We haven’t forgotten this bond and I’ve looked out for Ipswich’s results over the year hoping for the best”, “Your business has really impressed me and you’ve got a manager who knows how to navigate a team to promotion from League One”, “League One looks extremely competitive, however I feel Ipswich are well placed to grab an automatic promotion spot with the summer additions and a proven manager who has now had time to get settled in.”
“I do think we’ll have enough to stay up though, although the league is looking difficult this season. There’s a new sense of belief around the football club over the last 18 months or so, and that’s at an all-time high at the moment for obvious reasons” , “We’ve never been relegated in our 101-year history, and I think that’ll continue.”
“There’s a massive feeling of pride around our fans for beating all the odds and gaining promotion from League Two”, “It’s difficult to predict what a Stephen Robinson Morecambe side will look like in a competitive game”, “We’ve never been relegated in our entire history and It seems with the recruitments - neither Stephen Robinson or the board of directors are keen to change that any time soon!”
There is only one forum for a diehard Morecambe fan, and that is ShrimpsVoices. Thank you to them for providing me with quotes for this preview.
@DavidHelme96 is Morecambe FC’s researcher for Football Manager, and was instrumentally in the understanding of each player.
@ShrimpsOnline is a Morecambe analysis account on Twitter, providing me with detailed stories and statistics for the club.
Photo: Action Images
Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.
You need to login in order to post your comments
Blogs 286 bloggers
A Curious Hat-Trick by JC62
I’ll straight away advise you that the following might not be what you’re used to reading on an Ipswich Town website. I have to confess that I’m a lifelong Fulham fan and my usual scribblings are carried on the Fulham Focus website. However I achieved a curious hat-trick by attending Saturday’s game and thought my own little trip down memory lane might be of interest.
The Swinging Sixty by ElephantintheRoom
Sixty years ago this year Town won the top division, so if you look upon your relationship with Ipswich Town as some sort of marriage this year marks the diamond jubilee of that remarkable achievement.
Five Reasons to Be Optimistic and Five Reasons to Remain Cautious by adamisablue2
Just after Conor Chaplin crashed home his penalty and Town's fourth against Gillingham on Saturday, I turned to my friends in the stand and uttered the [probably] famous last words of “the road to Wembley starts here boys!”
Big Club, Little Club by ElephantintheRoom
When I first started regularly going to Portman Road, Town had recently won the league as ‘upstart country cousins’.
Moans About Loans by ElephantintheRoom
Christmas came early for Town supporters with the surprising appointment of a manager who may actually have a future in the game.
Ipswich Town Polls
[ Vote here ]