Why are Morecambe doing so well this season?

Over the last few seasons, it has become commonplace for us to look at the League Two table and see Morecambe in the relegation zone or just outside it. I always admired them for their brave fights, and constant successes, in staying up, but this season has seen a big change in fortunes for them. They have now gone from being relegation candidates to genuine promotion contenders, currently sitting in third place in the league, and that is something worth looking at in more detail. In this short article, I will highlight a few reasons why they are doing so well, focusing on what has clicked for them.

Firstly, we have to look at the manager. When Jim Bentley left the team in October 2019 to take over at National League side AFC Fylde, it was the end of an era for the club. Bentley had been in charge since 2011, and had spent nine years playing for the club before that, so he really was (and still is) a club legend and a massive fan favourite (this was evidenced when, in 2017, fans got together to pay a £1,000 fine issued to Bentley for reacting to a red card given to midfielder Alex Kenyon).

However, his replacement was former Ross County and Plymouth Argyle boss Derek Adams, who had recently left the Pilgrims, having led them to promotion to League One in 2017. With this experience, we always felt that Morecambe would have a good chance of staying up, but I’m not sure many of us envisaged what was to come this season. Adams deserves a lot of credit for the way he has turned the club around in a year and a bit, and Morecambe certainly look like they enjoy playing each game now, rather than believing they were there simply to make up the numbers, as some of their results in previous years has suggested.

As well as the manager, that comes down to the players as well. They now have a well-rounded squad, with plenty of players they have done well to attract to the side over the seasons. Full-backs Kelvin Mellor and Stephen Hendrie have extensive experience, and can both get up and down the wings well, controlling those spaces. Striker Cole Stockton has played for Tranmere Rovers and Hearts in his career, but looks at home in this team, thriving off the chances they create for him and leading the line well. Former Cardiff City and Shrewsbury Town midfielder Aaron Wildig adds experience in the middle of the pitch, having been at the Mazuma Stadium since 2015, and his presence has allowed other players to get forward and join the attacks. This has led to a free-flowing style of football being played, and it has been one of the reasons why they have become such a dangerous attacking side, difficult for other teams to stop.

However, there are a couple of players I want to mention individually, as they have had significant impacts on the team. Firstly, on-loan Burnley midfielder Adam Phillips, who is on his second loan spell with the side, having previously played for them in the second half of last season. In 11 games there, he scored four goals and grabbed three assists, and that made Morecambe want to bring him back. This season he currently has nine goals to his name, and is still only 23, so we can see how he is a player with enormous potential as a creative or attacking midfielder. It is important for midfielders to have goals in their game, because it means that, if the strikers have a quiet spell, the goals and points don’t dry up, which is what leads to many promotion contenders slipping away from the top places.

I watched some of the Shrimps’ game against Colchester United last weekend, another good side in the division, and Phillips ran the show for them, directing play, finding players in good areas, and getting a goal himself. Burnley must be keeping an eye on his development, especially since midfield is an area they could really do with adding in, and they need more goals in the team from those positions.

The second player I want to mention is Carlos Mendes Gomes. The Spanish forward can play anywhere across the forward line, and has been one of the most dangerous players in the whole of League Two this season. Rarely is a goal scored by the team that doesn’t involve him, and he always pops up in little pockets of space that cause problems for opponents. He is also quick, and able to get past defenders with relative ease, which also helps his game. When you consider that Morecambe have a striker able to lead the line, midfielders who can stay back and control the centre of the field whilst others that get forward, and full-backs that are able to control the wings, it means that Mendes Gomes can occupy a free role in the final third, going wherever he can affect the play. I have been really impressed with him this season, and there is no doubting that he is a key part of their success story this season. Given what he brings to the team, I would also not be surprised if there are a couple of clubs in higher divisions keeping an eye on his progress at the Mazuma Stadium.

The final thing to mention is the transfers that Derek Adams has made. It’s a well-known thing in football that managers will often look to bring in players that they have worked with at previous clubs, with differing success stories, but Adams has got that right at this club. He has looked at what his team lacked, and brought in players to fill those roles. Defensive midfielder Toumani Diagouraga has made a big impact since joining at the start of this month, whilst defender Yann Songo’o has experience at different levels of the game, and played under Adams at Ross County as well as Plymouth. Forward Jordan Slew can play as a winger or a striker, and adds options to the team’s attack, whilst their newest recruit, goalkeeper Kyle Letheren, who only signed two days ago from National League side Chesterfield, adds plenty of experience between the posts at the age of 33. If you add these to what they already have, you can see how much Adams has improved the squad, adding genuine quality to their ranks, and this season’s excellent form is the result of that.

What we have seen in this article is that Morecambe are definitely a team on the up, for a variety of reasons. We have looked at different areas of their squad, as well as the players they have brought in and what they have added to the team. From our findings, we can say that their chances of getting to League One are good, but there are some other good sides in the league, such as Cambridge United, Forest Green Rovers, who occupy the other two automatic promotion spaces at time of writing, and Newport County, who have shown they have the quality needed for promotion, so they will have to continue to work hard if they want to achieve their dream of reaching the third tier. However, the sky is the limit for them, and long may their good form continue.

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