Morecambe v Grimsby: Shrimps in peril?

Bentley’s side on the slide? –

Tuesday night could not have got much worse for Morecambe. Not only did they lose 3-0 to Port Vale, their other relegation rivals won too.

So far this season, they have looked overly reliant on the goalkeeping of Barry Roche. The long-serving stopper has turned in some important performances – most notably to preserve a point at Lincoln in week two – and is part of the reason they are not already in the bottom two.

A more recent addition, Adam McGurk, has made an impact with his brace against Chesterfield last Saturday. The versatile forward has experience of winning promotion from League Two with Burton, even if his career didn’t quite take off after leaving the Brewers to join Portsmouth two years ago.

McGurk earnt minor plaudits for aspects of his performance against Vale on Tuesday but, aside from him and Roche, Jim Bentley said that that no members of the current squad “can knock on my door and ask why they are not playing”.

Question marks about the mentality of the squad is the last thing Morecambe need, because the shot data would suggest that they have certain technical limitations, too. It takes the Shrimps on average 13 shots to score a goal, the second-most in League Two.

Defensively, they face on average 16 shots per match, more than any other side and have the worst expected goals against record in the division (with thanks to the excellent Experimental 361).

Fans are understandably growing concerned at the lack of conviction in their play. They attempt a lot of long balls to Vadaine Oliver, who is a tireless worker but isn’t always given the support to show what he can do in front of goal.

If the ex-York striker is isolated again, he could struggle against experienced centre-backs Nathan Clarke and Danny Collins. The Football Lab questioned their speed earlier in the season but, it appears, the Mariners defence is improving with four goals conceded in their last four.

They put in a good away performance on Tuesday in a 3-2 win at Cheltenham, as Siriki Dembele continued his impressive start to the season. Russell Slade likes to build powerful, experienced, hardworking 4-4-2 outfits with one jewel in the crown out wide. Dembele appears to be fulfilling that role, because he’s given a wide role but he still has the freedom to drift inside and create.

The 21-year-old’s brace at Whaddon Road means that Grimsby have dropped just two points against bottom nine opposition. It remains to be seen whether they have the tools to compete with the divisions better side, but a win at Morecambe looks well within their range.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 0-2