It was a bitterly cold afternoon and the pitch looked as heavy as ever, but it was certainly playable and for that the ground staff should be applauded. A superb effort over the past few evenings ensured we had a game this afternoon when much of League Two didn't, so all concerned can be pleased with their efforts.
We welcomed back Matt Harrold and Joe Anyinsah from injury, handed Scott McGleish a place from the start and provided Jim Paterson and Tom Parkes with their debuts in a 4-3-3 formation. All received a warm reception from the terraces, which would have encouraged them, and everything was set up for a good game. Although, things didn't go our way too much in the first half, with McGhee afterwards admitting he got the formation 'wrong'. Morecambe, therefore, enjoyed a decent first half performance and had their best opportunity when former Bristol City striker Phil Jevons got in behind the defence and prodded the ball past Poke. Fortunately though it struck the far post - a let off for Cian Bolger who, other than a later mistake, enjoyed a good game alongside fellow Leicester loanee Parkes. Anyinsah was replaced in a tactical substitution around 30 minutes in, being replaced by impressive young forward Eliot Richards. It was refreshing to hear McGhee admit to making a mistake with his tactics and then taking action to change it. It was great to see as it was clear things weren't working. I felt sorry for Joe, but he looked a little off the pace and lacked his usual spark, so it was definitely the right substitution. McGleish then had an effort well saved by Morecambe debutant Chris Kettings before the half ended tamely.
Fortunately though, the second half was a much better spectacle and Rovers began to dominate. As we upped the tempo it didn't take long for us to edge in front. A ball in the box from wide right found Harrold who struck the post, but Brown was on hand to tap home and give us the lead. It was precisely what was needed and the atmosphere picked up significantly from then on in. Noise was at somewhat of an unusual premium in the first 45 minutes with the cold conditions taking their toll, although a few hearty renditions of 'Jevons is a w****r' rung around the Blackthorn when PJ was near the action. Never fails to make me chuckle.
The control we had on the game tightened with quarter of an hour left and gave us a more comfortable lead. Impressive substitute Matt Lund, making his debut, had been on the pitch merely 15 minutes when he was felled in the box by Ellison and despite the linesman not signalling for a penalty, the referee was immediate in his decision. Up stepped McGleish to slam home and surely ensure the victory?!
Morecambe then had a little spell of sustained possession and reduced the deficit 2 minutes from time when Ellison swept home following Michael Poke's save from a Jordan Burrows shot. It was a blow as the Shrimps rarely threatened prior to that, but they certainly put our goal under pressure in the final minutes. A number of balls were pumped in to the box but nothing broke the Rovers rearguard and after 4 minutes of stoppage time, the ref finally ended the game - much to the relief of all in ground! It replicated the end to the Bradford game in terms of being on the back foot, but we again looked resolute which can only be a positive.
The players and management deservedly left the pitch to choruses of 'Mark McGhee's barmy army' and 'Goodnight Irene' and all went home very happy indeed. Except the few Morecambe fans who made the trip down. There was very few of them, but fair play. Either way, it onwards to our next game now, a tricky away game at Shrewsbury. Hopefully we can continue our run of form and enjoy our evening in Shropshire!
A very pleased Gashead, over and out!