On Tuesday evening, I ticked another ground off of my ground-hopping list, when I traveled the short journey to Morecambe to watch their League 2 encounter with Northampton Town. Both sides have started their campaigns very poorly, with both teams winless from their first 3 games. Morecambe started their season in the worst possible fashion, losing 6-0 away to Crewe, which was followed by a 2-0 home defeat to Exeter. However, they did put in an improved performance away to Stevenage on Saturday, narrowly losing 1-0, after Michael Timlin scored a cracker from outside the box. Northampton have started their campaign with 2 draws and a defeat. They lost their opening game 1-0 at home to Lincoln before 2 consecutive 2-2 draws away to Carlisle and at home to Cambridge.
Morecambe made 2 changes from their loss to Stevenage on Saturday. Striker Vadaine Oliver and winger Kevin Ellison dropped out. They were replaced by Jason Oswell and Rhys Oates.
The Cobblers made 3 changes from their 2-2 draw against Cambridge at the PTS Academy Stadium, with Leon Barnett coming back into defence alongside rightback Shay Facey. Dean Bowditch started at left wing. Daniel Powell and Hakeem Odoffin dropped to the bench. Aaron Pierre missed out.
Northampton got the game underway at the Globe Arena and it was the visitors who started the game brightest. After 7 minutes Sam Hoskins charged down a clearance on the right before Kevin Van Veen picked up the loose ball, and curled his effort over the bar from 25 yards out. On the 9th minute, some nice play from the home side led to Luke Mandeville being brought down in the box, massive claims for a penalty for the home side were turned away swiftly by the referee, Mark Heywood, who also booked the winger for simulation. A few minutes later the Cobblers nearly opened the scoring. Kevin Van Veen was played in by Hoskins but the striker fired just wide of the post. After a dominant spell from the away side, the Shrimps got a rare sight at goal. The ball ran kindly for A-Jay Leitch-Smith but Cobbler’s centre back, Leon Barnett threw himself in front of the ball to block the goalbound shot. The first time either keeper was really called into action was on the 31st minute. It was fantastic play down the left by Matt Crooks. He slipped the ball into Hoskins, whos curling effort was saved by Barry Roche. By far, the best chance of the game came after 36 minutes, and surprisingly it was for the hosts. A cross from Leitch-Smith deflected right onto the head of midfielder, Fleming. His header was brilliantly tipped onto the bar by the outstretched David Cornell. The home side got their tails up, and continued to dominate the last 10 minutes of the half, as the crowd got behind them. On the stroke of half-time, Matt Crooks played a poor pass straight to Rhys Oates. The winger strode forward and had a shot at goal which was saved well by Cornell and the rebound was cleared off the line by Ash Taylor. The scoring was opened seconds before the interval. A long ball was sent forward by Andrew Fleming from deep inside his own half, it was taken down beautifully by A-Jay Leith-Smith, before he calmly slotted it past Cornell.
Half Time, Morecambe 1-0 Northampton
Morecambe got the second half underway, and you could see the confidence in the team after scoring their first league goal of the season. Straight after the re-start, Mandeville ran down the right before drilling a low drive into the box, it reached goalscorer A-Jay Leitch-Smith, who flashed his effort over the bar from 12 yards out. On the 58th minute Leitch-Smith went close again. A couple of shots were blocked by the Cobbler’s defence, but the second block landed at the feet of Leitch-Smith who spun past his man and lashed a volley goalwards, which was well saved again by Northampton’s number 1. The away side decided to change things a little and brought on a couple of substitutes. Junior Morais and Daniel Powell came on to replace Andy Williams and Dean Bowditch. The Cobbler’s pushed forward in search of an equalizer. On the 73rd minute, Van Veen had another shot blocked, along with Shay Foley’s follow-in on what had been a very frustrating night for the away side. However, as the hosts were seemingly closing the game out, Morecambe keeper, Barry Roche was sent off. Roche raced out his box and brought down substitute Morais. Referee Mark Heywood had no choice apart from sending off the Shrimps Captain. If that wasnt bad enough, the hosts had also ran out of substitutes, so the earlier substitute, Alex Kenyon took the gloves. The stand-in keeper was called into action straight away. Firstly, a drive from Crooks was parried away by Kenyon before the stand-in keeper got up to throw himself of Powell’s rebound to turn it around for a corner. It was quite unbelievable scenes at the Globe Arena, as Alex Kenyon’s name was chanted around the ground. Northampton had one more huge chance to steal a point right at the death. Shay Facey played a low powerful cross which missed everyone apart from John-Joe O’Toole,who skied it from 15 yards out, with no one in sight.
Alex Kenyon was the hero at Globe Arena as it finished..
Morecambe 1-0 Northampton
Roche, Mills Conlan, Old, Fleming, Oswell(74), Yarney, Wildig(85), Mandeville, Oates(66), Leitch-Smith
Halstead, Kenyon(74), Ellison(66), Mendes-Gomes(85), Jagne, Hedley, Cranston
Cornell, Facey, Buchanan, Barnett, Taylor, Hoskins, Foley(84), Williams(64), Van Veen, Bowditch(64) ,Crooks
Ward, Odoffin, Powell(64), Morias (64), Turnbull, Bridge, O’Toole (84)
Referee – Mark Heywood
Assistants- Joe Simpson & Duncan Street
Fourth Official- James Wilson
Attendance- 1,594 (230 Away)
Goals- Leitch-Smith (45)
Yellow Cards- Mandeville (9), Old (44), Bowditch (55), Yarney (55), Barnett (56), Kenyon (78)
Red Cards- Roche (86)