Match Overview

Even having only played just over a third of the season, this Lancashire League One derby already feels like it has great importance for both sides. Morecambe have just one point from the last eighteen, whilst Town have picked up 4 points over their last six games. Both managers will see their opponents as an opportunity to pick up maximum points to act as a positive catalyst in the run up to the busy Christmas schedule. 

I’m very pleased to have the input from Fleetwood fanatic, Ben Knapman, also known as Knappers, for the preview. Knappers is rapidly growing his YouTube presence on Cods Vlogs and is great viewing as his passion shines through every inch of the way!

So what is he expecting from the game? 

A really tough game, a battle really, both teams need to win, both teams have to win and both are scoring a lot but conceding plenty. Morecambe have impressed me in key moments this season, and are fighters. I expect a high scoring draw, as both sides are on poor runs at this moment.

Reviewing the records of the two sides’ scoring patterns this season would suggest his prediction is reasonable with respect to expecting goals in this match. Fleetwood have kept only one clean sheet at Highbury in eight attempts, conceding an average of 1.75 goals per game. The Shrimps have yet to keep a clean sheet on their travels and have conceded an average of 2.4 goals per game. 88% of Morecambe´s games away from The Mazuma stadium have had three or more goals, whilst 75% of Fleetwood´s home games have involved three or more. 

Images from Soccerstats.com

The two Lancastrian sides share similar characteristics when you dig into the underlying statistics. With the help of Knappers, we will dig into the team selections for both managers, strengths of Fleetwood, their weaknesses, opportunities against them and threats from them. 

The Shrimps´ Selections

This is another difficult line up to predict for a few main reasons. After a six game winless streak, with just one point gained in League One, it was a big relief to pull off a dogged 1-0 FA Cup victory against League Two Newport County. Yet a few days later, a strong Shrimps eleven lost 2-0 at home to lowly League Two side Carlisle United in the Papá John´s Trophy. All round lack of consistency provides uncertainty as to who is firmly in the Gaffa´s plans.

The other factor is that there are a few first team likelys – Jökull Andrésson, Greg Leigh and Alfie McCalmont – who have just returned from international duty. Will Robbo stick with the players he’s had to train with fully during the international break or take the lads straight off the plane and into the derby match? 

The final factor that makes it tricky to foresee the line-up is there are a number of players who have recently returned from injuries. In his pre-match interview, the Gaffa suggested that while it might be too early for Jonathan Obika, Shane McLoughlin, Josh McPake and Courtney Duffus may feature at some point. Devastatingly, Aarom Wildig´s injury woes continue. Just as he was getting back to fitness, and having scored the vital goal in the FA Cup, he rolled his ankle this week!

The midfield area is particularly tricky to piece together and there´s some difficult decisions to be made. I expect Shane McLoughlin to come into the starting side. Prior to his knee and ankle injury, Shane had been one of our best players this season and the Gaffa will be desperate to get his ´bite´ back into the midfield. Another quality he brings is his passing into the attacking areas. This season he’s averaged 5.63 passes into the final third and his clever out balls offer service into our front men. 

Blackpool's Josh Bowler battles with Morecambe's Shane McLoughlin... News  Photo - Getty Images
Shane McLoughlin in action against Blackpool in a pre-season friendly.

Callum Jones has been a consistent achiever over the last few games. The 20-year old Hull loanee has been one of the few players the Robbo has singled out for his performances and I envisage he’ll look to build on this form by allowing him to retain his place. 

Finally, Alfie McCalmont showed a spark of confidence on his recent international trip with the Under 21´s. He scored a brace in a 4-0 win over Lithuania and has gradually improved his performances over the League One season. 

Toumani Diagouraga (´Toums´) has only not started two games this season – Blackburn in the Carabao Cup and Newport in the FA Cup. I believe Robbo sees him as his deputy leader in the side and he’s hugely influential, so it’d be a big call to not include him.

In the fullback areas, I predict he’ll go for Liam Gibson and Ryan McLoughlin. Ordinarily, I believe that now Greg Leigh is getting regular games without injury issues; he’d be our number one choice at left back. That being said, he’s just arrived back from a long-haul flight after Tuesday’s full international game against the USA, in which he played the whole of the second half. Therefore, Robbo may opt for Gibson. 

In the right back spot, it’s a fairly even toss-up between Ryan McLauglin and Ryan Cooney, but I tend to feel the Gaffa is favouring McLaughlin. The 27 year-old Northern Irishman was a positive influence, moving the ball in attacking areas in his last game, against Newport and successfully crossed it 3 from 4 attempts.

Fleetwood´s Selection

According to Knappers,

¨We have to change from a back 5 to a back 4. We don’t have the players to play a back 5, and we are struggling with depth in that department. ´

This would represent a bit of a shift in systems for Simon Grayson who, according to Wyscout, has started with three at the back in the last seven games. From 58 minutes onwards against Accrington in the Papa John´s trophy they switched to 4 at the back. 

Fleetwood also had no game, due to the international break and Simon Grayson has been working his squad hard – including double sessions. Perhaps this extra time will allow him to implement a change of system? Knappers predicts Town´s boss will stick with 5 at the back.

The Cod Army´s manager is boosted by the return of tricky winger Shayan Morris. His 96 minutes against Burton Albion in the FA Cup represented the first full game he’s played since Plymouth in August.

Fleetwood´s Strengths

From Knapper´s point of view Town are a tenacious goalscoring side,

¨I think attacking wise, we score a lot of goals, we can create chances and we never give up, we go to the end, and teams at the bottom are sides that are down and out in a lot of games, I don’t think we have been like that this season.¨

Despite the Cod Army´s 22nd position, they have the 6th highest goals scored in League One with 26 goals in 15 games – 1.6 goals per game. 

It’s also startling to see that they’ve scored half of those goals as a result of set pieces – six from corners, five direct from free kicks and two from penalties. Six goals from corners is a joint Division-high with Wycombe Wanderers, but the latter have played two more games. 

Reviewing the six corners they’ve scored from shows that in Daniel Batty and Danny Andrew they have two players who can deliver quality balls in and around the six yard box. They also have a variety of players who will get on the end of corners with six different scorers – Joe Garner, James Hill, Tom Clarke, Daniel Batty, Callum Johnson and Darnell Johnson, Four of these six goals from corners have been direct headers from around the six yard box.

Corner goal 1 – Darnell Johnson vs Cheltenham

A right footed outswinging cross from Daniel Batty is met by the head of Callum Morton inside the six yard box. Although his header is blocked goalwards, centre back Johnson lashes home a right footed shot from six yards.

Corner Goal 2 Tom Clarke vs Cheltenham

Danny Andrew’s left footed outswinging cross from the left is powerfully met by centre back  Clarke.

Corner goal 3 – James Hill vs Cambridge 

Another Andrew’s inswinging left footed cross from the right connects with the mid-height header from Hill. 

Corner goal 4 – Daniel Batty vs Mk Dons

That man again!  Andrew’s left footed inswinging corner from the left is initially cleared, but straight into Batty´s path. Pouncing straight onto the opportunity, he drilled a diagonal low shot into the opposite corner. 

Corner goal 5 – Callum Johnson vs Crewe

A right footed inswinger from Batty from the right is met a couple of yards out by the Portsmouth loanee right back. 

Corner goal 6 – Gerard Garner vs Wycombe 

A right footed inswinging cross from the right is headed home by Garner from the near post inside the six yard box. 

The two dead ball specialists – Andrew and Batty – appear comfortable hitting balls into dangerous areas from both sides.

Danny Andrew has also caught the headlines this season for his wicked left footed free kicks. He already has five League One goals to his name and all have been from dead ball situations outside the area. He keeps goalkeepers guessing by altering the area of the goal he targets. 

Another key weapon for Town is the return of Shayden Morris. The 19 year old has averaged an impressive 10.51 dribbles per game this season in League One, according to Wyscout, with a 58.7% success rate. 

Fleetwood Town 3 Wycombe 3: Morris completes fine fightback | Blackpool  Gazette
Shayden Morris scoring vs Wycombe. Picture from the Blackpool Gazette.

In the FA Cup game vs Burton he achieved six out of eleven successful dribbles with five of those coming from in and around their right hand side near the box. 

Fleetwood´s Weaknesses

According to Knappers, 

¨Defensively we are a shambles at times, we open up, we give opportunities away, and we are so easy to play against, the back 3 does not work¨.

Fleetwood have conceded the 2nd most goals per 90 minutes with 1.66, just behind Morecambe with 1.74. Reviewing the chances and goals conceded there doesn’t seem to be any one obvious area. They have proven, much like the Shrimps, to be a Jekyll and Hyde team defensively. Despite conceding two at Ipswich, their back-line looked defensively solid for most of the game at Portman Road, yet on other occasions they have looked very frail. 

In their Papa John´s trophy defeat to Accrington, Fleetwood won just 28.1% of their aerial battles (11 from 39). This was on the back of the defeat to Burton Albion in the FA Cup in which they won 40.38% of the aerial battles compared to their overall season average of 42.3%. In comparison, Morecambe have won 45.8% of our aerial duels this season. 

In a three-all draw against Wycombe Wanderers a few weeks ago, as a defensive unit they struggled to deal with their physical strength in attack. The Chairboys first goal came from a headed flick won by Adebayo Akinfenwa, which fell into the path of Brandon Hanlon. He was left on Tom Clarke as the final man, who he easily rolled, to go 1-1 with keeper Alex Cairns. 

The second goal came from a direct ball into Sam Vokes. He won the initial header which he then knocked into the path of Daryl Horgan. His weighted ball to the back post found Akinwenwa – who used all 100 plus kilos to bully James Hill and smash home from close range.  

Opportunities against Fleetwood

From Knappers´ point of view he sees the best opportunities to explot Town,

¨Through central and wide areas, getting balls into the box, we are quite easy to play against in normal play. And Morecambe have some big bodies that can threaten us.¨

Cole Stockton has been relatively quiet these last few games, by his standards this season, but he could prove a thorn in the Fleetwood back-line. The joint second-highest League One scorer with 12 goals has had three games without a goal, but at times looked threatening against Carlisle in the Papa John´s trophy. 

I believe Robbo will be asking him to vary his runs against the Cod Army. If he can drift around the back-line dropping deep and running behind we know how devastating he can be. 

Against Carlisle 3 of his 4 dribbles were completed and 11 of his 16 duels were successful.

However, it was Jonah Ayunga who was our most dangerous looking player in our last game. He completed a huge 12 from 19 dribbles and was a constant livewire all evening. If smarter decisions had been made in the final third, he and his team mates would have scored a few goals. 

I’d like to see Cole and Jonah work together to occupy defenders, alternating their markers and the runs that they make. 

One small potential area to exploit is if Jay Matete overplays the ball in the defensive midfield spot, it leaves the opposition with a chance to run directly at their back line.

Below against Ipswich Jay´s trickery allows him to swerve passed a couple of players, but he holds onto the ball for too long. He´s tackled and it leads to a 5 Ipswich players vs the 3 centre backs. At this point, both wing backs had pushed on.

.

Matete looks comfortable on the ball so I don´t expect this to happen often. However, if we´re able lay traps, coax him out to advance with the ball, then perhaps it could happen.

According to Wyscout, he has lost the ball 6.28 times per game in League One this year with 50% of those occuring in the Fleetwood half. That being said, these do include clearances so shouldn´t get too over-excited.

Fleetwood´s Threats

Knappers foresees a late offensive to be their key threat,

¨I think we can hurt Morecambe in transitions, later in games we like to score late goals and get in teams faces¨ 

This season Fleetwood have averaged 0.53 goals per game between 76 minutes and full time  compared to their opponents with 0.27 goals from an expected goals of just 0.35. It seems they have an ability to score a goal late on from the low probability chances. 

Their six goals scored from corners is naturally a concern considering we’ve conceded the 3rd highest goals from set pieces with nine (according to The Analyst). We must be aggressive from the first and second contacts from their deliveries to not concede. 

We must avoid giving away cheap free kicks outside our box. Danny Andrew’s left foot can find any corner of the goal from distance so we must limit his chances. 

LET THE BATTLE COMMENCE!

With over 1000 Shrimp faithfuls travelling, it’s bound to be a lively atmosphere in this vital Lancashire derby. Both teams have shown they have plenty of sting going forward, whilst also being prone to defensive calamities at the back. 

For Morecambe to get the result, we must be aggressive in both boxes, concentrate for set pieces and out-muscle Town in the middle of the park.  It’s difficult to predict the outcome, yet everything suggests there will be a few goals and plenty of action. Whichever team can stand tall to gain the three points, they will have earnt themselves a crucial win in the campaign for League One survival. 

I would like to say thank you to Knappers for his thoughts. Don´t forget to check out his Youtube Vlogs at Cods Vlogs.

I hope you enjoyed the preview and analysis. If you did, please follow ShrimpsOnline for more news & updates. FEEL FREE TO LEAVE COMMENTS BELOW

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