Match Overview

Some people say the magic of the FA Cup has gone, but you’d never guess it when 12:45pm arrives on Saturday afternoon at Buxton´s packed Silverlands Stadium. The second round tie will be watched by a capacity 3,500 crowd – including around 500 travelling Shrimps – while also being broadcast nationally on BBC One.

There’s a reason this tie was selected and that’s because, despite the four league difference, there’s a sense of a potential upset on the cards. This is just Morecambe’s 15th season as an English Football League side – no longer a ‘non-league minnow’ – in our 101 year history, so there’ll be no lack of understanding as to the qualities offered below the 92 clubs. 

Through this preview the selections for both teams will be reviewed, strengths and weaknesses of Buxton, whilst also looking at the opportunities against them and the threats they pose. 

To be completely frank, getting the usual information has proved difficult to say the least. The main challenges are that Buxton are not on iFollow, they have very little footage online and are not covered in Wyscout. Somethings that, only too recently, we Shrimps knew all about.

Fortunately, I am blessed to have two extremely knowledgeable Bucks fanatics, Carl Taylor and James Wright to help me fill in the gaps. 

What are they expecting? 

Carl,

¨Buxton have earned their right to be in the second round and I expect we will give it a real go. It is a great draw for us and, without sounding over-confident, you have to say there is the smell of an upset in front of the TV cameras, especially when you take the league form of the two teams into account. That said, there is a four level difference and, although we have several players who you could argue would be more than comfortable at a higher level, Morecambe are rightly favourites.¨

James

¨I’m hoping it’s going to be a classic FA Cup tie. Hopefully one that has an underdog story. I think we’ll surprise a few people watching.  Both the Morecambe travelling support and also those watching on tv. We play nice football and don’t get beat often at home so I’m hoping we can pull off a surprise result. ¨

In the 1st round of the cup 1000 Bucks cheered their side on away at York City to earn a 1-0 win against the 6th tiered side. Incredibly, that was manager Steve Cunningham´s first game in charge of the season, following the dismissal of management duo Gary Hayward and Mark Ward. 

Speaking to the Buxton Advertiser Cunningham said about his team’s chances,

¨On paper Morecambe should win this game nine times out of ten, but why not? We have to go into it believing we can beat a team who have had an inconsistent season. 

We are on our pitch in front of a very vocal home following in a smaller type ground. 

If we believe we can do it we can. If we are going to enjoy the day and how far we have got then we are wasting a Saturday. I believe we have the quality in our team, not to cause an upset, but to get something out of the game. ¨

Cup runs provide crucial incremental income for non-leagie and lower league club.

What would they use the revenue from the cup run on if it was them in charge?

James,

¨It’ll be huge for us.. just because it’s extra revenue that you don’t account for at the start of the season. We’ve invested heavily in the ground and facilities with the 4g pitch etc so not much that needs doing off the pitch.

Maybe getting the ground suitable for regular segregation should we progress would be a nice idea.

On the pitch though we’ve got a small squad this season. Only used I’d say 16/17 players which for our level is rare thus far into the season. With winter fast approaching I think I’d spend the money generated on getting a couple of decent signings in to assist with lots of games over the winter period to help us with our aim of promotion.¨

Carl,

¨Probably further improvements to the ground. It is a decent ground for our level and, with the introduction of the 3G pitch back in 2018, it has become a real hub of the community sports scene. However, we have been in the NPL for a long time and we would inevitably require further upgrades if we are to advance into the Conference North (and beyond?). We have seen several teams from our league create a great setup following FA cup runs and FA Trophy and Vase successes and it feels as though we are finally on that journey.

It’s easy to focus on the importance of the fixture for the Derbyshire club, but a potential lucrative third round draw for Morecambe could help fund an extra player or two to aid survival in League One. Stephen Robinson won’t be making any changes that could jeopardize progression to the next round of the cup. Robbo said pre-match,

¨We’ve had that kind of stuff in Scotland before in cup competitions when we play a lot of the lower teams. It’s just about the mentality and attitude to do things well. To match them for work-rate, but both teams must see this as a great opportunity to go and get a good draw.¨

Shrimps´ Selections

In the last outing, The Shrimps got convincingly beaten at home to a clinical MK Dons side 4-0. By no means did Morecambe deserve to get a result – based on the soft goals they allowed – but I don’t feel the scoreline represented the performance. The main difference between the sides was what was done in both boxes, but then that’s the reality of winning and losing games in the third tier. In order to play League One football next season, we need to be more robust at the back and have a lot more end product in the attacking third. 

Prior to that, we’d delivered two solid results in the league back-back with a win away to Fleetwood and a respectable draw at home to in-form Charlton. 

I foresee Robbo´s strongest XI being not far from the line-ups in the recent League One games.  

Leading goalscorer Cole Stockton’s absence was evident in the loss to MK Dons. His 15 goals across competitions in 18 games has helped drag results over the line, so he’ll be an obvious loss if he isn’t fit to play. Robbo said on Cole, 

´He’ll be touch and go this week. We can’t take a chance on him. He hasn’t trained this week so he is a doubt as it stands. We´ll have to re-assess him again tomorrow (Friday)´.

In a midweek reserve game, goalkeeper Kyle Letheren, attacking midfielder Aaron Wildig, winger Josh McPake and centre forward Jonathan Obika all got substantial minutes. All of whom  have spent time on the sidelines due to injuries. Devastatingly, Jonathan is yet to make a competition start since his summer move to the Shrimps, following a hamstring injury in pre-season. This game may come too soon for Obika – considering the seriousness of the injury and length of time on the sidelines, but Robbo may decide to bring at least one of them  into the side.

 

If Aaron Wildig is fit enough to play, I envisage he’ll be brought into the side. His late dashes into the box allow him to chip in with goals. Six of his ten goals across all competitions last year came from within the six-yard box, according to Wyscout.  

He came on from the bench in the first round against Newport to score the only goal of the tie from within the six yard box. Robbo has continually praised the experience Aaron brings to the side and has been hugely saddened by his injury woes.

Aaron Wildig Sends Morecambe Through | Morecambe 1-0 Newport County |  Emirates FA Cup 2021-22 - YouTube

As the Gaffa has mentioned, mentality will be key to winning this tie and I’d imagine how well individuals have applied themselves in training this week could play a factor in selection decisions. 

If we bring in Wildig and don’t want to disrupt the midfield trio, it’s possible we could play Aaron in the number 10 position with Ayunga and Gnahoua as a front two. The pair both have the flexibility to run in behind and take out wide positions in the channel, but they are also able to stand up to any physical battles.

The Bucks´ Selections

Carl,

¨Despite the change in management and our strong position towards the top of the NPL this season, we do run a pretty tight squad, with a couple of senior players joined by several academy players on the bench most weeks. We have been fortunate with injuries on the whole, although have missed James Hurst in several games this season. With a Premier League appearance to his name for West Brom, James was brought in by previous manager Gary Hayward and has proved to be an important player in the heart of the team, whether that be as no. 6, where he played more at the start of his Buxton career, or more recently as a centre half. After a couple of niggles in the first few months of the season, he has appeared from the bench in the last few games, so his fitness would be a real boost to manager Steve Cunningham for the FA Cup match, especially since captain Josh Granite’s suspension was upheld after his unfortunate red card in the last league match against Nantwich Town. 

Other than that, the main decision seems to be one of two, between recent loan-signing Dom Tear, a winger who joined us from Halifax this month, or Chris Dawson, a skillful ball-player who is comfortable in any midfield role, and whose workrate and versatility has become an important part of Buxton’s success this season.¨

Both James and Carl have gone for the same XI:

The Bucks´ Strengths

Carl, 

¨Buxton have invested strongly in the playing squad in recent seasons, as we look to make the next step into the National Leagues. We are able to call on a wealth of experience despite our non-league status, with impressive signings including ex-Northern Ireland international Jamie Ward and former Mansfield midfielder Lindon Meikle, as well as centre-half Ben Turner, who was an integral part of the successful Cardiff City team in the early 2010s, scoring in their League Cup Final defeat to Liverpool and featuring heavily in their Premier League campaign of 2013/14. Although Turner is injured currently, the experience throughout the squad has helped us overcome higher-placed teams in Kettering and York in the last two rounds of the FA Cup and should be an asset again as we prepare for our appearance on the BBC this weekend.

Complementing the experience of the older heads, this Buxton team has pace in abundance and when winning the ball back high up the pitch, usually through the combative Tommy Elliott or ex-Sheffield Wednesday youth player Warren Clake, chance creation is plentiful. Diego De Girolamo is the main striker and scored the only goal of the game against York in the first round win at the start of November. Confidence has been running high of late, and despite a slight blip in the league, with our first league defeat of the season, away at Lancaster, followed by a home draw against Nantwich, the Bucks will go into their FA Cup encounter in good spirits.

For all of our strong attacking attributes, a solid core will be crucial to Buxton’s success this season, and Meikle has become a key cog in this team. Often the unsung hero, he is the player that does the jobs that go unnoticed and his experience could be key if the Bucks are to pull off an upset here.

Although losing Ben Turner to injury early in the season was a blow, the recent performances at the heart of the Buxton defence of captain Josh Granite, who captained Barrow in their football league promotion season prior to joining the Bucks, and stand-in centre half Ben Middleton, have offered a strong base for the rest of the team to perform, with goalkeeper Theo Robertson having an excellent season between the sticks.¨

James, 

¨We play nice football. Move the ball really well at times. Putting the 4g pitch in has helped us move to that style of football. The pace in which we break has often been how we have generated chances and goals, especially when already leading and getting the crucial second goal.  Player wise particular going forward we’re very strong. We’ve had Diego DeGirolamo for 4 years and he’s massive for us. To get him in when he’s played at a higher level was a massive coup really. We also signed ex Derby and Forest Jamie Ward in the summer as well who just had so much quality and experience. The partnership they’ve got is exciting to watch and wins us games. ¨

In the limited footage I’ve seen of Buxton, I’ve noticed they look comfortable playing out from the back but they are also happy to mix it up and play a long ball in behind for their forwards to chase.

The Buck´s Weaknesses

Carl,

¨The loss of captain Granite to suspension is a major blow for the home team. Very much the vocal leader, Granite is a 110% man and, following a stop-start introduction to his Buxton career due to injury, he has become the rock on which this team is built.

Although I expect Granite’s influence will still be felt around the club as the players prepare for the game, as explained previously, his exclusion from the matchday squad could see a return to the starting XI for James Hurst, who the Bucks’ fans will hope can find his pre-injury form and provide a suitable replacement for our missing captain¨.

James, 

¨Our biggest weakness probably is being a little light on players particularly in defence. Only using a small squad has been great for consistency but as we’re getting deeper into the season rotation will be needed.¨

Opportunities against The Bucks

Carl, 

¨It goes without saying that with Morecambe’s professional status and four league advantage over their opponents, they should be looking to dictate the play against the hosts. However, with Buxton’s lofty position at the top of the NPL this season and until recently unbeaten record, it will be interesting to see how we react to being clear underdogs for this one. Although adopting a similar outsider status in our previous two FA Cup games, Buxton played with an air of confidence and, despite having to recover from a two goal deficit against Kettering in the 4th qualifying round, we looked the better team in the replay and similarly comfortable at York in the last round. 

With the amount of possession and control the Bucks are used to enjoying in the league, we will need to be prepared for the step up in quality of the Morecambe attack, especially if with the enforced changes in our defence, and the home team’s performance off the ball may be just as crucial as their possession play at the Silverlands on Saturday lunchtime. Josh Granite wins the majority of aerial balls and with Morecambe’s likely physical presence, we will need to provide for Josh’s absence.¨

James,

¨The biggest opportunity is clearly going to be the gap in divisions. 4 leagues the difference (can’t get any bigger at this stage of the competition) and being full time pros so you’d assume fitness would be on Morecambe side. The loss of Granite, our captain, is a massive loss as due to long term injury to Ben Turner (another ex pro with Cardiff City amongst others) we were already a little light at centre back. ¨

Absorbing what Carl and James have said suggests that a changing defensive line is an area that we need to put pressure on. Whilst I don’t believe getting in physical battles provides our best overall chance of succeeding in the tie, as it potentially reduces the technical element, our physical players – such as Jonah Ayunga, Arthur Gnahoua and obviously Cole if fit – need to stamp their physical authority on the game. 

In recent games, the youthful midfield trio of Callum Jones, Alfie McCalmont and Shane McLoughlin has been our biggest shining light. They all possess great technical ability and we need to move the ball around the pitch sharply on the ground. 

Both Greg Leigh and Shane McLoughlin have the ability to make powerful forward runs from full back so they’ll be crucial outlets to start attacks.

Threats from The Bucks

Carl,

¨The underdog tag, as with any tie of this nature, will clearly favour Buxton as we go into the game without any pressure and, with a couple of difficult away trips on the horizon, Morecambe could be drawn into taking their eye off the ball here. 

As the highest ground above sea-level in the country, the Tarmac Silverlands Stadium can provide a key test in itself, with sideways rain a common feature! Any inclement weather could become a real leveller here, although the 3G pitch, whilst providing a different experience for the away side, will at least hold firm. An expectant crowd awaits and an early goal would really set up a big test for Morecambe.

The Bucks have scored 35 goals in 18 games in the league this season and, as well as being the FA Cup’s highest scorers (of the teams left in) this season, also have the leading goalscorer of those players still active, with ex-Sheffield United striker Diego De Girolamo netting 7 goals in Buxton’s 7 (yes, SEVEN!) games so far in this season’s competition. Diego joined the club in the summer of 2018 and has become a fans’ favourite, always pushing for top spot in the NPL Top Scorers chart and, with 10 league goals this season to go with his FA Cup exploits, he is ultimately our key threat. Blessed with quick feet, De Girolamo can create a chance out of nowhere and Morecambe’s defenders will need to be on their toes.

Buxton’s neat attacking play has become a key feature of this team, and on the 3G surface we are a match for anyone. Our quick interplay in and around the box can sometimes see us overplay and opportunities wasted, especially when comfortable in matches, but it provides us with a constant threat that can dig us out of the trickiest of situations. 

As well as De Girolamo, Buxton possess a ‘super sub’ in the form of Ashley Chambers, who often finds himself featuring from the bench due to the setup of the team to accommodate only one centre forward. The former Leicester City striker has chipped in with several important goals this season and played a big part in the win at York in the first round. Chambers is another with Football League experience and a good option for Cunningham in what will likely be the second half of this one. ¨

De Girolamo celebrates his goal against York City – taken from article ´Buxton striker says FA Cup minnows will face Morecambe without fear by Stephen Thirkell in the Buxton Advertiser

James,

¨I just hope we can move the ball around as well as I know we can. Obviously doing it against teams at our level is completely different to league 1 standard but hoping we don’t change our game plan due to opposition and just play our game and do the things that we do well. As mentioned I think our attacking threat is good enough to challenge teams at a higher level but let’s see what a gulf of 4 divisions does.¨

The Bucks clearly have significant pedigree in their side for a team in the seventh tier of English football. They’ll be putting everything they’ve got on the line to create an upset, so The Shrimps will have to give 100% focus to get the result.

LET THE BATTLE COMMENCE!

This time last year, we were anticipating the visit of Solihull Moors to The Mazuma.

After going through, 4-2 after extra time, we were ‘rewarded’ with a visit down south to Stamford Bridge and  the opportunity to cause a shock against Chelsea. It didn’t happen. But, even though Covid robbed the fans of a chance to enjoy a day in the capital, I know that the South Stand would have been packed with a sea of red had it been under normal circumstances.

Chelsea three lessons learnt vs. Morecambe in the FA Cup
Creator: ADRIAN DENNIS | Credit: AFP via Getty Images : https://theprideoflondon.com/2021/01/11/chelsea-three-lessons-learnt-vs-morecambe-fa-cup/

 Why am I so sure? Because it’s the Cup and the Cup allows us all to dream. 

That’s the romance out of the way! The reality is that for most clubs in football, a good draw in a cup competition – and by ‘good’, I refer to the financial aspect – can set a cup up for seasons to come.  It’s ridiculous that clubs today in the lower leagues, still often have to rely on a cup run to ensure the running of their club and the livelihood of the playing and backroom staff and often the community as a whole. 

I hope we do a thoroughly professional job on Buxton. I know the Gaffer will be giving the Bucks the utmost respect and if that filters down to the team, I’m confident we can go through to the next round. 

I must say a huge thank you to the fantastic contributions from Carl and James. They were especially important this week with having less resources than usual and they really stepped up to the mark. Thanks gents.

I hope the day is a day you can enjoy, regardless of the result and be proud to be a Buxton fan. Perhaps Morecambe´s rise into the EFL can be an inspiration for The Bucks to follow? Maybe we´ll meet again in an EFL fixture one day!

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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1 Comment

  1. Sean Slaney on 3 de December, 2021 at 12:25 pm

    Always enjoy reading these on the day before the match. Lots of great info, and now part of my pre- match build up. Thanks for your all your effort.💪🏻🦐



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