PREVIEW: Morecambe v Luton Town
The Shrimps had begun magnificently, winning their opening four matches and despite a defeat at Tranmere Rovers, went on to make it a hugely impressive haul of 16 points from a possible 21.
However, a 2-1 win over Plymouth in September was followed by a wretched run of three straight losses.
It had looked like Jim Bentley’s side had gone some way to arresting the sequence with excellent victories at both Southend and Burton in October, but that wasn’t the case.
Their last five league games have heralded just one league win, with form at the Globe Arena the main sticking point, as they have managed one victory in their previous five matches, taking a mere four points in the process.
Morecambe’s FA Cup hopes were ended prematurely too, as they were knocked out at Dover Athletic in the first round, which saw some Shrimps fans on the back of the players and staff.
Speaking to the Visitor, Bentley said: “I’ve got to be honest, it’s the lowest I’ve been as a manager.
“Our crowd had every right to have a a go at us when we’re walking off the pitch. I’ve not had that as a manager, but I take it on the chin.
“I’ve got big enough shoulders to take it and the players can’t expect people to feel sorry for them.
“Now we’re having a little bit of a wobble, we’ve got to stick together, work harder than we have already and stand up and be counted.”
This weekend’s clash will also be played for the Eric Morecambe Trophy and although Bentley was happy to see silverware up for grabs, the victory is all he’s interested in.
He added: “It’s a good idea. I know the links, he was a Luton fan but born in Morecambe.
“I’ve seen the trophy, it’s nice to play for, something a bit different.
“But as far as I’m concerned and the players are concerned, it’s about the three points on the board.”
Off the field, Bentley moved to extend the loan deal of goalkeeper Scott Davies from Fleetwood Town until January 3.
The 27-year-old initially joined the Shrimps in August on a one-month loan deal after injuries to both Barry Roche and Andreas Arestidou but will now remain at the club until after Christmas.
Team news: Hatters are still without a host of first team players, with Paul Benson (broken leg), Luke Guttridge (metatarsal), Alex Lawless (foot), Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu (hamstring) and Curtley Williams (shoulder) all missing.
Striker Charlie Walker is also a doubt after getting a knock in training on Thursday, but winger Shaun Whalley is fit to return and Ross Lafayette could be back on the bench.
Morecambe have an almost full strength squad to pick from with Kevin Ellison and Alan Goodall back in contention after suspension and Padraig Amond, Andy Fleming and Shaun Beeley all hopeful of a return.
Top goalscorer: Hatters - Mark Cullen (9). Shrimps: Kevin Ellison (7).
Man in the middle: Andy D’Urso. Official is not a favourite amongst Luton fans since his first game back in 1998, as he has reffed 16 games so far, with Town winning five, drawing three and losing eight.
Sent off former Town striker Steve Howard in the opening 30 minutes on two occasions against Brentford and Stoke, while also showed sub Adrian Forbes a red when he had been on the field for just 17 minutes after replacing Tony Thorpe in the 0-0 draw with Tranmere earlier his his career.
Last took Luton for the 1-0 win over Cheltenham Town this term, one of his 15 games so far, showing 41 yellows and three reds.
The assistant referees will be Shaun Hudson and Billy Khatib, while fourth official is Nicholas Gibbons.
In charge: Jim Bentley, 38-year-old had a lengthy career, playing for just two clubs, AFC Telford and Morecambe.
Began at Telford in 1997, playing over 150 games before moving to the Shrimps in 2002 and is something of a club legend, having made 328 appearances.
Was appointed player coach in June 2010, before becoming player manager in May 20011.
Has not played a competitive match since taking on that post though and signed a two-year contract extension with the Shrimps on October 2013, as he is now the seventh longest serving manager in the country.
View from the opposition: Boss Jim Bentley speaking to the club’s official website: “We’ve beaten fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and 10th in the league and lost against first and ninth, so we’ve got a decent record against the top sides.
“Luton are a massive club and they’ll travel in good numbers.
“They’re going well and are in good form. Myself and Ken (McKenna, assistant manager) went to watch them last week in the FA Cup and they looked good.
“They have plenty legs up top and some experience so it’ll be a tough match.
“It’s got the makings of a good atmosphere and a big game with the two-week break and them being one of the top sides.
“It’s a big fixture for us and hopefully we can get a similar feel and a similar performance as we did last time we were at home against Bury.”
One to watch: Kevin Ellison - experienced and canny operator who at 35 has lost none of his appetite for the game.
Began his career with Conwy United, and has been transferred for fees of over £200,000 in his career, with Leicester, Stockport and Hull all shelling out for his services.
Played over 450 league games now, scoring 106 goals in that time, and joined Morecambe in June 2011, where he has found the net 46 times in 148 games.
Scored four in his opening four matches this season and although not found the net as regularly since, has still managed seven so far to be the club’s top scorer.
Friendly faces: Shrimps defender Alan Goodall joined Luton in the summer of 2007, making 34 appearances and scoring once in his season at Kenilworth Road, before moving to Chesterfield on a free transfer in August 2008.
Has been with Rochdale, Newport, Stockport, Fleetwood and Grimsby before moving to the Shrimps in the summer and has made 16 appearances so far.
Town midfielder Jonathan Smith came through the ranks at Morecambe and made his first team debut in the Football League Trophy against Grimsby in October 2005, scoring their final penalty in the victorious shoot out.
Was loaned to Fleetwood and Bamber Bridge during his time at the club before being released in May 2007, following the Shrimps promotion to League Two.
We’ve got form: Hatters have only visited Morecambe once in their history, that a League Two encounter in March 2009.
The Shrimps went ahead through Stuart Drummond on 21 minutes, but Luton hit back to triumph thanks to goals from Chris Martin (43) and Kevin Gallen (59).
Hatters: Dean Brill, Lewis Emanuel, Mark Bower, Asa Hall, George Pilkington, Keith Keane, Kevin Nicholls, David Livermore, Chris Martin (Rossi Jarvis 75), Tom Craddock, Kevin Gallen.
Subs not used: David Button, Sol Davis, Ian Henderson, Sam Parkin.
Referee: C Oliver.