PREVIEW: Morecambe v Luton Town

Morecambe have been struggling both on and off the pitch recently, with a poor run of results causing their league position to plummet, while players and management staff were also paid late this month too.

Friday, 18th November 2016, 11:03 am
Updated Friday, 18th November 2016, 12:43 pm
Jonathan Smith scores Luton's third against Morecambe last season

The Shrimps were taken over by Brazilian businessman Diego Lemos in September, but due to ‘unexpected cash flow problems’ it meant wages due on October 28 were delayed.

Lemos told the club’s official website: “I would like to apologise to all the players and staff who have not been paid on time.

“I deeply regret the problems this has caused but want to reassure everyone that the issues will be resolved soon and I want to thank the players and the staff for their understanding so far.”

Jonathan Smith and Cameron McGeehan celebrate at Morecambe last term

The money has now been paid, although the Shrimps allowed joint leading goalscorer in the league Tom Barkhuizen to mutually cancel his contract ahead of a move to Championship outfit Preston North End in the January transfer window.

The 23-year-old striker had joined the Shrimps in October 2014, scoring 12 times last season, including against Luton, but can now train with the Deepdale club ahead of his move on January 1.

Preson will have to fork out a compensation package for the player, which will help boss Jim Bentley to raise funds for the Lancashire side.

On the pitch, a promising start for the Shrimps has somewhat faltered in recent weeks.

Jonathan Smith and Cameron McGeehan celebrate at Morecambe last term

They had begun impressively, winning four of their opening five league matches, claiming the notable scalps of Blackpool and Portsmouth at home, plus winning at Yeovil and Accrington too.

However, results started to take a turn for the worse, hammered 5-1 at home by Doncaster, although the Shrimps did recover to win at Cambridge.

Since that win at the U’s on September 17, Morecambe have triumphed just once in the league, that a 2-1 success at Notts County, their only victory in eight matches.

Home form has been a huge issue, with Morecambe losing their last four league games at the Globe Arena, beaten by Crawley, Carlisle, Stevenage and Exeter, but did see off Bradford City in the Checkatrade Trophy and draw with Coventry in the FA Cup, only to lose the replay.

After just seven wins in the league last term at home too, boss Bentley recently admitted they might take the option of staying in a hotel before games, saying: “We’ve only tried it once in the past and we thought the performance was excellent.

“We’re not blessed to be able to pay everyone extra money so they can live in the area, so a lot of our lads travel.

“You’re travelling two hours to a home game and the opposition travel 10 minutes - it feels like an away game.

“We’ve got to win more games at home in front of our fans and if that means us doing that (staying in a hotel) we’ll do it, because ultimately it’s about winning games.”

Team news: Midfielder Pelly-Ruddock is available for the Hatters after he completed his one-match ban against Accrington, although Jordan Cook is now suspended after his red card.

Luton have a clean bill of health otherwise, with only long-term injured duo Danny Green and Nathan Doyle missing.

Top scorers: Hatters: Danny Hylton (10). Shrimps: Cole Stockton (10).

Milestones: Defender Stephen O’Donnell remains in line for his 50th appearance if he comes on at the weekend.

The Scottish defender, who joined last summer from Partick Thistle on a free transfer has scored two goals for the Hatters so far.

Man in the middle: Ben Toner, official has taken 16 games so far, showing 52 yellow cards and just one red, his last match the FA Cup replay between Bristol Rovers and Crawley on Tuesday night.

Took Luton twice last term, the 2-0 win at Mansfield and also a 3-2 defeat at Notts County, where he sent off Scott Cuthbert late on for the free kick that led to the Magpies winner.

Before that, had the whistle for Town’s 2-1 FA Cup loss at Welling in the 2013-14 season.

Steven Copeland and Mark Duncan are the referees assistants, with fourth official James Mainwaring.

In charge: Jim Bentley, 40-year-old had a lengthy playing career at just two clubs, AFC Telford and Morecambe.

Began at Telford in 1997, making over 150 appearances before moving to the Shrimps in 2002 and is something of a club legend, having played 328 times for them.

Was appointed player coach in June 2010, before becoming manager in May 20011 and is now the third longest serving boss in country, having been in charge for over five years, behind just Arsene Wenger and Paul Tisdale.

Friendly faces: 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 Shrimps before being released in May 2007, following promotion to League Two.

Signed for Luton in November 2012 and has recently completed 150 games for the Hatters.

One to watch: Cole Stockton - 22-year-old striker signed a six month loan deal with Morecambe from National League side Tranmere in July.

Had a superb start to the season, with eight goals in his first 13 games, before a six game drought was ended with a double in the 3-2 win over Bradford City to take him into double figures for the campaign.

Was also loaned to Southport earlier in his career, while spent two months at the Globe Arena last term, before returning in the summer.

We’ve got form: Luton have won twice and lost one from the three previous visits to Morecambe.

Hatters had started with a 2-1 win in March 2009, Chris Martin and Kevin Gallen scoring. A miserable 3-0 hammering followed in the 2014-15 campaign when Steve McNulty was sent off after just 28 minutes, before Luton triumphed 3-1 last term.

Last time out: Luton enjoyed an excellent 3-1 win during their midweek clash at Morecambe last season.

Luke Wilkinson headed the visitors into the lead on 13 minutes, before Tom Barkhuizen levelled (25).

However, Town were back in front immediately as Cameron McGeehan followed up Paddy McCourt’s shot two minutes later, before Jonathan Smith sealed victory late on.

Hatters: Mark Tyler, Scott Cuthbert (Alex Lawless 85), Steve McNulty, Luke Wilkinson, Scott Griffiths, Jonathan Smith, Cameron McGeehan, Olly Lee, Paddy McCourt (Nathan Doyle 79), Josh McQuoid, Craig Mackail-Smith (Jack Marriott 89).

Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Dan Potts, Danny Green, Luke Guttridge.

Attendance: 1,388.

Referee: Christopher Sarginson.