February form beyond Bentley’s wildest dreams

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Jim Bentley admitted that the Shrimps’ fine February was something he could not have envisaged.

Morecambe went into the month having been frustrated on deadline day at only bringing in Michael Duckworth on loan from Fleetwood Town.

They also faced an arduous run of fixtures, comprising of games every Saturday and every Tuesday throughout the month.

Those included trips to league leaders, Doncaster Rovers, as well as Tuesday night travel to Leyton Orient, Newport County and Portsmouth.

For good measure, the month also saw a three-match ban for skipper Peter Murphy following a red card against Barnet, a knee operation that could rule out Alex Kenyon for six weeks and a second late payment of wages this season.

Out of adversity has come positivity, however, with four victories and three draws in the month.

“We missed out on a few players in the window for one reason or another which disappointed us,” said Bentley.

“We’ve only got 19 players and we’ve had a couple of injuries and suspensions along the way.

“However, the lads have been brilliant and they have come out fighting.

“Everyone at the club can be proud of their efforts because it’s has been a great February for us.”

One of the principal reasons behind the turnaround in the Shrimps’ on-field fortunes has been their recent ability to keep clean sheets.

Last Saturday’s shutout in the 1-0 win over Grimsby was a third in their last four home matches with only one goal conceded to Barnet in that other game.

It is a world away from last year when Bentley’s players went 23 games without keeping a clean sheet, spanning the 1-0 victories at Yeovil Town on August 20 and Mansfield Town on Boxing Day.

Victory at Field Mill was the first of five clean sheets in the last 13 games with only nine goals conceded in that period.

“I’m really pleased about that and it’s been a positive for us as a team,” Bentley said.

“We have defended really well and it’s really pleasing from my point of view which is why we work really hard on defending.

“Although we have had some injuries and suspensions, everyone who has stepped in has been excellent and long may that continue.”

A hectic February has put the spotlight on a Shrimps squad which has, somehow, been able to get through the month.

Bentley has had to rotate his squad when possible but admitted there has been an element of good fortune in his selection options over the last four weeks.

Suspensions have overlapped with players returning from bans even if, for example, Murphy’s three-game ban only kept him out for a week while Andy Fleming’s similar ban ruled him out for five weeks.

“We have been quite fortunate in that regard,” Bentley said.

“People might say that we are down to the bare bones but Peter Murphy has had a three-game suspension and, at the same time, Andy Fleming is back.

“Dean Winnard hasn’t been available so it would have been a nightmare if we’d had a couple more injuries and we have been lucky to get as far as we have.

“A squad of 19 players isn’t enough; it has been this month but it could easily have gone the other way.

“There is a lot of football still to be played but we now want to try and get through that 50-point barrier as quickly as we can.”