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The Morecambe Defence: Centre Back Crisis or ConservativeCoaching

Following Derek Adams’ reappointment to the Morecambe helm back in February,

Morecambe have relied upon the youthful agility of Burnley loanee Jacob Bedeau and the

consistency of Rhys Bennett to guide the Shrimps towards safety in the 2021/22 season. Yet,

neither of these centre backs have returned to the seaside town following the end of their

respective contracts. Because of this, Adams has been left to recruit a centre back

partnership that he trusts to, once again, steer them clear of the drop. At the time of this

article, Morecambe FC have only three senior centre halves under contract at the club.

These include Ryan Delaney, Farrend Rawson and Anthony O’Connor.

Before Stephen Robinson departed for St Mirren earlier this year, Anthony O’Connor was

the ever-present within a Shrimps side that heavily flirted with relegation. Appointed the

club’s captain at the start of the season, it looked as if the Irish defender was going to play a

big part in Robinson’s side. O’Connor started the campaign in fine form expressing a keen

eye for goal from corners and showing a surprising yard of pace. AOC, as the Shrimps fans

have dubbed him, displayed consistent form in a Morecambe defence that could be

mistaken for a Sunday league side. The height of his performances came in a 3-1 defeat to

Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup where the skipper bagged the opener and held out

against the Champions League team for 68 minutes.

When Stephen Robinson left, so did O’Connor’s opportunities at Morecambe, as incoming

boss Derek Adams had history with the centre back. Adams had decided to sell O’Connor

from Bradford in the summer of 2021, as he was not favoured by the incoming Scotsman.

The evident distrust between the pair continued, when Derek returned to the coast, as

O’Connor started only 6 of the remaining 13 games and only played three minutes within

the final seven games of the season. This has continued throughout preseason of the

current campaign, as AOC has barely played a minute through what is being reported as an

injury. However, Derek has tried to ship the centre back, naming him as one of the 10

players who were transfer listed following the conclusion of the 21/22 season. O’Connor has

supposedly had offers from teams north of the border but nothing official has been

announced and so the player remains.

Ryan Delaney is the second of two centre backs who stayed at the club from last season,

following a less than impressive 6-month loan spell at Scunthorpe United in League Two.

Delaney started the 21/22 season as a starting centre back, proving to be a mediocre left-

footed centre half at best. His flaws were revealed in full force as the defender shipped 31

goals in only 13 games for Morecambe, before being sent on loan in the January transfer

window. Delaney continued his torrid form conceding an embarrassing 41 goals in 17

games, an average of 2.4 goals a game (or a goal every 37 minutes). This record in the

division below is more than enough proof that he cannot continue in Morecambe’s defence

for the upcoming season.

The third back currently on the books at Morecambe is new signing Farrend Rawson on free

transfer following his contract expiration at Mansfield Town. The defender has proved

capable if not somewhat slow in preseason so far in performances against Stalybridge Celtic,

Huddersfield Town, and Chester FC. With Rawson being brought in by Derek himself, it

seems he is the only one of the three who is guaranteed to start when the Shrimps kick off

their second League One campaign against Shrewsbury in late July.

Another potential option at centre back for the Scottish gaffer is Geordie left back Liam

Gibson who deputised in the position several times last season, when Morecambe played a

back 3 under both Robinson and Adams. This could solve the crisis at hand as ‘Gibbo’ has

been one of the more consistent and dependable players following his release from

Newcastle United and subsequent free transfer to the opposite coast to Morecambe FC.

Within the last fortnight, Derek Adams confirmed that Morecambe currently have offers in

for three players, both loans and permanent deals. With this news, it must be assumed that

at least one of these offers is a centre back. Opening the season with only three senior

centre backs would confirm many fans’ fears that the club will struggle to fight relegation in

the upcoming season.

One thing that may quell those thoughts for Shrimps fans is a combination of two factors

that have followed Derek round in his managerial career. Many of the Scotsman’s teams

have had a surprisingly good injury record. Should Morecambe finish the transfer window

with only these three centre backs, then it could be highly likely that neither will sustain any

major injuries. However, this is a huge gamble, and the season could easily end if either

centre back suffered long-term injuries. Another hallmark factor of Derek Adams’ teams is

the defensive solidity. This was clear following his return to the Mazuma Stadium last

season, and should Morecambe look to stay up again, they must rely on his defensive nous

and all-round compact play to secure points in the 22/23 campaign.

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