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The Conference Years: Morecambe FC

4 June 2014

Remembering where we once were.

Rovers and Morecambe had many a ding-dong battle over the years in the Conference and both sides, having moved to new stadia, can proudly say that they are current and established members of the Football League.

Both clubs took very different paths to get to their first meeting in September 1998 where goals from Glenn Kirkwood and Mark Hume were enough to see off The Shrimps 2-1 at Christie Park – the visitors only win in that corner of Lancashire to date.

Rovers replicated the scoreline in the return at Belle Vue, thanks to Dave Penney’s two minute double, after the visitors had opened.

Jim Harvey’s men had the upper hand in the 99/00 season, recording a 1-0 win at Belle Vue thanks to future Rovers forward Justin Jackson. He was to open the scoring from the penalty spot just a week later at Christie Park, prior to Phil Eastwood’s second half goal. Rovers record signing, Gary Williams, who had joined for £60,000 from Accrington Stanley, notched his one and only goal – a consolation – before returning to The Crown Ground.

Both sides won their respective home games the following year – Mark Barnard’s goal enough to settle proceedings at Belle Vue before the return yielded a goal Adriano Rigoglioso who scored the winner in a 2-1 victory for the hosts.

Rovers lost only one game in eleven at the start of the 01/02 season as both sides started to climb the Conference ladder. A pulsating 3-3 draw at Belle Vue in front of nearly 3,000 kept the momentum going for Steve Wignall’s side.

Goals for Morecambe either side of Tris Whitman’s strike on the final day of the season produced a losing conclusion for Dave Penney’s side, who finished 4th, five points and two places clear of Morecambe; with both sides set to be at the business end of the table the following year.

With the incentive of a new play-off system wafting in the nostrils of teams in the Conference wishing to gain promotion to the Football League, Morecambe, Rovers, CHESTER CITY and DAGENHAM & REDBRIDGE were all in hot pursuit of runaway leaders Yeovil Town.

Morecambe came to Belle Vue in the penultimate game of the season with the question of where the sides would finish in the play-offs rather than if they would get there. After Rovers suffered a 3-0 hammering at Christie Park, Steve Burton’s stunning header equalised Wayne Curtis’ opener for the hosts.

The Shrimps finished 2nd, beating Rovers to the runners up spot on goal difference only.

They were to be thwarted by The Daggers, as both ties were settled by the lottery of the penalty shootouts.

Under the stewardship of the Northern Irish duo of firstly Jim Harvey and then Sammy McIlroy, the Club continually banged on the promotion door and finally broke in to the Football League for the first time in their history when they defeated Exeter at Wembley.

Since then, Morecambe have moved in to a new home, The Globe Arena and affirmed their status in the fourth tier under former midfielder Jim Bentley’s stewardship.

*Rovers centre back Mark Albrighton challenges Craig Mawson in the Morecambe goal, watched by fellow defenders Tim Ryan and Dave Morley at Christie Park. The visitors lost 3-0 in front of nearly 2,000 in November 2002*

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