Crowd trouble for local sides

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Lancashire’s football clubs are struggling to attract people through the turnstiles as attention turns towards the January transfer window. This financial issue coupled with indifferent form means that November may well be a month to forget.

Preston look to be in the deepest trouble, currently adrift at the foot of the Championship with one point from the last twelve putting Darren Ferguson under intense pressure. The latest defeat, at the hands of Hull led to chairman Maurice Lindsay publicly defending the beleaguered North End boss; however seasoned supporters will realise that such statements can often spell the beginning of the end for managers. Lindsay must also be concerned with crowds dipping below 9,000 and a daunting trip to QPR next up in the league.

Another club whose perennial struggle with low crowds looks set to continue is Wigan. In a town famous for rugby league, the Latics have averaged gates of just 16,000 this season; a massive 9,100 under the capacity for the DW stadium. With such a gap in finances and players such as Charles N’Zogbia and Hugo Rodallega attracting attention from prosperous rivals, Roberto Martinez may face a losing battle to keep his talented side together. On the pitch, Wigan have recovered from a poor spell to take four points from ties against Liverpool and West Brom. Despite this recent upturn in form Wigan lie 17th and will draw no comfort from their next fixture, away at Old Trafford. The honeymoon period of increased crowds at the Globe Arena is well and truly over for Morecambe. With erratic form which has seen the club take just three points in four games not encouraging supporters along; crowds have begun to limp to just above 2,000. Those who stayed away missed a convincing performance by the Shrimps against Stockport County. In a game played in horrific conditions, Morecambe outclassed a poor County side to hammer home five goals without reply. Sadly, the momentum from this crushing victory was stalled by a 2-1 home loss to Lincoln last weekend. Morecambe will be hoping for a big crowd in a prestigious international football game which takes place on December 2nd. The Globe Arena will play host to the Victory Shield tie between England and Scotland, and with tickets from just 50p there will never be a cheaper opportunity to see England in action.

The in-form local team this month has been Lancaster City. The Dolly Blues have stormed to three straight league wins, firing in twelve unanswered goals in the process; the highlight coming with a 6-0 demolition of Leigh Genesis. Despite the superb entertainment on offer, crowds have wained in recent weeks, with average crowds down to around 200 fans. With finances always tight at a club run by volunteers; increased support is needed to keep the play-off charge in full swing. Even as the region’s most talked about team, Blackpool are not immune to worries about attendances. Although the Seasiders have packed out Bloomfield Road for their home games thus far; Premier League clubs average over 34,000 fans, double their current capacity. In addition, the club’s star player Charlie Adam appears to be unsettled following legal wrangles over unpaid bonuses and many pundits believe that he will move on in January.  On the pitch, this month has typified the eventful start Blackpool have made. Firstly Ian Holloway threatened to resign over the furore caused when his weakened side lost 3-2 at Aston Villa. Then against this backdrop, a vital 2-1 victory over West Brom was secured to the give Blackpool their first home win.   

Arguably the most stable club in the region are Fleetwood Town. The club continues to prosper on and off the field; with the new stand taking shape and Micky Mellon’s side occupying a play-off position. The club has also announced itself on the national stage by taking League One Walsall to a replay in the FA cup first round. Steve McNulty missed a glorious chance to put Fleetwood through when he blazed over from a first half penalty; fortunately Jamie Mullan saved his team-mates blushes when he curled home a stunning strike from the edge of the box. However, Fleetwood could not repeat their heroics in the replay last night, a brace from Reuben Reid allowed a relieved Walsall side to progress to round 2.

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