Morecambe boss Jim Bentley hopes a weight has been lifted off Vadaine Oliver’s shoulders with his goal against Tranmere Rovers at the weekend.
The striker scored the second goal in the Shrimps’ 4-3 defeat with a close-range header, capping an impressive performance cut short by what looked a late ankle injury.
It meant he marked his 50th appearance for the club with only his sixth goal; a strike rate which has made him the subject of criticism from some quarters of the Morecambe support.
Saturday’s header was Oliver’s second of the season, putting him behind Rhys Oates (four), Liam Mandeville and A-Jay Leitch-Smith (three each) in the early goalscoring stakes.
“People will look at the number nine on his back and say he should be chipping in with more goals,” Bentley said ahead of Tuesday’s Checkatrade Trophy game against Stoke City.
“Oates and Mandeville are chipping with goals as is Leitch-Smith but Vadaine is leading the line and I’ve got to say that some of the criticism has been harsh.
“If he’s not working hard, competing and giving it his absolute all for that shirt and that badge, then he won’t be in my team.
“The reaction to him getting subbed at Stevenage, some of the stuff that was spouted out on social media against him, is personal, it’s wrong and I was disappointed.
“Go and ask Steve McNulty (Tranmere Rovers defender) if he’s had a tough game and I’m sure he will say that he’s a handful.
“I know for a fact that, when we went to Grimsby and Cheltenham, their management said he led the line well and occupied the two centre-halves.
“In turn, if he’s not getting the ball in the net, he’s releasing other bits for the lads in and around him; he’s leading the line and he’s doing well.
“If he’s giving his all, carrying out his duties, then he will never be criticised by me but he has to put the ball in the back of the net.
“He’s staying behind after training and I’m pleased he got the goal; it’s important that he keeps on but that applies to everyone.”