Morecambe boss: Play-off final can't be treated as just another game
Derek Adams admits it will be difficult to downplay the significance of Morecambe’s match with Newport County AFC tomorrow.
The two teams meet at Wembley in the League Two promotion play-off final (3pm) with victory seeing the Shrimps in the third tier next season for the first time in the club’s history.
Morecambe will conclude their preparations for Monday’s game this morning before travelling to their overnight base in the afternoon.
While some clubs may try and think of it as just another match, Adams believes the prize on offer makes that difficult.
“You probably can’t treat it as another game,” he said.
“We know the occasion and what it is, and it’s an opportunity to get into League One.
“It’s a final of a competition and, while you really can’t treat it as another game, what we can do is try and focus on what we can do - the same as we have done all season.”
Part of trying to keep the squad’s focus involves stripping away the mystique associated with Wembley.
It will be the first time playing at the national stadium for some of Adams’ players.
Consequently, the manager is keen for them to get the ‘Wembley’ factor out of their systems as early as possible.
He said: “We would have loved to have gone to Wembley and seen the stadium in advance but, because of Covid, we aren’t allowed to do that.
“That’s something we would have wanted to do, just to let the players see Wembley and get used to it.
“However, we’ll try and get there as early as we can on Monday for that to happen.”
There is also the question of dealing with a playing surface which Adams has previously said would present a challenge.
In the aftermath of their play-off semi-final win against Tranmere Rovers, Adams revealed it was a slow surface that means teams might have to play in a different way.
At the same time, while Wembley has been regarded as a big pitch, the dimensions shouldn’t pose a problem to Morecambe’s players.
That’s because it is the same length and only one metre wider than their base at the Mazuma Stadium.
“It’s a beautiful surface but it’s a slow surface,” Adams said.
“It’s 105 metres by 69 metres. It’s that measurement to fit European standards but, because of the stadium, it can seem bigger than it is.
“In contrast, you have other stadiums where the stands get in the way and it makes the pitch seem smaller.”
The final comes at the end of a season which, inevitably, began with the Shrimps backed for relegation into the National League.
Instead, a squad overhaul saw them finish within one point of automatic promotion, setting a club-record EFL points tally and equalling their best finishing position of fourth.
That overhaul saw Adams bring in players who know what it’s like to win or lose at Wembley and, in the case of keeper Kyle Letheren, both.
Adams is a member of the losing camp after seeing his Plymouth Argyle team beaten by AFC Wimbledon in the 2016 League Two play-off final.
He’s now using the memories of that day to try and ensure Morecambe don’t suffer the same outcome tomorrow.
“We were the overwhelming favourites on the day,” Adams recalled.
“We had 35,000 fans there from Plymouth but it didn’t happen for us.
“There were a number of things that didn’t fall for us and that’s what happens sometimes.
“It was my first season at Plymouth and it was the first time the club had got to Wembley for 20 years.
“The difficult aspect was getting to Wembley but we forgot about the prize at the end of it - and that’s an experience that I can pass on to the players.
“However, they’re all really looking forward to it. It’s a great occasion and a reward for all the work they have put in through the season, as well as for the club and those supporters who will be there after being away for so long.”
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