By Tony Leighton
Morecambe manager Jim Bentley is hoping for some festive fortune as the Shrimps enter npower League 2's busy Christmas and new year programme with resources stretched and points proving hard to come by for the 16th in the table team.
In their eight League 2 matches since back-to-back wins against Rochdale and Southend United in mid-October the Shrimps have taken just eight points from the 24 on offer as they strive to climb well away from the relegation zone.
Bentley told football-league.co.uk: "With a small squad and one or two injuries affecting us we've got to make sure that we manage the situation going into the Christmas period with four games in 11 days.
"We have to hope that Lady Luck's on our side and that we can keep everybody fit and well, rotate when we can and manage the group through that critical time - but who knows what's round the corner?"
What was round the corner last season - which was Bentley's first in management - was a fall from the automatic promotion places after a third of the campaign to a finishing position of 15th in the table.
"We were top for a month in the early part of last season," noted the manager, "but even then we were stretched for numbers. We had 20 senior professionals and five kids, and this season we are even more stretched.
"We've got 18 senior pro's, one of them who's out for nine months through injury, and five kids - and two of the kids I don't think are ready for first-team football. So it's important that we try to keep all of our key players fit.
"We're not blessed with loads of money like some clubs at our level and so we can't go out and hand-pick the best players in the league. And we're not blessed with great training facilities to develop players.
"But we work hard with what we've got and hopefully in time the club can go from strength to strength and we can continue to improve on the pitch - and right now we're not a bad side when we've got everybody fit.
"We're one of the smallest clubs in the division and we've made cut-backs this season on the playing side as well as off the field, but what we've got is a fantastic group of players who have got great spirit and play the right way."
Bentley is hoping that his team's footballing style will keep them comfortably in League 2. "At the start of the season," he said, "we were second favourites to go down and my main aim was to get to 50 points as soon as possible.
"I would then want us to improve on the 55 points we got last season and to improve on our finishing position. We've got 26 points at the moment and we're not half-way through the season yet, so we're on course to be where we want to be."
For all the latest news on Morecambe please click here