Grecian Urn Points At Morecambe
The League program on Saturday was the reverse of the opening day's fixtures. Down in Devon in mid August last year, Morecambe beat the Grecians three-nil to start the campaign in the best possible style. They also broke something of a taboo as far as Exeter City is concerned. The first time these teams ever met in any competition anywhere was in the Football Conference ten years ago, when the Shrimps were trounced 4-0 at St James' Park. They subsequently met seven more times in scheduled Conference league games and never managed to beat Exeter even once. But then - when it really mattered - they broke their duck at Wembley during 2007 and were promoted to League Two as a result. Since then, Exeter City has lost the knack of beating Morecambe - their two previous Football League meetings prior to this season both resulted in draws.
So, for the hosts, the recent omens were good going into Saturday's match. Add to this that the Shrimps had won both of their previous games on the road - 1-2 at Dagenham and 1-4 at York last Saturday - and it was no wonder home fans were looking forward to the encounter and another positive result.
Sadly, Paul Tisdale's team hadn't read the script. On a mud heap of a pitch, the men in the Sky Blue kit were not about to meekly lie down and allow Jim Bentley's team to improve their statistical average against them any further. As their Manager cut an iconic figure as he stood alone on the sidelines in a huge brown trenchcoat with what appeared from a distance to be a dead fox on his head, Exeter got stuck in. They have several big bruisers in their team and they weren't taking any prisoners today. At the back, left full-back Kevin Amankwaah had an excellent game and played with an assurance which nobody in the home side got anywhere near. Up front, Jamie Cureton caused problems for the Shrimps defence throughout the game and could have scored more than the brace of goals he actually netted, the last one of which (in injury time at the end of the match) was a truly exceptional strike up into the top right hand corner of Barry Roche's net from a seemingly impossible angle on the opposite side of the penalty area.
In the meantime, Exeter's quest to totally turn the tables on Morecambe by winning by an identical scoreline to that registered last August was helped on its way when Arron Davies scored direct from a free kick which gave Big Baz in the home goal no chance at all.
In midfield, Tommy Doherty showed all the signs of a temperament probably similar to his more famous namesake, the ex-Chelsea and Manchester United manager: fiery. When he was booked for a crude lunge at Gary McDonald after about fifty minutes, he went ballistic. Not at McDonald. Not at the Referee. But at his own team-mate, Centre Half Pat Baldwin, who he clearly thought should have dealt with the danger. Just as well he didn't - when the big Number Five petulantly kicked the ball away later in the game, the card the referee might have shown him might have been as red as the blood which poured from a wound acquired by Jimmy Hedhane after half an hour following a clash of Hedhanes - sorry - heads. I shouldn't joke: I genuinely wonder how much of this game Jimmy actually remembers. But going back to T Doherty, the conversation continued between himself and Mr Baldwin for quite some time afterwards. When he wasn't bawling at his own players, though, Tommy was influential throughout the game and it was his sublime pass right through the centre of Morecambe's utterly static defence which played in Cureton to brilliantly score the opening goal with just over an hour played. However, if Tommy Doherty looked like he might benefit from a couple of Anger Management sessions at times, team-mate Mark Molesley played as if he needed at least a full course of them - and pronto. He was lucky to stay on the pitch and perhaps even more fortunate that Morecambe players restrained their very own Short Fuse in a red shirt - in the shape of Kevin Ellison - as the teams left the field at the end of the game. Molesley had been booked for a bad foul on him earlier and Kev clearly hadn't forgotten nor forgiven this one of many transgressions by the big blonde bruiser in the blue shirt. This was a shame because but for his obvious penchant for the physical side of football, Exeter's number 28 was probably the most skilful player on the field. He went round Andrew Wright as if he wasn't there on more than once occasion and his vision and prompting of his Grecian team-mates was exceptional throughout the game and particularly during the second half when he was unlucky not to score after 58 minutes when he produced a shot out on nothing which only just missed the goal with Barry Roche clawing at thin air.
But enough about Exeter. As for Morecambe, they really played like Shrimps: Little Shrimps. They were truly hopeless. Lewis Allesandra could and should have put them ahead at the beginning of the second half but having done all the hard work after beating the offside trap, bearing down on Artur Krysak's goal and then actually beating the man in the fluorescent yellow strip, he blazed the ball wildly past the unguarded goal, perhaps blinded by the goalkeeper's literally dazzling kit. New boy Chris Holroyd showed occasional flashes of promise on the rare occasions that Morecambe's disjointed midfield actually managed to get the ball up to him and but for Barry Roche - who pulled off an outstanding save by diving at the feet of Cureton in the dying moments of the first half - the defeat could have been even heavier. Jim Bentley was daring to talk about a late assault on the play-off positions after last week's victory at York. On this evidence, the man who looked like an extra from some acid-induced hippie movie from the past appears to be more likely to end up in that exalted company when push finally comes to shove.
I am old enough to have witnessed what happened after Morecambe beat Dartford in the F.A. Trophy Final at Wembley in 1974. To say it didn't reflect well on the fans of the Southern club is something of an understatement. The Exeter supporters I encountered after the Shrimps beat them well over a quarter of a century later at the new Wembley were as much a credit to their club as the Dartford fans were the opposite. I spoke to some more supporters from Devon before Saturday's game and this impression was repeated in spades. I personally wish them really well for the rest of the season - and nobody could dispute that their team richly deserved all three points today.
Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 2 Nick Fenton; 22 Andy Parrish; 6 Will Haining (C); 8 Andrew Wright; 10 Ryan Williams; 16 Stewart Drummond; 18 Gary McDonald (14 Jordan Burrow 68 mins); 26 Chris Holroyd (20 Joe Mwasile 80 mins); 9 Lewis Allesandra (27 Jack Redshaw 68 mins); 11 Kevin Ellison.
Substitutes not used: 25 Andreas Arestidou; 12 Dan Parkinson; 23 Chris Doyle; 19 Joe McGee.
Exeter City: 1 Artur Krysak; 3 Craig Woodman; 4 Scot Bennett; 5 Pat Baldwin (Y); 6 Danny Coles (C); 11 Arron Davies; 12 Jamie Cureton; 14 Tommy Doherty (Y); 16 Kevin Amankwaah; 22 Jimmy Hedhane; 28 Mark Molesley (Y).
Substitutes not used: 2 Steve Tully; 21 Guillem Bauza; 23 Aaron Dawson; 32 Jake Gosling; 35 Jamie Reid; 37 Jordan Moore-Taylor.
Ref: Stephen Bratt.
Written by Roger Fitton.