Jack in the Box fireworks not enough
Jim Bentley's Morecambe team has established a pattern over the two seasons he has been in charge: winning well away and then failing to finish off the same opposition at home. In September of last year, the Shrimps won no less than three-nil at the Memorial Stadium to mark their initial victory over the Pirates, who they met competitively for the first time last season. Since then - following a pattern of their own of recent seasons - the team once known as The Gas have changed manager and under returning boss John Ward have improved on poor early season form in recent times, having lost only two of nine previous League Two matches this year. Morecambe won at top of the table Port Vale last Saturday and home fans were hoping for a convincing win to put the club within touching distance of the play-off positions in the league.
It couldn't have started better for the home side. Only a minute had been played when a mistake at the back was pounced on by Jack Redshaw, whose fantastic strike from just outside the penalty area beat Steve Mildenhall in the visitors' goal all ends up low to his right. Having belatedly woken up, however, Bristol - urged on throughout the game by their very noisy and commendably large following - weren't about to lie down and let Morecambe run the show. Good approach play was spoiled by a needless foul on Morecambe midfield maestro Stewart Drummond after six minutes and Mr Berry waved away claims for what looked like a clear penalty to the visitors after nine. Their cause wasn't helped by John-Joe O`Toole's hopeless attempt on goal from a free kick a minute later: the ball missed by a country mile. A minute later, the Shrimps launched a tremendous counter-attack up Rovers' left flank. Jack Redshaw - who tormented Bristol`s much bigger defenders throughout the afternoon - wriggled between the two men dressed in black who were trying to shepherd him away from danger in the penalty area and beat Mildenhall again with a shot which was cleared off the line by the Pirates' rapidly back-pedalling rearguard. The visiting goalkeeper performed brilliantly after twenty minutes when keeping out yet another tremendous shot from the edge of the penalty area by Morecambe`s mercurial number 27 who tried his luck again after being played in with a deft pass from Kevin Ellison after 26 minutes only to see his shot go over the bar this time.
Morecambe Captain Will Haining has been praised by his Manager recently for his ability to play effectively in different positions in defence during recent times. He had to switch wings from left back to right back after twenty-eight minutes today when Andy Parrish received an injury which resulted in him having to leave the field of play. Despite this, Morecambe continued to control the game and Redshaw tried his luck again after 36 minutes. With just two minutes left on the clock, Lewis Allesandra produced a marvellous bit of personal skill before playing in Redshaw yet again: his shot was blocked by the chest of Tom Parkes as Mildenhall looked on anxiously behind him. The first half ended with Morecambe well on top and three points apparently well in the bag.
But the second half saw the visitors repeat what the Shrimps had done during the first period - and that is score within two minutes. An unmarked Eliot Richards beat Barry Roche all ends up with a well-placed header to equalise in front of the rapturous visiting fans. At the other end, Ellison once again fed Redshaw but this time Jack the Lad lost control of the ball and it ran out harmlessly for a goal kick after forty-nine minutes. Seconds later, Ryan Williams had Mildenhall in trouble with a shot from all of 40 yards which the keeper couldn't hold - his defenders eventually cleared the ball for a corner. Shortly after this, Nick Fenton made a mistake which allowed Bristol in but he managed to redeem himself with a well-timed last-ditch tackle. Then Mark McChrystal almost kicked Drummond's head off when the Morecambe player bravely dived to clear a low ball in his own penalty area: he was off the field for some time whilst the damage this caused to him was being patched-up. After seventy minutes, Redshaw found himself at liberty in the Pirates' box once again but Mildenhall was able to make a routine save this time. The Rovers' goalkeeper was lucky, though, after 71 minutes when an unmarked Allesandra headed against his left hand post with him rooted to the spot. Three minutes later, Redshaw was a menace yet again in the penalty area but Bristol quickly raced up the other end of the pitch and Roche did well to save from Richards when the Pirates' number ten was in the clear and bearing down on him. With less than ten minutes left, Clucas received what seemed to be a serious injury in the Morecambe penalty area and had to be carried from the pitch on a stretcher.
The game continued end to end and Morecambe had a good shout for a spot kick in injury time at the death but - just as he had during the first half - Mr Berry ignored all appeals for a penalty. So it ended one each. John Ward was no doubt happier with the point than his opposite number at the end of proceedings. Morecambe remain in tenth position; Rovers can look over their shoulders a little more comfortably from their berth in eighteenth spot, six points above the relegation positions.
Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 2 Nick Fenton; 6 Will Haining (C); 22 Andy Parrish (3 Robbie Threlfall 27 mins); 10 Ryan Williams (17 Andy Fleming 83 mins); 15 Chris McCready; 16 Stewart Drummond; 18 Gary McDonald; 9 Lewis Allesandra (26 Chris Holroyd 78 mins); 27 Jack Redshaw 11 Kevin Ellison.
Substitutes not used: 25 Andreas Arestidou; 14 Jordan Burrow; 24 James Short; 20 Joe Mwasile.
Bristol Rovers. 13 Steve Mildenhall; 2 Michael Smith; 4 Danny Woodards (15 Oliver Norburn 75 mins); 6 Tom Parkes (C); 10 Eliot Richards; 14 Lee Brown; 16 Joe Anyinsah; 25 Seanan Clucas (17 Ellis Harrison 87 mins); 27 Tom Hitchcock (3 Jim Paterson 91 mins); 29 Mark McChrystal; 32 John-Joe O`Toole (Y).
Substitutes not used: 20 Conor Gough; 21 Clayton McDonald; 30 Tom Lockyer; 23 Jordan Goddard.
Ref: Carl Berry.
Written by Roger Fitton.