Writer: Roger Fitton
Date:Monday August 12 2013
The final home League Two game Morecambe played last season was against Torquay United.
Today, the opening home League Two game Morecambe played in the new season was against... er, Torquay United.
Less than four months ago, the struggling visitors pulled-off a win which helped to guarantee that they would begin the latest campaign - which kicked-off last Saturday - as a Football League Club.
There have been many changes at both clubs since last time they encountered each other. For Morecambe, there were just five players in the first team line-up today who also started April's game. For the visitors, only four of today's eleven were in the side which started the same fixture.
Last Tuesday, both teams took on League One opposition in the latest incarnation of the League Cup. United lost to Swindon 1-0 away from home. Famously, though, today's hosts took the scalp of the once mighty Wolverhampton Wanderers by the same score at home. Morecambe, it must be said, have a pretty decent record in this competition.
In the bread-and-butter of the League, however, their home form since moving to the Globe Arena three seasons ago has been flaky at best. Against Torquay, they have a pretty poor record: just two wins in eight previous meetings; half the number the Gulls have chalked-up against them so far. So two questions to be answered by Jim Bentley's team today were, firstly: could they improve on this fairly dismal record? And secondly - could they produce the sort of home form at long last which the club have generally displayed away from Globe Arena since Jimbo took over? (If they were able to, a finish in the top half of the table at least would be a certainty.)
The answer to both questions is yes... and no.
Morecambe were by far the better team during the first half. It only took two minutes for the Shrimps' hero against Wolves - Ryan Williams - to test the United defence with a shot from within the penalty area which was cleared for a corner. From this, he plonked the ball on Tony Diagne's head but the new centre back headed well over the visitors' bar. Two minutes later, a rapid Morecambe counter-attack saw Williams fail to trouble Martin Rice with a shot from the right side of the Gulls' penalty area after a clever run down Morecambe's left flank. With less then ten minutes gone, Joe Mwasile played-in Andy Fleming who tried a cleverly disguised lob which ended up going only just over the crossbar. After twelve minutes, Padraig Amond raced into acres of space on the Torquay left, weaved his way into the penalty area and beat Rice's despairing dive to his left only for the ball to strike the foot of a post and go for a goal kick. Just a minute after this, however, the best chance of the match so far arrived when a superb shot by Billy Bodin flew past Barry Roche in the Morecambe goal only to virtually take the crossbar out of its sockets. Shortly after this, Diagne tried his luck from a free kick only to see his powerful shot miss the bar by at least a couple of feet as it gathered escape velocity skywards. Almost twenty minutes had been played when Williams attempted to replicate his wonder goal against Wolves with a free kick which the visiting goalkeeper caught easily. But Rice was left plucking at thin air after just twenty-four minutes when the same player - set-up cleverly by Fleming - scored with a fantastic volley from the left edge of the United penalty area. There was hardly any back-lift and the ball was in the net virtually the instant Morecambe's number ten hit it. And so it went on: Torquay were struggling against a strong wind and looked weak particularly on their left flank. Williams seemed to be everywhere - even Referee Richard Clark (who I thought had an outstanding game today) was apparently so mesmerised that he fell over him after 44 minutes. Old Stager Stewart Drummond put in another impressive shift and the only player of note in the team from Devon was centre half Krystian Pearce, who played the role of Delilah against Morecambe's Number Nine Jack Sampson all afternoon: he made the task seem easy. * Despite this, Manager Alan Knill must have been relieved to escape to the changing rooms at half time only one-nil down.
Whatever he said to them during the interval, the Gulls came out and well and truly turned the tables on their hosts during the second half. Within a minute, the visitors could have equalised when a low cross from their left went right across the Shrimps' penalty area with two Torquay forwards just unable to connect with it. But with less then ten minutes of the second period played, Karl Hawley scored a goal almost comparable to the one Williams had come up with earlier when he beat Roche all ends up with a tremendous strike from the outer edge of the penalty area in a central position. It was a really good shot - and the goal had been coming. As has been the case throughout much of their tenure of the Globe Arena, Morecambe don't seem to be able to be able to either hold onto a lead or add to it. Momentum is lost. Inspiration dies. Creativity Goes Missing.
As a result, United got stronger as the game went on and the Morecambe rearguard in particular became increasingly jittery to the point when - with twenty minutes of the game still to go - they completely fell apart at the back and were lucky to get away with it.
Torquay thus could and possibly should have won the game. They didn't help themselves to do this when Dale Tonge was sent off for a needless second yellow card offence after 85 minutes: I doubt Mr Knill would have thanked him for this pretty brainless contribution to their collective effort at the end of the match.
At the time Tonge was given his Marching Orders, Morecambe supporters - probably expecting a relatively easy victory an hour earlier - must have been relieved that their team at least managed to put the first point of the season on the board.
Neutrals were probably mesmerised by the Douglas DC-3 Dakota which circled over the town after arriving from Morecambe Bay during the second half and flew off towards the south with a roar louder than any the disappointingly and possibly record sparse crowd for any first Morecambe home game of any season of just 1555 had managed all afternoon.
It was at a greater height - perhaps on Cloud Eight - than any of the local Gulls but those from much further away must have been at least one cloud base higher after this very creditable draw on somebody else's patch...
Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 22 Andy Parrish; 5 Mark Hughes (C); 6 Tony Diagne; 8 Andrew Wright; 16 Stewart Drummond (Y) (4 Alex Kenyon 73 mins); 17 Andy Fleming; (84 mins); 10 Ryan Williams; 20 Joe Mwasile; 9 Jack Sampson 19 (Joe McGee 84 mins); 29 Padraig Amond.
Substitutes not used: 25 Andreas Arestidou; 23 Chris Doyle; 18 Will Bell; 24 T Woods; 21 Aaron McGowan.
Torquay United: 13 Martin Rice; 2 Dale Tonge (R); (Y); 3 Kevin Nicholson; 4 Aaron Downes; 5 Krystian Pearce; 7 Lee Mansell (C); 8 Ben Harding; 10 Billy Bodin (31 Daniel Sullivan 90 mins); 12 Jordan Chappell (11 Courtney Cameron 57 mins); 9 Karl Hawley (6 Damon Lathrope 89 mins); 16 Callum Ball.
Substitutes not used: 33 Conor Thompson; 21 Thomas Cruise; 15 Niall Thompson; 14 Ashley Yeoman.
Ref: Richard Clark.
* With due apologies for this very obvious statement to all concerned. And Tom Jones too...
Date:Monday August 12 2013
Stats: Shrimps v Cheltenham (Saturday December 7 2013)
Take One For The Team (Friday December 6 2013)
Bravery At A Price (Sunday December 1 2013)
Stats: Mansfield v Shrimps (Saturday November 30 2013)
A Point Gained (Thursday November 28 2013)
Stats: Shrimps v York (Wednesday November 27 2013)
Stats: Oxford v Shrimps (Sunday November 24 2013)
Not Squandering A Fine Start (Wednesday November 20 2013)
Quality Lacking Where It Mattered (Monday November 18 2013)
Bentley Machine Stalls On Keith's Hill.... (Sunday November 17 2013)
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