Date: 12th August 2015 at 12:19am
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Those people who believe in omens wouldn`t have given Morecambe much of a chance before Tuesday night`s game at the Globe Arena started. The Shrimps have only ever played the Blades once before. This was in the same League Cup competition during 2007 -the year following United`s relegation from the Premiership – when Morecambe were trounced 5-0 at Bramall Lane. In recent years, the Sheffield side made quite a name for themselves in Cup competitions under Nigel Clough – reaching the semi finals of this one just seven months ago after knocking out Premiership sides Southampton and West Ham, for example.

But?

The omens for this season under Nigel Adkins have not been kind to the Blades so far – they were hammered 4-0 by Gillingham in their opening League One match the previous Saturday in Kent.

Today`s Sheffield line-up showed at least five changes from the Gillingham game but what struck me at least was the size of the spine of the team – in the back three, their goalkeeper and centre-forward they had three really big players. Nigel Adkins` teams usually play good football – but was he going to abandon these principles and play a more physical style of football with his new side?

The jury is out. At times – with their Manager yelling instructions at the top of his voice from the touchline – United passed the ball around very nicely. On the hour, for instance, Morecambe spent about two whole minutes as spectators as the visitors hogged the ball and kept possession. But at the end of the move, they had managed to retreat right down the pitch and were playing directly in front of their own penalty area.

Jim Bentley was also forced to alter the team which lost 2-0 at Hartlepool on Saturday with new Skipper Peter Murphy out with a serious knee injury sustained at Victoria Park after just seven minutes of Saturday`s match. Three players who started on Saturday at Victoria Park were on the substitutes` bench tonight and Sean Beeley wore the Captain`s armband.

United had clearly won the toss at the beginning of the match and chose to attack the end populated by their own fans – partially, presumably, to ensure that the sun low in the sky and setting over Morecambe Bay would be in Barry Roche`s eyes: he wore a cap throughout the first half. To begin with, the hosts played with just Paul Mullin up front and seemed to be set-up to withstand whatever the Blades might throw at them. But after seven minutes or so, they started to push increasingly into the United half. Beeley had a reasonable shot saved with ten minutes on the clock and five minutes later, Lee Molyneux found himself alone and unmarked in the Blades` penalty area following a fantastic pass from the back. He was too slow to take advantage though and the danger was cleared by a last-ditch tackle. There was a comedy moment after seventeen minutes when Jay McEveley flattened the assistant referee – although it probably wasn`t funny from the linesman`s point of view: as I`ve mentioned, McEveley is a particularly big lad. United had a decent chance after twenty minutes which was well dealt with by Ryan Edwards at the cost of a corner. And so it went on. The game ebbed and flowed; Mark Howard dropped or fumbled the ball when it was in the air a few times and the nearest we came to a goal was after 25 minutes when Molyneux fooled everyone with a direct shot from a free kick a long way out which hit Howards` left-hand post: the be fair to the goalkeeper, I think he managed to get the slightest touch to it. Right before half time, official Man of the Match Aaron Wildig (who was injured and substituted during the second half) was played-in with another excellent ball from a long way out. Again, he was too slow to take advantage and United – again – cleared the danger. At the other end, the visitors also had a few chances but the dual facts that Roche had no tricky saves to make and the ball ended-up going over the stand roof at least once said all there was to be said about Sheffield`s shooting. All in all, it was a good game despite the poor finishing of both sides and thus no goals at half time: a draw was probably a fair result.

And so it continued during the second half. As qualified Physiotherapist Mr Adkins sprained his own vocal chords from the touchline, the game continued to be played in a good spirit (nobody was booked) and both teams tried to play some decent stuff. United started the half with a chance within the first minute when substitute Che Adams forced an excellent save from Roche low down to his right. Two minutes later Roche punched the ball from a corner kick and it eventually ended-up being slung over towards the giant McEveley by Morecambe`s left post: his header was saved again at the cost of another corner. There were further chances at both ends and Paul Mullin showed the way to play effectively against much bigger men with a brilliant dummy and turn after 73 minutes which was blocked by a United defence at Panic Stations.

The game seemed to be drifting inevitably towards Extra Time and possibly penalties when the visitors were awarded a corner kick from their right deep into Injury Time which James Wallace plonked unerringly onto the head of unmarked substitute Neill Collins who duly scored. Morecambe were probably collectively thinking about their tactics for an extra half hour which never materialised.

So they lost again – right at the death this time and at least having given a good account of themselves on this occasion – to the Blades. Big Jim will be disappointed – his team more than held their own for most of the match against supposedly superior opponents. His counterpart will obviously be pleased. Tonight`s team was probably not used to playing together – and it`s still Early Days in the current campaign after all. But both managers must be concerned with the lack of end product after sometimes really neat approach work. But worry not, Morecambe supporters: it`s only Accrington Stanley next?

Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 2 Sean Beeley; 6 Ryan Edwards; 22 Andy Parrish; 19 Laurence Wilson; 17 Andy Fleming (11 Kevin Ellison 70 mins); 15 Aaron Wildig (4 Alex Kenyon 56 mins); 7 Jamie Devitt; 10 Lee Molyneux (16 Shaun Miller 79 mins); 12 Paul Mullin; 13 Alan Goodall.

Substitutes: 20 Tony Thompson; 3 Aaron McGowan; 21 Jack Ryan; 23 Chris Doyle.

Sheffield United: 1 Mark Howard; 2 Kieron Freeman; 4 James Wallace (22 Louis Reed 92 mins); 6 Chris Basham; 12 Marc McNulty; 16 Stefan Scougall; 17 Martyn Woolford (29 Che Adams 45 mins); 18 Connor Sammon (C); 19 Jay McEveley; 34 David Edgar (15 Neill Collins 83 mins); 30 Keiran Wallace.

Substitutes: 25 George Long; 10 Billy Sharp; 23 Michael Higdon; 28 Callum McFadzean.

Ref: Stephen Martin.