Date: 29th August 2017 at 9:43pm
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Some people think that the Checkatrade, EFL Trophy or whatever you want to call it is a misconceived and pointless competition where under-strength sides from the lower reaches of the Football League have the chance to play Academy teams from Premiership and other more prestigious teams for questionable reasons. Morecambe Manager Jim Bentley doesn`t agree:

‘I know this competition attracts a lot of debate but personally I like it. It’s a competitive game of football and whatever way you look at it, it is a game that we want to win and at this stage of the season it is a game where we can help prepare the group for the season ahead. This is a great competition if you do well in it. There’s obviously a Wembley final at the end of it and I think some people wrongly disrespect it. For me if you take the time to enter it you should want to do well in it – I don’t see the point of not following that principle.”

Tonight saw the first games in the mini-league competition which is Northern Group A: as Fleetwood Town played hosts to Leicester City Under 21s, Carlisle United – featuring former Shrimps heroes Jamie Devitt and Shaun Miller – took on old foes Morecambe at the Globe Arena. The Blues have an excellent record against the Shrimps: in thirteen previous meetings, Morecambe have only ever won once and United had never previously lost any match at the Globe Arena.

The match couldn`t have started better for the visitors: right from kick-off, Hallam Hope was found by Shaun Miller and he made no mistake with a shot past Danijel Nizic with just thirty-two seconds played. With eight minutes on the clock, Wycombe loanee Muller made a great defensive header to Aaron Wildig who fed Andy Fleming whose crisp shot went just over the bar. Following Elliot Osbourne`s good approach work down the Morecambe right, the ball was deflected to Adam Campbell whose volley was well saved by visiting goalkeeper Shamal George with twenty-three minutes played. The visitors had a few half-chances – Danny Grainger headed over from a corner; a Hope shot was deflected for another corner and Tom Parkes had a shot blocked – in a three minute spell alone just before the half hour. Devitt then lost possession after 32 minutes and Kevin Ellison had an excellent chance to equalise but blasted his shot over the bar. Kev then turned provider when he headed down a cross for Campbell whose effort was smothered by the Carlisle rearguard. But Jason Kennedy had the next meaningful touch of the game when he spun the ball past Nizic – who complained that he had been fouled in the build-up but was possibly too slow to come off his line – to put the visitors 0-2 up with just a minute still scheduled to play in the first half.

Old Boys Devitt and Miller combined well with Hope after 52 minutes only for the latter to fluff his lines as Sam Lavelle was able to brilliantly block his effort in the first meaningful action of the second period. The two former Morecambe players came even closer with 55 minutes played and Devitt smacked the ball past Nizic from 25 yards who was well beaten only to see the ball slam back off the post to deny him a goal he probably deserved on the night for his all-round performance.

There was a small crowd at the Globe tonight and – as is invariably the case – local Radio Lanky Shite chose to feature other teams playing in the competition this evening. For those of us listening to uninterrupted live coverage on Radio Cumbria, though, the most noticeable thing during the second half in particular were the unmistakable tones of Jim Bentley yelling at his charges throughout the forty-five minutes. Much good did it do: they were second best throughout tonight, never put Carlisle under any genuine pressure, failed to even test the visitors` goalkeeper until the 88th minute during the second half and probably were lucky to emerge from the match with just two goals conceded: substitute Samir Nabi was denied by an excellent save from Nizic with ten minutes left and the only time the Shrimps even looked like scoring was when substitute Garry Thompson shot over when well placed for the second game in succession after about 75 minutes. A Wembley Final looked distinctly unlikely on this performance – but stranger things have happened…

Morecambe: 12 Danijel Nizic; 22 Max Muller; 6 Dean Winnard (C) (19 Reece Deakin 59 mins); Lavelle; 14 Luke Conlan (17 Mitchell Lund 82 mins); 21 Elliot Osborne; 8 Andy Fleming (Y); 2 Aaron McGowan; 15 Aaron Wildig; 11 Kevin Ellison (7 Garry Thompson); 10 Adam Campbell.

Substitutes not used: 1 Barry Roche; Yawson; 5 Steven Old; 24 Michael Rose.

Carlisle United: 23 Shamal George; 3 Danny Grainger; 4 Luke Joyce; 6 Tom Parkes; 7 Jason Kennedy (10 Nicky Adams 64 mins); 8 Mike Jones; 9 Hallam Hope (14 Richie Bennett 69 mins); 11 Jamie Devitt; 16 Mark Ellis; 17 James Brown; 20 Shaun Miller (12 Samir Nabi 69 mins).

Substitutes not used: 15 Sam Cosgrove; 22 Morgan Bacon; 5 Gary Liddle; 19 Reggie Lamb.
Ref: Seb Stockbridge