Date: 4th November 2017 at 5:14pm
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Morecambe had won only two of their previous home fixtures this season prior to today`s FA Cup First Round clash against recently relegated Hartlepool United at the Globe Arena. Given that they also found themselves in the relegation positions in League Two for the first time ever and have an appalling record of defeats in the First Round of the FA Cup in recent times, progress against a team from the National League which still attracts crowds of over 3,500 (over twice the Shrimps` average) was by no means guaranteed. This is the sort of contest where the Shrimps were effectively on a hiding to nothing: if they won, most people would say that was only to be expected against a non-League side; if they lost, they would never hear the end of it. But Morecambe were beaten by Coventry last year in a tepid display in a replay at the Ricoh Arena. The previous year, they put up a truly pathetic performance against Dagenham & Redbridge in which they threw in the towel after leading in a replay and finally lost 2-4. This followed-on from their worst defeat in the competition so far, when the Shrimps were defeated by non-League Dover Athletic in Kent three years ago – and so it goes on. Today, however, the League Two side had a golden opportunity to take advantage of their higher status and home advantage to progress to the Second Round for a very welcome change.

Few clubs – except perhaps Leyton Orient – can compete with Morecambe in the off the field Boardroom Shenanigans Stakes but Pools have themselves been embroiled in potential take-overs recently, such as by two shady `businessmen` who have instead pocketed tens of thousands of pounds of the club`s gate receipts: this pair of English fraudsters were convicted two weeks ago and now face substantial jail sentences.

Hartlepool arrived at the Lancashire seaside on an unbeaten run of six games and in twelfth position in the National League. Boss Craig Harrison was without the services of central defender Michael Ledger, who broke his nose in the nil-two win at struggling Torquay United last Saturday and put Kenton Richardson straight into the starting eleven to replace him.

The visitors kicked-off to get the game underway under blue skies which had replaced the rain which had swept across the seaside resort all night and for much of the morning. But Pools lost possession immediately, conceded a free kick after which Adam McGurk took a blockbuster of a shot which ex-loanee Morecambe goalkeeper Scott Loach did brilliantly to push over the bar with only 30 seconds on the clock. From the resulting corner, the visiting goalkeeper did well again to smother the ball at the feet of Steven Old. But the home team kept up the pressure and Kevin Ellison put the Shrimps ahead with a neat sidefoot shot from Aaron Wildig`s pass from the Morecambe left from twelve yards out with only four minutes played. The hosts continued to dominate in the early stages with neat passing played at pace and although the match became a little scrappy as the half wore on, McGurk again forced Loach into a good save with a bullet header a little while before the break, Wildig being the provider once more. In the meantime, United`s goalkeeper was also forced to save from Old and watched a scorcher from Wildig fly just over his bar. The visitors` answer to Morecambe`s domination was pretty crude at times and it would not have been a surprise if more than Liam Donnelley`s name had gone into the Referee`s notebook before half time. In terms of attacking intent, the visitors did not create even one serious chance with which to threaten Barry Roche`s goal during the entire opening 45 minutes.

Morecambe – as has so often happened this season – lost both their shape and their momentum at the start of the second half. Trading blows with a physical team like Hartlepool is never a good idea and the first ten minutes or longer of the re-start were a niggly and bad-tempered affair with Luke George the greatest sinner for the visitors in terms of giving away free-kicks. With an hour played, United had their first attempt on goal when Richardson headed wide and two minutes later, Big Baz was forced into his first save of the day – and a good one at that – from Jonathan Franks. Three minutes later, though, Vadaine Oliver was introduced for the Shrimps and made an immediate impact, first winning a free-kick and then brilliantly playing-in Andy Fleming to be one-on-one with Loach who he beat confidently with a shot which went under the keeper`s body to put the hosts two goals to the good. Oliver then out-muscled the Pools defence and forced Loach into a good save after 72 minutes as Morecambe began to regain the dominance they had enjoyed during the first half. They scored a third goal after 85 minutes when substitute Adam Campbell unleashed a piledriver from outside the box which smashed against the post, bounced back, hit the unfortunate Loach on the back of his head and nestled in the back of the United net. Even before this, the game was effectively won and Pools showed no signs of coming back into the contest at any point.

So Morecambe find their name in the draw for the Second Round on Monday night. Despite a bit of a wobble at the start of the second half, this was a well-deserved win where their finesse was far too much for team which tried to make up for their lack of skill with a large helping of brawn. It must feel like a long way home for the 854 fans from the North-East coast who made the fruitless journey westwards and they must feel even further away from a place back in the EFL with the performance they put on today than they did before the match started.

Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 3 Patrick Brough; 5 Steven Old; 2 Aaron McGowan; 22 Max Muller; 8 Andy Fleming; 4 Alex Kenyon(C); 7 Garry Thompson; 15 Aaron Wildig (10 Adam Campbell 70 mins); 28 Adam McGurk (9 Vadaine Oliver 65 mins); 11 Kevin Ellison.

Subs Not Used: 12 Danijel Nizic; 24 Michael Rose; 14 Luke Conlan; 21 Elliot Osborne.

Hartlepool United: 1 Scott Loach; 22 Liam Donnelly (Y); 23 Louis Laing; 6 Luke George (8 Jack Munns 75 mins); 19 Kenton Richardson; 3 Blair Adams; 4 Nicky Featherstone (Y); 11 Rhys Oates; 12 Jonathan Franks; 17 Nicky Deverdics; 14 Michael Woods (21 Devante Rodney 60 mins).

Subs Not Used: 13 Ryan Catterick; 24 Conor Newton; 5 Scott Harrison; 18 Lewis Hawkins; 27 Connor Simpson.
Ref: Tom Neild