It’s Not a Dot Com Disaster. (For Once…)
I was looking for some background information for tonight’s fixture in the FA Trophy on both Morecambe and Carlisle United’s websites this morning, early on. The Shrimps had an interview about last Saturday’s FA Cup defeat at Blackpool with then joint-manager Kevin Ellison. But nothing about tonight’s clash with their northern neighbours from Cumbria whatsoever. Top of the Carlisle agenda, though, was the death of Brian Mawhinney, the Belfast-born Tory Peer who was once Chairman of the party and a leading Protestant advocate of banning pornography in all its guises as well as being Chairman of the Football League at some point. What on earth any of this has to do with Carlisle United, I have absolutely no idea but the fact that this eulogy to a dead politician with no direct ties to the club trumps any information about their forthcoming appearance at the Globe Arena probably says everything that needs to be said about the real regard most football teams have for this Tin Pot competition. Is there anything more to say? Yes: at the start of play, the Shrimps were bottom of Northern Group G just as they are currently holding-up the entire EFL. They had already been mauled at Blackpool 5-1 and lost at home on penalties to the Academy team of Wolverhampton Wanderers in this competition and had effectively nothing to play for anymore. The only thing of even passing interest or relevance to the club’s fortunes in the future was that tonight marked the first time that new Manager Derek Adams officially took charge of the team. Oh – and later on, his opposite number, Steven Pressley, said:
“Like all the other games we’ve played in this competition, we’re going out there to win it. We’ve approached them all with the intent of winning and our attitude has been excellent towards it. I’ve said that we want to progress, and that has been our aim.”
But would his words come back to haunt him?
What was basically Carlisle’s reserve team looked lively from the off against the same Morecambe side which started against Blackpool last Saturday but had Kevin Ellison as well as Barry Roche back on the bench. After just over quarter of an hour, Ryan Loft showed some trickery in midfield and set-up Elias Sorensen for a shot which Mark Halstead in the home goal did well to palm away for a corner. At the other end, Cole Stockton then headed Luke Conlan’s precise cross just over Louis Gray’s bar. A minute later, Christie Elliot beat his man on the Carlisle right and pulled the ball back only for Canice Carroll to blast it over the target. History was made in the twenty-seventh minute when seventeen-year-old Jarrad Branthwaite intercepted a loose Morecambe pass and charged up the field. As the Shrimps’ defence obligingly backed off, he unleashed a shot from the edge of the box which beat Halstead low down to put the visitors into the lead. In doing so, he became the youngest ever player to have netted for United.
Lewis Alessandra came close to an equaliser after half an hour when his shot was tipped over the bar at the cost of a corner. But the visitors nearly went even further ahead after 36 minutes. Jack Bridge’s cross was acrobatically bicycle-kicked by Sorensen only to strike the outside of the Morecambe post. Then Halstead was again forced into action to block a shot from Mo Sagaf after he had been played-in by Carroll. So United retreated to their Dressing Room having fulfilled their Manager’s wish – to win – at the break. But could they hold onto the lead in the second half?
Derek Adams made his first substitutions in his new job with 55 minutes played. Just five minutes later, Aaron Wildig was brought-down for a penalty which Andrew Tutte duly dispatched to put the teams level. A few minutes later, there was a clash of heads which led to Carlisle’s Sagaf having to have a wound attended to off the field. Whilst he was absent, his team conceded again. Wildig slipped in on the far side to connect with a low cross and steered the ball past Gray to put Morecambe into the lead. There were half-chances for both sides after this with the best of them probably falling to Cole Stockton after 76 minutes. This time, the United goalkeeper did well to keep him out. The game went to five minutes’ injury time. During the first minute of this, Luke Conlan took a tremendous shot from the edge of the box and scored again for the hosts. And that was it: Steven Pressley’s words did come back to haunt him and the Blues lost three-one.
So Morecambe won their first game under new management. In doing so, they didn’t let go of the Wooden Spoon – they were still bottom of the table on goal difference. I think… (I’m not 100% sure because there are some pretty strange rules in this Noddy and Big Ears competition…)
Attention now switches back to the far more significant English Football League. The team who are currently bottom of League Two is facing crucial away games in its next two fixtures: at Crawley next Saturday and at Gresty Road (where the Shrimps lost 6-0 to Crewe last season) the Saturday after that. These games have far more significance than the sort of candy floss which was competed for tonight: Mr Adams’ new team need urgently to pick up at least a couple of points from them. If they don’t, things are going to look even bleaker than they already do in the only competition the club will be involved in for the rest of this season.
But to look on the bright side, if the New Regime can produce a situation where – at the end of the campaign next May – the Shrimps avoid the League Two Wooden Spoon, I for one will think Mr Adams and whoever he chooses to assist him in the fullness of time will have done a good job.
Morecambe: 21 Mark Halstead; 3 Luke Conlan; 5 Steven Old; 6 Andrew Tutte (4 Alex Kenyon ‘); 7 John O’Sullivan (10 A-Jay Leitch-Smith 55’); 8 Lewis Alessandra (12 Ritchie Sutton 55’); 9 Cole Stockton; 14 Tom Brewitt; 15 Aaron Wildig; 16 Sam Lavelle (C); 27 George Tanner.
Subs not used: 1 Barry Roche; 11 Kevin Ellison; 33 Jordan Cranston; 24 Shaun Miller.
Carlisle United: 22 Louis Gray; 2 Christie Elliot (14 Gethin Jones 86’); 3 Jack Iredale; 4 Canice Carroll; 5 Jon Mellish; 19 Jack Bridge; 23 Jarrad Branthwaite; 26 Ryan Loft; 27 Nathaniel Knight-Percival (C) (11 Harry McKirdy 69’); 28 Mo Sagaf (24 Olufela Olomola 61); 31 Elias Sorensen.
Subs not used: 26 Isaac Robinson; 6 Aaron Hayden; 15 Taylor Charters; 30 Adam Walton.
Ref: Graham Salisbury.