Date: 25th November 2017 at 8:53pm
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Morecambe have a poor record against northern neighbours Carlisle. From eleven games in all competitions, they have only ever won one. Already this season, they have lost three-nil at home to the Cumbrians in the Football League Trophy. At Brunton Park today, the Shrimps really did need to do something about this poor record as urgently as they have had to do anything possibly in their entire history. Chesterfield have suddenly started to win and Barnet are also showing signs of fighting against their recent poor form. So results elsewhere coupled with another loss against United today could see the Lancashire club slipping further into the mire. Prior to kick-off, Morecambe found themselves in the very precarious perch just above the relegation positions. Another loss such as they suffered at home against Crewe in mid-week could see the Shrimps actually rock bottom of the entire EFL at the end of the match.

Carlisle have not been having anything like the impact they made on League Two in the early stages of last season this time around. Before the game, they were twelfth in the table with some inconsistent results throughout the current campaign. This month, however, they started promisingly, dumping League One Oldham Athletic out of the FA Cup and then winning their next couple of League Two games. The run came to a shuddering halt last time out, though, when they were soundly beaten 3-0 by Luton at Kenilworth Road last Saturday. So for the Blues, today`s encounter with their nearest geographical rivals would provide an opportunity for Keith Curle to get his team back on-track. For opposite number Jim Bentley, there was a lot more at stake…

With heavy rain and flooding again in much of Cumbria this week, there were some concerns about the game going ahead on a ground near to the full to bursting River Eden. Although some of United`s car parks were flooded, the groundsmen had made such a brilliant job of preparing a pitch which has been completely submerged in recent years that it was necessary to use the sprinklers before kick-off.

The Morecambe boss clearly had a game plan which soon became apparent on a bitterly cold day near the Scottish border. Kevin Ellison and former Blue Adam Campbell were both clearly tasked with the job of dropping back to restrict Carlisle`s opportunities up the flanks and the Shrimps used Adam McGurk as a target man to aim at every time they were able to counter attack.

In fact, the visitors had the first chance of the game in the opening minute when United lost possession and Ellison was then presented with a header which Jack Bonham in the home goal saved relatively easily. In a half of very few chances and generally poor quality, Wildig had the next chance after fifteen minutes when he was played-in by Ellison but was thwarted by Bonham quickly coming off his line and narrowing the angle to make a good stop. With Carlisle looking increasingly out of sorts, they did manage to put the ball in the net after Reggie Lamb took a shot which Barry Roche only half-saved after seventeen minutes. Richard Bennett, following up, put the ball past the goalkeeper but even he seemed to realise that he was clearly off-side and the goal was not given. As the three hundred or so visiting supporters noisily urged their team forward, the Shrimps gained more and more possession as the half wore on. In the Brunton Park Paddock, certain Cumbrian supporters also were clearly supporting one particular Morecambe player. This was Patrick Brough, a native of Silloth on the West Cumbrian coast and former Carlisle player. His own particular fan club were from the same place and clearly had mixed loyalties as the game progressed. The best chance of the game so far arrived after forty minutes and when Adam McGurk hit the side netting instead of squaring the ball to a better-placed Andy Fleming in the centre, the latter was not slow to let the former know what he thought about it. Shortly after this, McGurk did release the ball but Clint Hill – who had a shaky game in the Carlisle defence today – managed to head the ball away for a corner as Ellison was bearing rapidly down on him. Although United had a half-chance right at the end of the first period, Morecambe went into the dressing rooms clearly the better of the two teams.

But Morecambe soon began to rue missed chances when the second half started. Hallam Hope took a shot from a long way out after just two minutes of the restart which Big Baz did well to push away for a corner as it dipped towards the top corner at the last moment. The home team then duly took the lead after fifty-one minutes. Kelvin Etuhu took a shot from a long way out following an attempted clearing header by Steven Old and the ball passed through several legs, seemingly unsighting Roche in the Shrimps` goal as it went past him into the net. Yet even after this, the visitors continued to play the more structured and positive football. Aaron Wildig squandered a golden opportunity to equalise after 58 minutes when Campbell put a superb cross into the box only for him to steer it wide. Four minutes later, Campbell himself tried his luck but his shot missed the target by a whisker. With the team south of the Cumbrian border continuing to dominate the play, Keith Curle tried to change things with a double substitution after 64 minutes. The Morecambe fans took the opportunity to jeer at their own former top scorer Shaun Miller but were noticeably less vocal when former Shrimps star Jamie Devitt was introduced for the hosts in the seventy-eighth minute. But by this time, the visitors had been on level terms for five minutes. A goal which seemed inevitable finally arrived when Wildig slung over a free-kick, the ball pinged about in the Carlisle penalty area but Steven Old was on hand to poke the ball past Bonham to equalise. After this, there was only one team which was going to win and the visitors had the perfect opportunity to collect all three points on the road when the Blues` goalkeeper was adjudged to have brought down Sam Lavelle in the penalty area and Referee Darren Handley pointed to the spot. This was with just eight minutes still scheduled to play. Adam Campbell duly stepped-up to take the spot kick but his fierce strike slammed against the crossbar and bounced away to safety.

So at the end of the contest, Morecambe had not so much as battled their way to a valuable point as thrown-away two more. Nevertheless, Jim Bentley must have been pleased with the battling qualities of his team and the tremendous support it generated among their own travelling supporters. (This annoyed certain individuals in the home crowd so much that several of these were ejected by their own stewards shortly after the Shrimps equalised.)

If they continue to play like this, Morecambe will find themselves going in the same direction as relegation rivals Chesterfield: UPWARDS. With the Spireites again grabbing a point away from home but both Barnet and Crewe losing at home today, the draw pushed Morecambe one point higher in League Two to twenty-first position. Carlisle, meanwhile, slipped to fourteenth.

Carlisle United: 1 Jack Bonham; 5 Gary Liddle; 4 Luke Joyce 14 Richard Bennett (20 Shaun Miller 64 mins); 29 Clint Hill; 3 Danny Grainger (C); 19 Reggie Lambe (Y) (11 Jamie Devitt 78 mins); 8 Michael Jones (18 John O`Sullivan 64 mins); 17 James Brown; 9 Hallam Hope; 21 Kelvin Etuhu.

Subs not used: 23 Shamal George; 6 Tom Parkes; 2 Tom Miller; 15 Sam Cosgrove.

Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 17 Mitchell Lund; 16 Sam Lavelle; 5 Steven Old (Y); 3 Patrick Brough; 4 Alex Kenyon (C); 8 Andy Fleming; 10 Adam Campbell; 11 Kevin Ellison (9 Vadaine Oliver 90 mins); 28 Adam McGurk (7 Garry Thompson 70 mins); 15 Aaron Wildig.

Subs Not Used: 12 Danijel Nizic; 2 Aaron McGowan; 14 Luke Conlan; 29 Callum Lang; 22 Max Muller; 24 Michael Rose.
Ref: Darren Handley