Date: 3rd January 2012 at 3:16pm
Written by: Roger Fitton

Burton was the latest team to test Morecambe`s relatively poor form of late at their new ground today. The Shrimps – top of the table during September – have lost their way in recent times and found themselves in lucky thirteenth spot in the table before the game. Burton , on the other hand, have moved in the opposite direction during the last few weeks and were sitting fifth at the start of play just outside the automatic promotion places.

The match began very brightly for the hosts: within a couple of minutes, Laurence Wilson had a shot on goal well blocked by the Brewers` defence and Ross Atkins pulled off a miraculous save after just four minutes, somehow thwarting Shrimps` Man of the Match Lewis Allesandra by throwing himself full length into the top left hand corner of his goal after the Morecambe Number Nine had been cleverly set-up by Jason Price.

The Shrimps didn`t have it all their own way, though. After ten minutes, tricky winger Chris Palmer took on the host`s defence and put in a low cross which ran harmlessly across the penalty area: if Burton `s forwards had shown more ambition, they might have profited.  Three minutes later, Barry Roche – who had a very shaky game by his very high standards throughout proceedings today – was nearly caught-out by a shot from Calvin Zola. Two minutes after that, he flapped at and barely connected with a cross from a corner – luckily for him, the ball didn`t fall to a Brewers player. With seventeen minutes gone, the Morecambe custodian totally missed another cross into the area: more by luck than judgement, the ball ended up going narrowly over his bar. He did better after twenty-two minutes, though, when Stewart Drummond deflected a wicked cross from the Burton right which was whipped-in after a mistake by Andy Fleming – the ball could have easily have ended up in the Shrimps` net but Roche managed to save and hold onto it. Four minutes later, however, he was again unable to hold a goal-bound shot by Ryan Austin.

With half an hour gone, Burton fell behind to an excellent shot by Allesandra from the right-hand edge of their penalty area which beat Atkins to his left, hit the post and bounced slowly over the line.

The Brewers` response was almost immediate and Barry Roche did well on this occasion to stop a shot from Chris Palmer after 32 minutes. Controversy then ensued when referee Mark Brown called play back after initially playing advantage to the visitors and awarded a free kick just outside the right corner of the Morecambe penalty area. It seemed the right decision to me but his overly fussy handling of what happened next didn`t do him any credit. He paced out a generous ten yards and made the Morecambe wall move backwards to that point. During the second half – when Morecambe were awarded a free kick in virtually the same spot – he allowed Burton to form a wall much closer to the ball. Where is the consistency in this? And whereas the Shrimps` free kick came to nothing, the Brewers scored with theirs – the ball took a wild deflection from the wall and trickled over the line to leave Roche a helpless spectator. Blameless though he was on this occasion, the big Irishman was at fault yet again after forty minutes, diving full-length to save a header and totally missing the ball, which was scrambled to safety by his defenders.

The second half followed the same pattern as the first in some ways. Barry Roche continued to make mistakes and Mr Brown produced further controversial decisions which could have had a major impact on the match. In the very first minute of the re-start, Wilson had to head off the line when Roche found himself all at sea once again. Three minutes later, the Shrimps goalkeeper rushed from his area and hoofed the ball downfield only to have it returned by a Burton boot with interest: Wilson came to the rescue again with Roche nowhere to be seen: he was still way out of his ground. Throughout the rest of the contest, Barry Roche`s handling was poor in the extreme with the occasional redeeming moment.

The first of Mark Brown`s doubtful contributions to the play came in the fifty-seventh minute. Billy Kee clearly punched the ball from a cross into the Morecambe net and wheeled away to celebrate as if he had scored a legitimate goal. Handling the ball in this way deserves at least a yellow card; cheating in this manner also deserves punishment and Kee would and should have been sent off by most match officials. But Mr Brown only booked him. Earlier, Burton Captain John McGrath also deliberately handled the ball and although the referee awarded a free-kick, he didn`t produce a yellow card on that occasion as the laws of the game suggest he should have. One can only assume that this was because McGrath – whose performance throughout the game could be politely described as `muscular` – had already been booked early on for a particularly bad foul.

It was certainly ‘one of those days` for Morecambe`s usually utterly reliable goalkeeper but Mr Brown`s fussy and inconsistent performance was simply not good enough for this level of football.

As far as chances were concerned, with fifty minutes gone, Allesandra continued his personal duel with the visiting goalkeeper and Ross Atkins again did well to keep him out at the expense of a corner. From this, there followed a melee in the Burton defence from which Price only just failed to score. The Brewers swept down to the other end almost immediately and Calvin Zola put them in front with a deft header from a deep cross from his left flank – once again, you had the feeling that on another day, Roche would have caught the ball before it reached the forward`s head. He redeemed himself to some extent, though, when he conceded a corner instead of a goal after a more honest attempt from Kee than his previous effort after 59 minutes. With just over an hour gone, the action moved to the other end of the pitch and Atkins did well again to parry a long-range screamer from Wilson . After 67 minutes, Morecambe`s increasing pressure paid-off when the Burton goalkeeper conceded again – despite a valiant effort to keep it out, he was beaten low down to his right hand side by a sublime strike from outside the penalty area by Gary McDonald. Four minutes later, as Morecambe continued to press, Drummond`s goal-bound shot was blocked by the Burton defence. With ten minutes left, Danny Carlton headed a cross back into the Brewers` penalty area but no team-mate was there to attempt to finish it off. There were a few more half chances to either side but at the end of the day, a draw was probably a fair result.

If Morecambe can recapture their early-season form, nobody could sensibly bet against them for at least another play-off position at the end of the season. Last term, Paul Peschisolido`s team struck a disastrous run of form towards the end of the campaign which turned them into real relegation candidates at one time. If they can avoid such dips in form this time around, they might still be harbouring hopes of progression to League One at the end of the season: on this performance, they seem to have the talent if not exactly the flair which might be required.

Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 2 Nick Fenton; 6 Will Haining (C); 15 Chris McCready; 19 Laurence Wilson; 16 Stewart Drummond; 7 Izak Reid; 17 Andy Fleming (30 Danny Carlton 55 mins); 18 Gary McDonald; 29 Jason Price (10 Phil Jevons 65 mins); 9 Lewis Allesandra.

Substitutes not used: 12 Shaun Routledge; 22 Andy Parrish; 8 Garry Hunter.

Burton Albion : 23 Ross Atkins; 3 Aaron Webster (Y); 4 Nathan Stanton; 8 Andy Corbett; 15 Ryan Austin; 6 John McGrath (C) (Y) (20 Danny Blanchett 58 mins); 11 Chris Palmer; 13 Cleveland Taylor; 19 Jacques Maghoma; 10 Calvin Zola (9 Justin Richards 90+1); 29 Billy Kee (Y) (26 Adam Bolder 71 minutes).

Substitutes not used: 1 Kevin Poole ; 21 Andres Gurrieri.

Ref: Mark Brown.

Att: 1810.

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