United's search for their first point of the season goes on as Morecambe made it three wins from three games at the Globe Arena. A first-half header from Kevin Ellison gave the Shrimps all three points tonight in another very tight game decided by just one moment.
Having lost their opening two league matches of the season changes needed to be made and so Danny Hylton’s two goals so far edged him into the starting XI in place of Alfie Potter. The versatile Joe Riley reverted to right back and Danny Rose and Josh Ruffels returned in midfield.
United passed the ball for fun in the first 30 minutes, Junior Brown forcing the first save of the night from home keeper Barry Roche and Michael Collins to the fore in the centre of the park. Keeper George Long needed to make one good save as Alex Kenyon fired at goal from 20 yards but otherwise United dominated much of the first half hour.
They created good chances. A flowing move on 23 ended with Collins freeing Riley to cross for the diving Hylton, whose header was pushed over the bar by Roche. In came the corner, Hylton headed at goal and saw it cleared from under the bar, Newey smashed the volleyed rebound over the bar. Good stuff from the U’s.
The always-menacing Ellison had two half chances for the home side without testing Long but United were always swift to counter attack when pressed and on 30 they sprung forward for Morris to set up the ever-willing Ruffels for a powerful shot from 25 yards that ballooned over the bar off of a backpedalling defender.
There had been good chances but none had been taken and, with a certain inevitability, on 40 minutes Morecambe made the U’s pay with the opener. One good challenge in the middle of the pitch and Morecambe were a man up as they drove at the retreating yellow line. The ball went left, United followed and left Ellison all on his own at the back post to nod home when Long pushed away Redshaw’s initial right-footed effort.
Football can be cruel at times but as much as United had been easy on the eye they might have been 2-0 down at the break as Redshaw’s shot on 43 flicked off the top of the bar with Long beaten. United have been vulnerable before the break in every game this season, even if a Riley shot on 44 almost found the equaliser this time, Roche getting down well to clutch it as Hylton homed in.
Behind at the break for the fourth time in four games, United needed to regroup and they started the second half where they had been for much of the first, on the front foot. Newey rasped a shot across the face of goal, Hylton had two headers go close, Riley drilled a shot wide on the hour and a Rose free kick from 25 yards crashed into the stand via the bar as they continued to play with fluency and belief.
That’s not to say that it was one-way traffic by any means. At the other end Long saved well from the lively Redshaw, Goodall saw the ball skid off his thigh as he attacked a free kick on 62 and Morecambe’s place at the top of the early table has been earned by determination, discipline and no little good football. It was a good match to watch and just as they had done at Mansfield in the previous game United continued to keep possesion and stay patient.
Alex Jakubiak and Alfie Potter came on to try and find that elusive goal and on 78 United thought they were being given a golden opportunity as Hylton raced clear, rounded Roche and was brought down. Astonishingly, ref Harrington had seen the incident differently to almost everyone else in the ground and instead of pointing to the spot he pulled out a yellow card for the bemused Hylton. The highlights will show whether that was a genius decision or a glaring error, but they won't change the result.
United, feeling aggrieved, then had loud penalty shouts waved away again as Newey headed back at the far post and the ball struck an arm before Hylton smashed an 85th-minute shot into the side netting. That effort broke the goal itself and caused a five-minute delay, but even that extra time wasn't enough for United to find a way through a stubborn Shrimps defence.
United now have a massive week ahead as Michael Appleton faces two of his former clubs. A Capital One Cup trip to West Brom will be one to enjoy, the Sky Bet League 2 game at home to Portsmouth on Saturday is much more important. Be there.
Report by Chris Williams. Stats by OPTA, Pictures by Darrell Fisher