Morecambe 1-1 Stockport County

The Hatters’ third assignment on the road in as many competitions within less than a week saw them return to League Two action with a draw, despite largely dominating, on a wet and windy afternoon at Morecambe.

In what was only a third-ever visit to the Lancashire seaside town, and a first meeting anywhere with the ‘Shrimps’ for nearly 13 years, County earned the point thanks to Kyle Wootton’s strike three minutes from time which cancelled out a breakaway Morecambe opener midway through the second half.

The heavy overnight rain preceding Storm Elin had mercifully spared the pitch at the Mazuma Stadium on a day when five L2 fixtures – including those involving all three clubs immediately behind table-topping County – had fallen victim to the weather. And the heavens opened again, with a strong breeze in tow, just before the Hatters took to the field, showing nine changes from their starters for the EFL Trophy-tie nine junctions further down the M6 at Wigan three days earlier – but only four from the original FA Cup line-up in Hampshire against Aldershot the previous weekend.

Ryan Croasdale, Fraser Horsfall, Tanto Olaofe and Antoni Sarcevic comprised the quartet not to have started against the ‘Shots’ – or the ‘Latics’ for that matter – and there were a couple of notable playing milestones for other Hatters, with Ben Hinchliffe and Macauley Southam-Hales chalking up their 350th and 100th appearances, respectively.

The Shrimps, for their part, included on their bench midfielder, and recent ex-Hatter, Jacob Davenport, who had turned out seven times for County earlier in the year whilst on a short-term contract at Edgeley Park.

A quarter of an hour had passed before the first shot of note was struck – courtesy of Croasdale, whose low drive was comfortably smothered by home goalkeeper, Adam Smith. Smith could also afford a little economy of effort in gathering up, a few minutes later, Odin Bailey’s under-hit attempt from the edge of the box.

Midway through the half, the Hatters were dealt a blow when Sarcevic suffered the latest in their current series of injuries and had to be replaced by Callum Camps – who was himself returning from a lay-off.

County, nonetheless, had adapted to the difficult conditions well, and shortly afterwards went close with a well-struck, swerving Bailey shot that Smith parried at full stretch. The hosts, meanwhile, fashioned their inaugural chance around the half-hour mark, with Adam Mayor firing just wide of the right post.

Hinchliffe needed to be alert when Morecambe next launched an attack – culminating in a long-range effort on target from JJ McKiernan that County’s Number One dived to tip around his left upright. And, in the dying seconds before half-time, Southam-Hales did well to clear the danger after Joel Senior had cut in from the right and delivered the ball into the six-yard box.

HALF-TIME: Morecambe 0, County 0. 

The Hatters, now kicking with the wind behind them and towards the sold-out away end, earned an early corner on the left – from which sprung almost simultaneously two penalty shouts, as both captain Paddy Madden and then Horsfall went to ground in the home area.

Much of the play proceeded to take place with County pressing in the Morecambe half, but without going close in the final third until just after the hour when successive corners from Bailey on the right and Camps on the left were respectively tipped over by Smith and delivered across the goalmouth to soar just past the far post.

Camps then fashioned an attempt in open play – unleashing a shot from outside the area that skimmed the crossbar. But the next attack was by the Shrimps, and, against the run of play, it saw them take the lead, as David Tutonda threaded a through-ball for leading scorer, and Burnley loanee, Michael Mellon, to convert from close range.

Morecambe broke again with a dozen minutes remaining, although, on this occasion, Hinchliffe dived to smother Mellon’s shot. And Camps fired over at the other end, before County’s two centre-halves were replaced, as the Hatters strove for an equaliser.

One of the newly-introduced substitutes, Kyle Knoyle, made an immediate and telling impact – delivering a looping cross into the box from the right that Wootton slid to meet and stab past Smith for his seventh goal in the same number of games.

Bailey curled a shot agonisingly wide of the left post towards the end of added time – but the Hatters could, at least, content themselves with a first-ever point and goal at any Morecambe venue, as well as a single-point extension to their lead at the top of the table.

FULL-TIME: Morecambe 1 (Mellon, 69), County 1 (Wootton, 87).

Team (4-1-2-1-2): Hinchliffe; Southam-Hales, Horsfall (Knoyle, 81), Pye (Richardson, 81), Touray; Croasdale; Sarcevic (Camps, 23), Bailey; Madden (Capt.); Olaofe, Wootton.

Unused Subs: J. Smith, Wright, Byrne, Cotterill.

Attendance: 4,505 (1,562 away).

Reporter: Gareth Evans.

Photographer: Mike Petch.


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