Fleetwood 1-0 Morecambe
By David Mitchell
Graham Alexander will have had no better Christmas present than his first win as Fleetwood Town’s manager.
His side reached the half-way point of the season with their fifth win at Highbury and a double over their near neighbours, Morecambe, in front of 3477. The crucial moment came in the 68th
minute when David Ball headed home from an assist by Junior Brown.
The turkey and sprouts were put to one side as prawns and shrimps took centre stage at Highbury for the Boxing Derby between Town and Morecambe. Town were unchanged for the first time in twelve games while former Town player Richard Brodie lined up in attack for the visitors. Manager Jim Bentley made one change with Izak Reid replacing Jack Redshaw up front.
Town started brightly, forcing a corner following good interplay involving Brown and Dean Howell. From the set-piece, Brown hit a dangerous pass across the face of goal. A Steven Gillespie shot forced a save from Shrimps keeper Barry Roche in the fourth minute after a stray pass from Nick Fenton had put his defence under pressure.
Morecambe were clearly aware of the threat posed by Brown, Stuart Drummond keeping a close eye on Town’s leading scorer in midfield. The visitors earned several corners in the first twenty minutes but Town’s defence looked comfortable under pressure. Going forward, Gillespie found Ball with a long pass from near half way in the 19th
minute but the defence closed down the threat. Town pressed with full-back Shaun Beeley making his presence felt in the final third but had to make their first change as early as the 25th
minute when Jamie McGuire replaced Barry Nicholson who had a back problem. Soon after, Scott Davies saved well at the near post from Kevin Ellison’s low shot but clear chances were as rare as snowflakes on Christmas Day.
In the 36th
minute David Ball fell in the penalty area under pressure from Roche and, momentarily, it looked as if referee Webb was pointing in the direction of the spot only to give a goal kick. Five minutes later, Alan Goodall brought midfielder Gary McDonald down, the referee giving the defender his first booking of the season but not before raising the anxiety levels in the Parkside Stand by inadvertently drawing a red out of his right-hand pocket! That would have made for an eventful end to a half distinctly lacking in highlights.
Alex Titchiner replaced Gillespie after the break. The second half opened with action aplenty and there was a strong start from Morecambe. Brodie was at the heart of it, almost exploiting an error from Goodall before firing a right-foot shot wide and also setting up Izak Reid. Alex Marrow put Atkinson under pressure, Town’s skipper seeing yellow when bringing Brodie down on the edge of the area. Ellison’s strike was punched clear by Davies.
As Bentley shouted to his players to ‘stop the cross’ a beautifully weighted delivery from Beeley on the right was headed narrowly wide by Titchiner. Two minutes later, in the 58th
minute, Beeley’s decoy run gave Marrow space to fire narrowly over. McGuire found position but headed wide on the hour.
Brodie, anxious to prove a point at his former club, struck a long-range ball into the path of Reid in the 64th
minute but the danger was cleared. Beeley was the next to go close for Town, striking a shot from the edge of the area but just too high. The breakthrough finally came in the 68th
minute and it went Town’s way. Brown supplied and Ball got away from his defender to nod past Roche for his sixth goal of the season.
Jack Redshaw replaced Reid in the 71st
minute. There was nearly a second for Ball a minute later. Milligan took a short free kick,Titchiner raced on and supplied a low cross which the striker just failed to meet. Titchiner looked lively, bringing a save from Roche after 75 minutes and a booking for Fenton when the nippy striker outpaced the Morecambe skipper four minutes later. Milligan’s free kick for the infringement almost caught Roche out to the keeper’s left. Town were pressing but Morecambe countered in the 84th
minute when Redshaw set up Ellison, only to see the Shrimps top scorer strike the sponsor’s logo on the roof of the Percy Ronson Stand.
Lewis Allesandra replaced Gary McDonald with eight minutes left while Milligan left to generous applause with three minutes left, replaced by Damien Johnson. Moments after the restart, Titchiner was provider again as Brown raced in, his effort going wide.
The Seafood Derby is followed by a War of the Roses when York City arrive on Saturday.
TEAM: Davies, Beeley, Atkinson (captain), Goodall, Howell, Nicholson (McGuire 25), Marrow, Milligan (Johnson 87), Brown, Ball, Gillespie (Titchiner 46)
BOOKED: Goodall, Atkinson