THE Shrimps kicked off 2017 with a hard earned draw over Crewe at the Globe Arena.
A game of few chances saw the Shrimps go close to taking all three points with Lee Molyneux hitting the bar for Morecambe but at the other end they were grateful to Shrimps’ keeper Barry Roche for making two fine saves.
Morecambe boss Jim Bentley had made two changes from the side beaten at Hartlepool United last time out. James Jennings and the injured Rhys Turner were the men to make way with Alex Whitmore and Aaron Wildig restored to the starting XI.
With no recognised striker in the Shrimps’ line-up, it was Wildig and Kevin Ellison who formed something of a stand-in front pair as Bentley again opted to field a back three.
Consequently, Morecambe’s attacking play for much of the first half was of the scrappy variety.
The visitors could - and perhaps should - have taken a ninth minute lead when Charlie Kirk drifted behind the Morecambe defence.
However, he took too long to get the ball under control and Roche was out quickly to smother. Morecambe defender Ryan Edwards blocked Oliver Turton’s close-range effort moments later as Crewe seemed to settle the quicker of the two teams.
The Shrimps’ best opportunities in the first half came from set pieces with Crewe keeper Ben Garratt holding efforts from Peter Murphy, Edwards and Michael Rose.
Garratt also bravely denied Andy Fleming, though it was Roche who made the half’s only save of note, pushing away James Jones’ shot from 18 yards.
Ironically, it took an injury to give the Shrimps greater attacking thrust as a hamstring injury to Aaron McGowan with half-time approaching brought Paul Mullin off the bench. He went up front, allowing Wildig and Ellison to drop back into midfield as Bentley reverted to a back four. It was a change which helped contribute to a better start to the second half from the home perspective.
Garratt kept out efforts from Mullin and Ellison but it was Roche who again helped Morecambe to maintain parity. Kirk was set free down the Crewe right before squaring the ball for Jones, whose first-time shot was kept out by Roche’s acrobatics. If that was good fortune for the Shrimps then they were left bemoaning some ill fortune midway through the half.
Seconds after Garratt had held Rose’s swerving effort, Morecambe substitute Molyneux got behind the Crewe defence but saw his shot cannon back off the bar with the keeper beaten.
Both sides continued to press for a winner as Dean Winnard blocked George Cooper’s shot, while at the other end, Ellison’s overhead kick found the side netting.
Jones threatened to have the final word for Crewe with a 20-yard free-kick but thankfully for the Shrimps his effort curled inches wide of the Morecambe goal and the two sides had to settle for the point.
Morecambe: Roche, Winnard, Edwards, Whitmore, McGowan (Mullin 44), Fleming, Murphy (Molyneux 65), Rose, Conlan, Wildig (Massanka 79), Ellison. Subs not used: Nizic, Wakefield, Jennings, Jordan.
Crewe Alexandra: Garratt, Turton, Davis, Bakayogo, Guthrie, Kiwomya, Jones, Bingham, Cooper, Kirk (Ainley 81), Dagnall. Subs not used: Richards, Ray, Nugent, Saunders, Hollands, Udoh.
Referee: Ben Toner.