Morecambe halted their run of six successive home losses on Sunday as they earned a replay versus League One Coventry City. On a cold afternoon at the Globe Arena, Jim Bentley’s men took the game to the Sky Blues and they hauled themselves ahead just before the hour mark via Dean Winnard. The visitors pulled the game back level courtesy of Jamie Sterry, however, to ensure the tie will be replayed at the Ricoh Arena in just over a week’s time.
Mark Venus named a strong starting eleven for the clash, but his players struggled to impose themselves and this allowed the Shrimps to look comfortable for the majority of the game. A few lacklustre performances amongst the Coventry ranks caused the travelling fans to be underwhelmed, but they will feel relieved that their team are still in the hat for the second round draw.
During the opening few moments it was City who looked the more confident of the two sides, but their League Two counterparts soon began to take the upper hand. With five minutes on the clock, the first attempt of the afternoon was fashioned and it fell to Morecambe. Pacy forward Cole Stockton charged towards the away area before forcing Lee Burge into a low save. The goalkeeper was then forced into a brilliant reaction stop just three minutes later, as he thwarted Peter Murphy.
The danger wasn’t relieved just yet, however, as the resulting corner from Michael Rose caused chaos. His delivery towards the front post somehow evaded the Coventry defence and Burge was called into action as he clawed the ball away from goal. As the scrappy nature of the game continued, it was still Morecambe who looked more threatening and they went close on 19 minutes as Aaron Wildig curled just over.
As the visiting supporters’ frustration grew, the Sky Blues struggled to gain a foothold on proceedings. Glimpses of quality going forward led to nothing, but Ben Stevenson did see a shot well blocked on 34 minutes after Marvin Sordell found him lurking on the edge of the area. Kyel Reid then blazed a strike over just a minute later following an Andy Rose cross, but there was little to cheer for the Sky Blues.
Instead, it was the home fans who were enjoying the occasion. The pace of Tom Barkhuizen proved to be a nuisance for Coventry’s back line and Jamie Sterry was finding life difficult. It was Murphy who charged past the Newcastle United loanee on 36 minutes, however, before calling Burge into action once more. Barkhuizen did create the best opening of the half on 40 minutes as his low cross picked out Wildig. His effort from close range was stopped by Jordan Willis, however, as the City captain preserved his side’s clean sheet.
Following a lacklustre first 45 minutes from Coventry, a reaction was needed from Venus’ men and they started the second half very brightly. The 51st minute proved to be manic as Morecambe lived dangerously. Marvin Sordell saw a deflected effort creep an inch wide of Barry Roche’s post following neat work from Dion Kelly-Evans. The resulting corner was then whipped in by Ruben Lameiras and Jordan Turnbull was denied by the goalkeeper. Sordell then had another opportunity as the ball rolled into his path but his vicious strike cannoned off of the crossbar.
With 58 minutes played, City debutant Jack McBean then saw a header well saved following neat work from Sordell. Following that spell of defending, the home outfit looked to get forward to relieve some pressure and they did that by opening the scoring. Michael Rose’s corner led to the goal as his delivery was flicked in towards Dean Winnard and the central defender made no mistakes with the finish.
After taking the lead, the Shrimps reverted to a more defensive position and they relied on counter-attacking football to stretch Coventry’s defence. It was instead the Sky Blues who created the next chance of the affair on 64 minutes, Andre Wright forcing Roche into a sprawling save after some great improvisation from McBean. The home goalkeeper was left stranded just seven minutes later, however, as Sterry caressed a strike into the back of the net via the inside of the post after cutting in from the left flank.
Another action-packed passage of play soon followed on 75 minutes as Morecambe almost regained the lead. Lee Molyneux forced Burge into a save initially and then Barkhuizen somehow headed over from inside the six-yard area. A few more chances were spurned by both sides as the game approached the full-time whistle, but it was Morecambe who applied the pressure in stoppage time. They failed to find the net, however, and the referee brought a close to proceedings with the scores level.
Having crashed out at this stage to lower opposition for the past two seasons, I am just happy that we are in the hat for the second round draw. Realistically, we should have been comfortably winning that game, but we made life incredibly difficult for ourselves. Credit has to be given to Morecambe too, however, as their style of play caused us plenty of problems. We failed to match them physically at times and I am certain that their fans will be gutted not to have held on for the win.
Our first half performance was dismal, there is no way of dressing it up. I haven’t seen us gift the ball to the opposition so frequently all season – it was like we had forgotten what colour we were wearing at times. Jordan Turnbull has been consistent so far in the heart of defence, but his sloppy distribution put us under severe pressure at times. Whilst his passing was notably poor, no other outfield player covered themselves in glory either. Ben Stevenson was the one bright spark in the first period with his composure and determination to start attacks.
Kyel Reid was substituted at the interval as he looked a forlorn figure. He looked lost out on the left wing and he definitely had a game to forget. Lee Burge on the other hand put in another fantastic display. The fact he was so busy reflects how poorly we played, but he was outstanding to keep us in the tie with a number of saves. I suspect Reice Charles-Cook will feature in between the posts versus Wycombe Wanderers on Wednesday night, but Burge is really making the number one spot his own.
Following his prolific form for the under 23’s, I was delighted to see Jack McBean make his debut after he entered the fray at half-time. As a whole, City looked very impressive before going a goal down in the just before the hour mark, but the LA Galaxy loanee handed us a different dimension. His presence alone gave Morecambe’s defenders something to think about and his movement off the ball was something I was impressed with.
Overall, the display in the second period was much improved, but we need to be much better if we want to win the replay. Jamie Sterry struggled to handle Tom Barkhuizen throughout and that will be an interesting duel should the duo both start again. We showed in the first 15 minutes of the second half that we could get in behind Morecambe’s defence, so that should fill us with some confidence. Hopefully, in front of our home fans, we can cement a place in the next round of the FA Cup.
Lee Burge – 8
Dion Kelly-Evans – 6
Jordan Willis – 7
Jordan Turnbull – 5
Jamie Sterry – 6
Ben Stevenson – 7
Andy Rose – 6
Ruben Lamelras – 5
Kyel Reid – 4
Andre Wright – 6
Marvin Sordell – 6
Jack McBean – 7
Callum Maycock – 6
Morecambe: Roche, Jennings, Whitmore, Winnard, McGowan, Rose, Murphy (C), Molyneux (Dunn 76), Wildig (Mullin 67), Barkhuizen, Stockton.
Unused Substitutes: Nizic, Turner, Conlan, Wakefield, Fleming.
Coventry City: Burge, Di. Kelly-Evans, Willis (C), Turnbull, Sterry, Stevenson, Rose, Lameiras, Reid (McBean 45), Wright (Maycock 78), Sordell.
Unused Substitutes: Charles-Cook, Ricketts, Harries, Jones, Tudgay.
Attendance: 1,742 (546 away)