On a night that produced some wet and windy conditions on the Lancashire coast it took a scrappy late winner from substitute Aaron Mclean to see the Bantams through to the next round of the Capital One Cup.
Both sides had their chances, the hosts going particularly close through former City loanee Kevin Ellison and City going particularly close through James Hanson who saw a first half header cleared heroically off the line.
Phil Parkinson made 4 changes to the side that started the weekend’s dramatic league opening win at home to Coventry City. Ben Williams was one of two being handed a debut start, coming in for the ineligible Jordan Pickford. Filipe Morais was also being handed a debut start following his recent move to the club. James Meredith came in at left back for Alan Sheehan who was shifted across to centre half for Andrew Davies who took a place on the bench and Matty Dolan was handed a start ahead of Billy Knott who started from the bench also.
City began the first half enjoying large spells of possession against their League 2 hosts but it was Morecambe that had the first real goal scoring opportunity of the early stages. After Billy Clarke had saw an audacious 35 yard half volley pass a couple of yards wide, at the other end Jack Redshaw latched onto Andy Parrish’s searching ball and he got into the area, getting the better of Alan Sheehan before prodding a shot wide.
For all the possession and control of the game that the Bantams were having they weren’t carving too many openings and it was the hosts who came close to scoring once again. Jamie Devitt delivered a corner to the far post which was headed back across goal by Alan Goodall before Andrew Wright glanced the ball narrowly over the bar.
The weekend’s two goal hero James Hanson hadn’t had a great deal in the way of chances in the early stages of the game but he carved an opening for himself to test Barry Roche in the Shrimps’ goal. Matty Dolan spread the ball well to him and he cut inside Goodall before forcing Roche into a smart low save with his weaker right foot.
Morecambe were having a decent spell towards the end of the first half and after Redshaw and Kevin Ellison had wasted possession with over optimistic long range efforts that failed to test debutant Ben Williams it was Ryan Williams that stung the palms of his namesake with a firm 20 yard strike after he’d found a pocket of space just outside the 18 yard box.
Despite the League 2 side’s spell in the 15 minutes leading up to the break it was City who were to have the best chance of the half. After Billy Clarke was fouled he got up to take a quick short free kick to another one of the new signings Filipe Morais and he provided an excellent cross which was headed past Roche by Hanson, fortunately for the hosts skipper Mark Hughes was on the line to avert danger and keep the scores goalless going into the half time interval.
The Bantams seemed to push on early in the second half with a bright start after the interval but it was Morecambe who went close through former City loanee Kevin Ellison; good work from Redshaw on the edge of the area allowed Ellison to try his luck but his first time curling shot went a couple of yards over the bar.
Following an attempted lob from Hanson that dropped narrowly wide at one end, Morecambe went up the other and went close once again through Ellison, though he should’ve done better with this attempt. Redshaw did well to work the ball wide to Wright who delivered a teasing ball to the far post which was glanced wide on this occasion.
The second half began to become an end to end affair with both teams intent on getting the game settled in 90 minutes; Devitt attempted a lob at one end which was read and dealt with comfortably by Williams and at the other end Clarke wasted an opportunity by lashing a wild half volley over the bar when he’d done brilliantly to rob Wright of possession on the edge of his own area.
Aaron Mclean was introduced as a substitute with little over 20 minutes remaining and he almost made an immediate goal scoring impact; after playing a sharp one-two pass with Clarke he attempted a low drive from the edge of the area but Roche held firmly.
The hosts had had their spells in the game but the introduction of Mclean, Billy Knott and Mo Shariff late in the second half seemed to re-invigorate City who had looked to be struggling to find a way past a resilient Morecambe side. Billy Clarke took matters into his own hands with a brilliant solo run into the area but after ghosting past 3 or 4 red shirts his cross-shot dropped narrowly wide of the far post.
With 8 minutes of the 90 remaining, substitute Aaron Mclean scored what proved to be the match-winning goal. As City poured forward trying to find a way of unpicking the defensive lock that Jim Bentley’s side were providing, Billy Knott, in possession on the edge of the 18 yard box delivered an incisive chipped pass into the 6 yard box which was brought down and scrambled in by Mclean in front of the near 1,000 visiting supporters. Morecambe pleaded hand-ball but the referee Mr S Duncan and his assistant on the near side allowed the goal to stand.
Substitute Paul Mullin almost snatched an equaliser at the death when he forced Williams into a smart save after surging into the area but it wasn’t to be his side’s night despite a valiant attempt as City progressed into the 2nd Round of the Capital One Cup.