TWO fantastic goals and one badly timed dismissal were the main talking points from United’s 1-1 draw at Morecambe.
The home side enjoyed much of the possession and chances in the first period, and deserved the half-time lead given to them by a superb long-range strike from Ryan Williams.
United responded in marvelous fashion after the restart and equalised with a stunner from Karl Hawley, his first goal as a Gull. The Yellows looked the only side likely to win the game in a dominant second-half display but when Dale Tonge was dismissed for picking up two bookings, a point was the welcome conclusion.
Both managers opted for the same starting line-up deployed for midweek exploits in the Capital One Cup. United boss Alan Knill just had one change on the bench from the squad narrowly defeated at Swindon, and that was Ashley Yeoman coming in for Elliot Benyon, who suffered a head injury at the County Ground.
Morecambe chief Jim Bentley also had just the one change among his replacements, with Chris Doyle replacing Alex Naylor in a squad still riding the wave of a famous 1-0 win over Wolves.
United’s hero of the first two games has been goalkeeper Martin Rice and the Yellow stopper was in action within three minutes of kick-off at the Globe Arena, diving full-length to push wide a super drive from Joe Mwasile.
At the other end, Callum Ball saw his snapshot deflected off a home defender for a United corner but Morecambe sprung a swift counter-attack, and the pace of Mwasile had the Gulls retreating rapidly until the final effort was skewed way off target. The Shrimps continued their positive start with a strike from Jack Sampson flying narrowly over.
Sampson forward partner, Padraig Amond, was next to threaten, cutting inside Kevin Nicholson for a low shot toward the near-post that crashed into the side-netting for a close escape.
United moved quickly to change the pattern, as Jordan Chapell did well to pick out Billy Bodin for a burst into the box, and the Welsh under-21 international was so unfortunate to see his thunderous drive crash down from the underside of the bar before being hacked clear by Morecambe captain Mark Hughes.
It was a reprieve the Shrimps used to their advantage and the opening goal was a fantastic strike from Williams, picking up the ball from Andrew Fleming before unleashing a wonderful dipping effort from 25 yards.
Rice had no chance as the ball swerved beautifully into his top corner and the Gulls were generally struggling to find their usual rhythm against a Morecambe side passing the ball around with impressive confidence.
Much of the Yellow work was concentrated on protecting their own goal and Krystian Pearce came to the fore with an excellent challenge to divert a shot from Amond eight minutes before the interval.
When United did venture forward, a smartly taken free-kick from Ben Harding forced Morecambe stopper Barry Roche into his best save of the afternoon to keep the scores level in the final act of the first period.
No changes to personnel for either team at half-time and the Yellow approach was now all about causing more problems to the home defence, starting with a Bodin cross almost picking out the dual runs of Hawley and Chapell.
United maintained their momentum with Tonge pinching the ball from Tony Diagne and the experienced Stewart Drummond could only halt the Yellow progress with a foul that earned the midfielder a caution.
The next attack yielded a fabulous equaliser after an incisive counter-attack saw Harding find Hawley, who turned brilliantly before lashing an unstoppable drive beyond Roche. A wonderful way for the striker to open his United account and it was now game on.
Knill immediately sought to build on his side’s growing belief by introducing the fresh legs of Courtney Cameron, with Chapell the man withdrawn from the action.
A Morecambe corner brought their biggest threat of the second period, as Diagne’s darting run allowed him the space to head wide from a fine Williams delivery, and Yellow concentration levels clearly needed a timely refocus.
The Shrimps then won a free-kick, which has half-cleared by Pearce but fell to Drummond for a shot dragged wide. United responded with a smart piece of work from Cameron releasing Tonge for a cross that was glanced inches off target by Ball.
The Gulls were in the ascendancy and a deflected shot from Bodin had Roche watching in hope as the ball skipped inches wide. The subsequent corner from Lee Mansell was met by a powerful header from Aaron Downes flashing just over the bar.
Harding then had a decent shot well held by Roche, with Hawley prowling for the rebound. Tonge was next to pierce the home defence, bombing forward down the right before squaring to Mansell for a shot that was stubbed wide.
Morecambe’s troubled boss Bentley turned to the young legs of Alex Kenyon for the veteran Drummond and the change was inspiration for the outstanding Williams to whip over a cross that narrowly evaded the run of Mwasile.
Rice was called into action as the game entered its final stages and United’s custodian did well to parry a header from Sampson, with the next goal surely being the decisive moment. Minutes later, Pearce intercepted a dangerous break with a terrific defensive header.
Morecambe’s next switch was Joe McGee coming on for Mwasile but the focus of play was a second caution for Tonge after a rash challenge left referee Richard Clark with little option in producing the inevitable red card.
The quick reshuffle saw Mansell revert to right-back and Damon Lathrope was sent on to bolster the midfield, with Hawley the man sacrificed as Knill was forced to settle for a well-earned point.
The final roll of Yellow dice was the removal of Bodin to give young Daniel Sullivan his professional debut but the game was allowed to drift out of time for a satisfactory 1-1 draw for the Gulls, although McGee nearly snatched the points with a shot into Rice’s side-netting in the final seconds.
Morecambe [3-5-2]: 1 Barry Roche; 5 Mark Hughes [capt], 6 Tony Diagne, 22 Andy Parrish; 10 Ryan Williams, 8 Andrew Wright, 16 Stewart Drummond [4 Alex Kenyon 72], 17 Andrew Fleming, 20 Joe Mwasile [19 Joe McGee 83]; 9 Jack Sampson, 27 Padraig Amond. Substitutes [not used]: 18 William Bell, 21 Aaron McGowan, 23 Chris Doyle, 24 Tom Woods, 25 Andres Arestidou [GK].
Booked: Drummond 52
United [4-4-2]: 13 Martin Rice; 2 Dale Tonge, 5 Krystian Pearce, 4 Aaron Downes, 3 Kevin Nicholson; 12 Jordan Chapell [11 Courtney Cameron 57], 7 Lee Mansell [capt], 8 Ben Harding, 10 Billy Bodin [31 Daniel Sullivan 89]; 9 Karl Hawley [6 Damon Lathrope 87], 16 Callum Ball. Substitutes [not used]: 14 Ashley Yeoman, 15 Niall Thompson, 21 Thomas Cruise, 33 Conor Thompson [GK].
Booked: Tonge 21
Sent-off: Tonge 85
Referee: Richard Clark