Full-time: Morecambe 1 Bristol Rovers 1
Eliot Richards took his chance to impress manager John Ward by claiming an equalising goal as Bristol Rovers recovered from the worst possible start to grab a hard-earned point at Morecambe this afternoon.
Morecambe striker Jack Redshaw has played the role of tormentor-in-chief throughout the opening period after taking advantage of time and space on the edge of the penalty area to rifle a low shot past goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall to open the scoring inside two minutes.
The former Manchester City trainee was then unlucky not to end the first-half with a hat-trick after goal-denying clearances on the line by Tom Parkes and John-Joe O'Toole as well as a fine save from Mildenhall prevented Redshaw from claiming further goals.
Rovers, who were forced into a change in personnel and formation due to injuries to key players, did eventually begin to recover from a lethargic start – but had to wait until the 48th minute for an equaliser off the head of Eliot Richards.
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Ward witnessed a marked improvement in performance from his side throughout the second-half and will probably feel a bit hard done by not to have seen his players win the game after one-on-one chances went begging for Richards and strike partner Tom Hitchcock.
That Rovers managed to create those chances, however, was in stark contrast to an opening period when a low shot from Richards, which was claimed comfortably by goalkeeper Barry Roche, and wayward efforts from O'Toole and Joe Anyinsah were the closest they came to carving out an equaliser to Reshaw's opening gambit.
Tom Hitchcock, meanwhile, had been offered a rare start in attack after injury ruled Ryan Brunt (knee), Fabian Broghammer (hamstring) and David Clarkson (ankle) out – but it was strike partner Richards who restored parity inside three minutes of the restart.
Finding a yard of space inside the penalty area, Richards managed to angle a header past Roche from close-range following an inviting cross into the danger area off the boot of Lee Brown.
The goal signalled the start of better things to come from Rovers during the second-half and Ward was unlucky not to see his side take the lead when Hitchcock's attempt to convert after going clear through on goal was denied by a desperate Nick Fenton tackle to make amends for the cheap way he conceded possession in the centre circle to allow the opportunity in the first place.
Morecambe were rocked on their heels and looked only a shadow of the side they had been in the opening period – although Mildenhall still had to be alert to repel a Ryan Williams effort from distance before a post came to Rovers' rescue when Lewis Alessandra looked certain to score with a powerful header.
Ward probably knew that he would have to settle for what was a hard-earned point when Roche made a good save to come out on top in a one-on-one duel with Richards ten minutes from time that was the last real chance of the afternoon for either side.
Rovers (4-4-2): Mildenhall; Smith, Parkes, McChrystal, Brown; Woodards, O'Toole, Clucas (Harrison, 86), Anyinsah; Hitchcock (Paterson, 90), Richards (Norburn, 76). Subs: Gough, McDonald, Goddard, Lockyer.
Morecambe (4-3-3): Roche; Haining, Fenton, McCready, Parrish (Threlfall, 29); McDonald, Drummond, Williams (Fleming, 85); Alessandra (Holroyd, 80), Redshaw, Ellison. Subs: Arestidou, Burrow, Mwasile, Short.