Captain fantastic shines as Morecambe take derby spoils

Morecambe's captain Mark Woodhead hooks for four.
Morecambe's captain Mark Woodhead hooks for four.

A captain’s knock from Mark Woodhead all but ended Lancaster’s slim Northern League title hopes in the derby clash at Woodhill Lane on Saturday.

The experienced opener’s hard-fought 80 gave Morecambe bragging rights as a winning draw kept them in the hunt for a top-four finish.

Liam Moffat celebrates a wicket for Lancaster.

Liam Moffat celebrates a wicket for Lancaster.

Woodhead helped the hosts post 185-9 before fellow veteran Tommy Clough took three for 56 in a marathon spell to restrict Lancaster to 162-8.

Visiting skipper Ben Simm won the toss and inserted Morecambe but Woodhead and 16-year-old Adam Derham, promoted from the second XI, gave the hosts a brisk start.

Jannisar Khan found more movement than Liam Moffat with the new ball and was rewarded with the wicket of the young Derham whose attempted cover drive looped to Danny Welbourne at mid-off with the score on 33.

Moffat found his radar to remove number three Ryan Pearson, first beating the edge and then finding it to leave Morecambe at 34-2.

Mark Woodhead celebrates his 50.

Mark Woodhead celebrates his 50.

Woodhead rebuilt with professional Vishal Tripathi, the latter happy to use his feet to the spin of Simm, planting him for two sixes as the experienced captain had a quiet day with the ball.

The partnership of 66 was broken after drinks when Tripathi’s glove was taken by Sam Moorby down the leg-side to give Scott Sparks the first of his three wickets.

A trend throughout the day was wickets falling in clusters, and 100-3 became 100-4 when Sparks outfoxed Lewis Edge with a slower delivery.

Ryan Smith’s stay at the crease was brief as he too became victim of the Sparks looping slower ball toe-ending a drive straight to Alex Metcalfe at mid-on.

The quick wickets halted Woodhead’s progress as he dropped anchor to stop the slide but he eventually found a perfect partner in Tom Barnfield.

The pair mixed watchful defence with some well-fashioned offensive shots to take the score to 160.

Woodhead had been solid all day, and it was only a grubber from a returning Jannisar that finally did for him after an excellent innings which included 10 boundaries and had held the innings together superbly.

Wickets then tumbled in the search for late runs as the pick of the Lancaster bowlers Jannisar and Moffat took three wickets a piece.

Lancaster lost Charlie Swarbrick early in reply, after he was adjudged leg before again playing around his front pad to quick Yakub Bhamji.

Jamie Heywood and Alex Metcalfe looked solid however, against the guile of Clough and the pace of Bhamji.

At 44 for 1, misfortune struck Heywood for the second time this season, as a firm straight drive from Metcalfe flicked the fingers of James Law to leave Heywood short of his ground backing up.

Jannisar entered with the city side desperate for their professional to make an impact. Early on, he did, getting moving with a crisp cover drive.

Clough continued to keep the score in check however, bowling tight overs up to the drinks break and the pressure he created paid off, when a fine stop by Tripathi at mid-wicket led to confusion in the middle and Metcalfe was run out for 18 in no man’s land.

Clough, who bowled 25 overs unchanged, turned the game the following delivery, as Jannisar, with the previous dismissal perhaps still on his mind, missed a quicker yorker to leave Lancaster tottering at 70 for 4.

With the pro gone, Morecambe were firm favourites, but the experience of Danny Welbourne and Iain Burstow kept the visitors in the hunt. Welbourne took the aerial route against leg-spinner Jake Smith while Burstow was more circumspect in his approach.

Both took the score past the 100 mark before Burstow paid the price for playing across the line to Clough.

Kieran Moffat entered and did what other batsmen didn’t and attacked the off-spinner, planting Clough over long-on for a maximum to leave Lancaster needing under six an over with five wickets in hand.

But Lancaster’s hopes were soon dashed. Moffat’s fool-hardy attempt to take on James Law (two for 31) with the field back ended with his demise for 14, before Welbourne’s resistance ended when Barnfield took a fine diving catch over his shoulder.

Any realistic attempt at the target ended when Moorby became Clough’s third victim of the afternoon.

It was left to Simm and Sparks to see out the remaining overs and sweep up the remaining batting points as their title hopes slipped away.

Morecambe on the other hand extended their unbeaten run to five and travel to Netherfield this Saturday, while Lancaster entertain Chorley.