Morecambe lose out as Preston win for first time since 2014
Morecambe went down to last year's bottom side Preston as the West Cliff outfit picked up their first Northern Premier League win since 2014.
The defending champions returned to the scene of their title triumph but the visitors put a lacklustre display as they went down by 13 runs.
With skipper Josh Dixon absent from the side and the club still playing the sub pro lottery Morecambe never took control of a game they were heavily fancied to win.
Stand-in professional Najaf Shah opened the bowling with little menace as new Cumberland recruit Eddy Read also struggled for consistency early on.
The early introduction of Tommy Clough eventually got the breakthrough as he removed both openers as they tried to take the attack to him.
That was to be Morecambe’s only success for some time as Irshad Desai (55) and Lukman Vahaluwala (79) took the game away from them.
Former professional Valhaluwala batted with total control, putting away the loose deliveries whilst his partner chanced his arm with some agricultural shots that never quite fell to hand.
The bowlers were chopped and changed in search of a wicket and Jamie Cassidy could count himself particularly unlucky as he found the inside and outside of the bat on several occasions.
Making the most of the placid conditions and large playing surface both batsmen continued their onslaught, passing their 50s and looking to completely take the game away from Morecambe.
To their credit however the bowling side did manage to wrestle back some of the initiative in the last 10 overs.
With two run outs courtesy of Cassidy and the returning Read and Shah managing some much needed control a score of 217 was posted when 250 had appeared inevitable.
Morecambe needed a good start but Mark Woodhead lost his opening partner in the third over as Laurence Read had to retire hurt with a shoulder injury, his replacement Matthew Derham then edging behind and Morecambe were up against it.
Woodhead (29) looked untroubled until he offered a return catch to Andrew Starkie (6-43) off a leaning edge and this triggered a collapse as Ryan Pearson, Lewis Edge and Shah soon followed, having no answers to some accurate bowling leaving the visitors in strife.
Eddy Read and Viraj Bhati set about rebuilding the innings and neither looked troubled as they brought respectability to the score and harboured thoughts of an unlikely victory.
To the credit of the Preston side they didn’t change their plan of attack, taking pace off the ball encouraging Morecambe to force the pace.
Bhati’s demise made way for Clough who continued in similar vein as Morecambe continued to chase down the score rather than settle for a losing draw.
With the exhausted Read impressing with the bat instead of the ball for a change he found a further ally in Gert Maartens.
Batting at 10 Maartens also took the positive approach, not that he knows any other way.
He continues to be an important asset of the team and he brought Morecambe to within a genuine chance of victory with another unselfish innings of clean hitting.
There were plenty of ifs, buts and maybes in the game but when the brave Read departed in the final over it meant Preston finished deserved winners, albeit by just 13 runs, Morecambe bowled out for 204.
Morecambe will be hoping to bounce back with a better performance at home to Cumbrian rivals Netherfield on Saturday.