Morecambe FC 1 Harrogate Town 0: 'Same old story' for Sulphurites, says Connor Hall
"Same old story" was Connor Hall's assessment of Harrogate Town's latest League Two defeat, their seventh in their last 10 matches.
For the second Saturday in succession, the Sulphurites were edged out by a 1-0 scoreline, though last weekend's home reverse at the hands of promotion-chasing Forest Green was somewhat easier to palate than this most recent failure against a very average Morecambe outfit.
And, while Town's overall display was far from awful, the similarities between this latest performance and the one they served up seven days earlier are concerning.
Set up once again in a 4-3-3 formation, Simon Weaver's players enjoyed plenty of the ball and engineered a number of promising positions without ever really looking like they were going to score a goal.
Just as was the case for Forest Green keeper Luke McGee a week ago, Shrimps stopper Mark Halstead enjoyed an extremely comfortable afternoon between the sticks.
At the other end, Harrogate defended solidly for large periods, however there was a sense of deja vu about the manner of the goal they conceded which would ultimately decide the contest.
Once again, the opposition's breakthrough would arrive 10 minutes after half-time and falls firmly in the 'could have been avoided' category.
Against Forest Green, right-back Ryan Fallowfield was beaten for pace by his man, then Jake Lawlor switched off and lost Jamille Matt, who was left with a tap-in. On this occasion, Fallowfield misjudged Adam Phillips' right-wing centre at the back post and jumped under the ball, allowing Aaron Wildig the simple task of nodding home unmarked.
These momentary defensive lapses are proving so costly because at the other end, Town pass the ball nicely to a point, but just aren't creating enough clear-cut chances or testing the opposition goalkeeper.
And, this theme extends beyond the last couple of weekends. While the 5-2 thrashing by Scunthorpe United and the excellent battling away win at Mansfield are exceptions to the rule, performances against Leyton Orient, Crawley and Tranmere all saw Harrogate gift away poor goals while offering very little in an offensive sense.
"I thought we played well in general for 90 minutes. We had a lot of the ball, but again it's the same old story," centre-half Hall reflected.
"We have a lot of the ball in their half but can't really get in behind them and then switch off for one moment at the back and they score a goal. It's been the story of the last month or so now.
"I thought we defended well. First half, Belly [James Belshaw] didn't really have a save to make. Second half, he did but that was through them hitting us on the break with us pushing to get an equalising goal.
"Before that they didn't really cause us any problems at the back, so it's frustrating that they've managed to score at the back post. If we cut that out, we get a point."
The first half of Saturday's contest saw Morecambe's Ryan Cooney and Cole Stockton fire wide of the target from decent shooting positions at one end, while Town probed away for long periods with no reward at the other.
George Thomson and Brendan Kiernan initially offered hope of a breakthrough with some decent work down the right, though once again that vital end product or killer pass or cross never materialised.
The visitors' best chance before the interval fell to Connor Kirby when Halstead flapped at a delivery from the right then lost his footing, though the former Sheffield Wednesday's midfielder's awkward first-time effort flew well over the unguarded net.
The Shrimps would win the game on 56 minutes after Town failed to deal with an initial raid down the home right and the ball was eventually recycled for Phillips, who had time to pick out Wildig to power a downward header past Belshaw.
Moments later, the Harrogate custodian did superbly to keep out Stockton at point-blank range, then the Sulphurites' golden opportunity to draw level came and went.
Fallowfield got forward down the right and delivered a low pass to Muldoon, who turned neatly inside the box, only to then smash the ball over the top when he really had to hit the target.
Another good Belshaw stop and a goal-line clearance by Fallowfield would deny Morecambe a late second when Carlos Mendes Gomes broke clean through following Kirby's mistake, but Town were unable to make their hosts pay for that failure to put the game to bed and the closing stages passed by without any further incident of note.
Reflecting on the Shrimps' winner, Hall added: "There's a lot we can do before that happens.
"They had a passage of play that we could have dealt with a lot better, slowed the game down, to enable us to get back on the attack before they went and stuck it in the back of our net.
"They then sat so deep with their 1-0 lead, got everyone behind the ball and it was hard to break them down."
Defeat keeps Harrogate 17th in the League Two standings.