TWO ROUTES REMAIN TO WEMBLEY

Jonathan Franks sends in a cross for Pools at Morecambe.
Jonathan Franks sends in a cross for Pools at Morecambe.

So, Hartlepool United’s chances of visiting Wembley have dropped by 33%.

Your SportMail reporter is neither being sarcastic nor having some form of breakdown by suggesting Pools could have reached the FA Cup semis or final.

A jaunt to the home of football to face Tottenham in a money-spinning third-round tie carried a great deal of appeal to an old romantic like me.

Sadly, there will not be a third round day out anywhere, nor a second round one for that matter.

Dreams of a cup adventure were shot down by League Two strugglers Morecambe, who belied their current position.

Goals by veteran attacker Kevin Ellison, midfielder Andrew Fleming and a Scott Loach own goal took the Shrimps into this evening’s second-round draw and deservedly so.

The final scoreline at the Globe Arena might have flattered Jim Bentley’s team a little, but the best team won.

Pools now have only two routes to Wembley, not bad ones I must add, in the FA Trophy and National League play-off final.

They MUST now target a double under the Arch.

Wembley, not a destination fans with blue and white blood in their veins are accustomed to, will be an essential venue if Pools are to win promotion.

You have to be realistic and accept Pools do not score enough goals to go up automatically.

Saturday’s defeat will allow Pools to concentrate on promotion, but it’s a doubled-edged sword – had they enjoyed the sort of money-spinning cup run they had under Ronnie Moore two years ago they could have invested the proceeds in a goal-scorer.

However, Pools can now resume their National League promotion push, at Boreham Wood this Saturday, though there is the FA Trophy, which should not be discounted. The side enter the competition on December 16.

The ‘big’ FA tournament is over for another 12 months.

This first round tie, on paper, looked too close to call. Morecambe came into the game in dreadful form – just two wins all season and four home games without a goal.

Conversely, Pools had been in belting form on the road and confidence was high.

Factoring in the incredible run Pools have enjoyed at the Globe Arena, there was a fair amount of smart money on an away triumph.

But it took only a matter of minutes to dispel those thoughts. The Shrimps emerged from the red corner like a boxer desperate to land a first-round KOblow.

Morecambe could have led inside 30 seconds but for an acrobatic save from Loach from Adam McGurk’s dipping volle from the edge of the box, the Pools skipper then doing well at the resulting corner.

To nab an old Ivan Ash-ism, Bentley’s side were all over Pools “like a cheap suit” and a goal was inevitable.

It arrived just inside the five-minute mark. Aaron Wildig’s cross-cum-shot was blocked but the ball fell nicely to the left boot of Ellison who slotted into the net from 16 yards. Pools struggled to get going, though things were not as bad as the previous Saturday at Torquay.

Nicky Deverdics was handed an opportunity to weave some free-kick magic after Michael Woods was brought down on the edge of the box. But the midfielder could not get the ball over the wall, with his appeals for handball met by deaf ears by referee by Tom Nield.

After being rocked by the ferocity of the first-half Morecambe display, Harrison’s side came out for the second half in determined mood.

In fact they had as much pressure in the opening two minutes than in the entire first half.

But it took until the hour mark for the first Pools chance, when Kenton Richardson headed wide at the far post from a free-kick on the left.

Pools had their first attempt on target in the 62nd minute when Barry Roche produced a super save from a Jonathan Franks volley after some fine work by Rhys Oates down the left.

There were chances at both ends with Gary Thompson spooning his shot over bar after Patrick Brough had skipped away from Louis Laing’s despairing sliding tackle

But Morecambe doubled their lead in the 67th minute through Fleming courtesy of a Pools present.

Pools dithered when the ball should have been launched forward and when it was Oates headed possession away in centre field, allowing sub Vadaine Oliver to thread his pass through to the midfielder who shot through Loach’s legs with a neat finish.

Oliver soon got the better of Laing but Loach was down well to save.

Pools began to to pile on the pressure. but Roche saved comfortably from a Luke George shot from outside the area while he watched a Blair Adams’ attempt with his right foot go wide of his left stick.

With Oates and sub Devante Rodney paired up front and Adams, Richardson, Franks and Deverdics seeing lots of the ball, Pools were on top.

An away goal would have made matters interesting.

As it turned out, the tie’s third goal went to the home side to seal the deal after Laing’s weak clearance dropped nicely to Campbell.

The Geordie, once briefly a loanee at Pools, pulled the trigger from edge of the box, with his shot beating Loach, only to see it hit his right post with the rebound striking the goalie and ending in the back of the net. FA Cup ‘run’ over.