Morecambe 1-2Â Cheltenham Town
Two second-half goals within a minute condemned Morecambe to an eighth league defeat in nine outings at the Globe Arena.
Billy Waters and Harry Pell found the net, overturning Peter Murphy’s early opener, as the visitors boosted their hopes of League Two survival.
That, however, doesn’t tell the full story of a game in which the Shrimps finished with 10 men, saw manager Jim Bentley sent to the stand and used all three substitutes inside 46 minutes.
With Morecambe leading and half-time only five minutes away, referee Michael Salisbury found himself centre stage.
Mr Salisbury, in his first season as a Football League referee, became the villain of this particular pantomime.
With Alex Kenyon on the floor after winning a free kick, Town midfielder Kyle Storer’s momentum took him into the Shrimps’ man.
Storer’s boot made contact with Kenyon and unsurprisingly, though somewhat unwisely, Kenyon reacted by seeming to kick out at Storer and received a straight red card.
Having seen Storer escape any censure for his role in proceedings, Bentley’s protestations saw him sent to the stand for good measure.
Then, adding injury to that perceived insult, Storer again avoided action when his elbow made contact with Murphy’s eye as the two jumped for the ball moments later.
Murphy’s reward was a half-time trip to hospital, making him the third Morecambe player to be replaced after Liam Wakefield and Rhys Turner.
Bentley had only named five substitutes to begin with; suspensions had accounted for Kevin Ellison and Alex Whitmore, Aaron Wildig and Cole Stockton were injured, while loanee James Jennings was ineligible under the terms of his move from Cheltenham.
What Bentley didn’t need, then, was for Wakefield to depart the scene inside two minutes, holding his side after appearing to fall heavily.
However, the Shrimps shrugged off that inconvenience to grab the lead moments later.
Turner capitalised on Daniel O’Shaughnessy’s error, and although his shot was spilled by Town keeper Russell Griffiths, Murphy was on hand to score.
Griffiths held Paul Mullin’s bouncing effort before Bentley’s plans took another turn for the worse.
After sprinting down the visitors’ right-hand side, Turner fell to the floor with a hamstring problem which curtailed his afternoon on the half-hour.
Morecambe had got through the first 40 minutes without any difficulties but Kenyon’s red card and their three enforced changes put them up against it in the second half.
Waters and O’Shaughnessy were off target, while Barry Roche kept out Rob Dickie’s header before the game changed irrevocably on 70 minutes.
A corner saw Waters’ initial effort blocked, only for the striker to convert the rebound.
Seconds later and Town were in front as Waters got free on the right and crossed for Pell to head home.
Pell somehow escaped a caution for a poor challenge on Aaron McGowan as Cheltenham, for all the first-half threat they lacked, professionally held onto their advantage.
They could have extended their lead further as Roche pushed over Pell’s deflected shot before keeping out Koby Arthur’s close-range effort.
In contrast, the best chance Morecambe had came when McGowan advanced before dragging his 25-yard attempt well off target.
The boos which accompanied the full-time whistle were those which had been heard a number of times at the Globe Arena this season.
On this occasion, however, they were aimed at one man, the referee, rather than the home team.
Morecambe: Roche, Wakefield (Fleming 5), Edwards, Winnard, McGowan, Murphy (Molyneux 46), Rose, Kenyon, Conlan, Turner (Massanka 31), Mullin. Subs not used: Nizic, Jordan.
Cheltenham Town: Griffiths, Parslow, Downes, O’Shaughnessy (Arthur 65), Cranston, Dickie, Storer, Pell, Munns (Barthram 72), Waters, Wright (Morgan-Smith 59). Subs not used: Kitscha,, Rowe, Bower, Thomas.
Referee: Michael Salisbury.