Town grabbed a late, late winner to defeat Morecambe 2-1 in the final Group A game of this season's Papa John's Trophy campaign but missed out on qualification on goals scored after finishing with four points from their three fixtures.
Despite falling behind to an early Adam Mayor strike Town fought back well and were deserving of the victory, first equalising thanks to Finn O’Boyle’s debut goal before an injury time header from Miles Welch-Hayes secured the win.
After defeating Hartlepool 2-1 last weekend Simon Weaver opted to change the entire starting line-up. Most notably, there was a debut handed to Academy player Finn O’Boyle with George Horbury also starting. George Thomson returned to the starting line-up after his recent spell on the sidelines.
Town went into the game knowing that nothing less than a two-goal victory would seal progression to the knock-out stages and they suffered the worst possible start when the visitors went ahead on three minutes with the first attack of the game.
A hopeful ball into the box wasn’t dealt with by the Town defence and Adam Mayor was on hand to slot home past Mark Oxley.
And the Shrimpers almost double their lead five minutes later when Kieran Phillips sprang the offside trap to create a one on one opportunity with Oxley but he chipped his effort wide of the target.
Oxley then had to be at full stretch to turn away a fierce drive from Arthur Gnahoua as the visitors again pressed looking to extend their advantage.
Tyler Frost provided Town’s first effort of the evening when fired from distance, however his shot was too close to Adam Smith in the Morecambe goal.
Frost was again in the thick of things on 20 minutes when he burst down the left to receive a pass from Josh Austerfield. His first time delivery flashed across the six-yard box and away to safety though.
Town were not to be denied for long though. A neat run and shot from Matty Daly found it’s way to Frost who hooked the ball back across goal and O’Boyle struck home just before the half-hour mark.
With their tails up Town almost grabbed an immediate lead when Daly played in Sam Folarin who thundered an effort on goal that Phillips did well to get behind.
Town began the second half with plenty of attacking intent, looking to add the early goal that would boost hopes of qualification. Both Horbury and O’Boyle in particular were adding plenty of energy to the attack.
Shrimpers ‘keeper Smith received a yellow card on 50 minutes when he was second in a foot race with Folarin and could do little else than bring the pacy forward down as he racing towards goal.
As the game entered the final 30 minutes Folarin tested Smith after cutting in from the left and letting fly with a right-footed effort. Town were pressing hard with Morecambe penned deep in their own half.
The spell of pressure was enough to sting Derek Adams into action and he responded by making a triple change. On came Ousmane Fane, Jacob Bedeau and Liam Shaw for Ryan Delaney, Dylan Connolly and Jenson Weir.
Folarin again had a glorious chance to give Town the lead shortly after the changes but snatched at his chance and blazed over from just inside the area.
Morecambe made their fourth change moments later when Caleb Watts was introduced in place of Shane McLoughlin. Simon Weaver then made his first change of the night when Jack Muldoon replaced Folarin.
Kayne Ramsay then replaced Horbury on 75 minutes, with Thomson reverting to his more familiar central midfield role.
O’Boyle had an opportunity to put Town ahead with ten minutes remaining when Muldoon slid him in but a last gasp effort from the visitors defence ensured his shot took a deflection wide of the target.
Phillips then overran the ball allowing Oxley to nip in ahead of him and goalscorer Mayor’s cross evaded the Morecambe attack as the final minutes suggested a winner.
The visitors came closest when Oxley tipped aside Mayor’s effort, but he recovered to win possession and cross for Phillips, only for his effort to canon back off the crossbar.
But Town grabbed the winner in injury time when Welch-Hayes netted his first goal in Town colours from Thomson’s corner.
The win saw Town finish level on points and goal difference with the visitors but were edged out on goals scored in terms of qualification.
TOWN: Oxley, Welch-Hayes, Thomson, Folarin (Muldoon, 73), Richards, Austerfield, Frost, Ferguson, Horbury (Ramsay, 75), Daly, O’Boyle.
Substitutes: Jameson, Falkingham, Grant, McArdle.
Goals: O’Boyle (27), Welch-Hayes (90+6)
Morecambe: Smith, Gibson, Delaney (Fane, 65), Connolly (Bedeau, 65), Gnahoua, Weir (Shaw, 65), McLoughlin (Watts, 72) Cooney, O’Connor, Phillips, Mayor.
Subs: Ripley, Rawson, Watts.
Booked: Smith (50)
Goals: Mayor (3)
Referee: Darren Drysdale.