BILLY McEwan talks frequently to his players about composure - if York City had shown some in front of goal last night they would surely have taken a lead into the second leg of their play-off semi-final with Morecambe.

The Minstermen were unable to convert a hatful of chances in a game they completely dominated from the opening whistle.

Morecambe were lucky to get out of KitKat Crescent alive, so desperate was some of their defending, so it was ironic the Shrimps actually missed the game's best opening when substitute Wayne Curtis improbably fired over from practically under the crossbar in the 73rd minute.

But with man-of-the match Martyn Woolford, City skipper Manny Panther and a team of supporting actors unable to get past Morecambe 'keeper Steve Drench, this play-off tie remains finely poised ahead of Monday night's Christie Park encounter.

Fired up by the boisterous home support, City fired out of the blocks like a sprinter. Just two minutes in, following a foul on winger Woolford, Craig Farrell drove a free-kick across the face of the Morecambe goal which was only narrowly deflected past Drench's left-hand post.

Three minutes later, Neal Bishop was unlucky not to get his second goal in a week when he was just unable to get fully on the end of Farrell's testing cross into the box at the far post.

City were enterprising and hustling about the pitch with some urgency - indeed it was eight minutes before Minstermen net-minder Tom Evans even touched the ball.

Morecambe, on the other hand, were physical - roughing City up with referee Gary Lewis unwilling to discipline the visitors with anything more than a quick word.

So the crowd were furious when he failed to hand out any sanctions for a blatant push on Clayton Donaldson on 25 minutes, with the City striker threatening after being put through towards goal by Farrell's enterprising pass.

With City making all the running, it seemed their relentless attacking would have to bear fruit.

And Craig James thought he had done the trick in the 27th minute when, following yet another Morecambe foul, this time on skipper Panther, he smashed a shot at goal after being teed-up by Farrell. Drench fumbled the shot but was able to get enough on it to push it away.

James was then immediately booked for a foul on Danny Carlton - to the crowd's fury given Morecambe's misdemeanours - but City kept up the pressure and a Donaldson drive down the left-hand side of the box only narrowly failed to find Farrell in the area.

Steve Bowey then fired high over the bar before Morecambe midfielder Michael Twiss finally tested Evans with the visitors' first shot on 40 minutes, but the City 'keeper dealt comfortably with the curled free-kick.

The hosts continued to hammer at Morecambe in the second period.

Three minutes had elapsed when Woolford danced past a defender and fired his shot at Drench from 16 yards, only to see the Morecambe goalkeeper parry it with Donaldson narrowly beaten to the rebound.

Panther should have done better on 50 minutes after being played through by Donaldson but Drench parried the shot with his legs and the goal just wouldn't come.

Donaldson scythed through the Morecambe defence on the hour, but just as he was about to pull the trigger he was tackled.

And soon after, following a flowing move including Danny Parslow, Farrell and Donaldson, midfielder Bowey headed wide from the Hibs-bound striker's pin-point cross.

Then on 73 minutes, with City making all the running, came one of those "pivotal moments" Morecambe manager Sammy McIlroy declared pre-match that he hoped his team would cash in on.

A deep cross from Danny Adams was headed across the York goal by Garry Hunter straight into the path of substitute Curtis. But somehow he managed to scoop his shot over Evans' crossbar from all of two yards out.

It was a lucky escape and, with Bowey and Farrell unable to capitalise on half chances with time running out, it was a miss which could become all the more important come Monday night.

Match facts

York City 0, Morecambe 0

City ratings:

Key: 10 - Faultless; 9 - Outstanding; 8 - Excellent; 7 - Good; 6 - Average; 5 - Below par; 4 - Poor; 3 - Dud; 2 - Hopeless; 1 - Retire

Evans 7
Lloyd 7
Parslow 7
McGurk 7
James 7
Bishop 8
Panther 7
Woolford 8
Bowey 7
Farrell 7 (Brodie 90)
Donaldson 7
Subs (not used): Gamble, Peat, Convery, Greenwood.

Star man: Martyn Woolford - McEwan raved about his performance and no wonder. His ability to twist and turn left Morecambe baffled at times.

Player watch: Anthony Lloyd

Goal attempts on target: 0
Goal attempts off target: 0
Blocked shots: 0
Passes to own player: 26
Passes to opposition: 14
Pass success rate: 65 per cent
Crosses to own player: 1
Crosses to opposition: 20
Cross success rate: 33 per cent
Dribbles ball retained: 2 Dribbles ball lost: 0
Headers: 5 Tackles: 10
Clearances, blocks and interceptions: 7
Free-kicks won: 0
Free-kicks conceded: 0
Offsides: 0
Bookings: None
Final summary: Deputising for the injured Ben Purkiss, Lloyd did a good job of giving City a wide outlet while he was, at the same time, defensively sound. Made some good interceptions and clearances and looked anything but out of place in the white-hot atmosphere.