Dan Shaw on the long away trip to Morecambe on Tuesday 2nd February 2016.
It was midday Tuesday that we embarked upon our 293 mile journey up North to Morecambe. With my Dad at the wheel and his friend “Jenks” in the passenger seat, I set up camp in the back. Pillow, duvet and iPad in tow I bedded down to watch a couple of movies to pass the hours away.
This was to be my 84th football ground and the 67th of the current 92. In truth it was the possibility of never being able to return to Morecambe that took me so far away on a cold Tuesday in February.
With the Bournemouth performance still fresh in my mind coupled with the knowledge that The Shrimps had lost their last three league encounters, I felt sure that this journey would prove fruitful and the drive home would be made worthwhile with the joyful reminiscing we would have on our way back down South. Of course, as a Pompey supporter I should have known better!
I won’t bore you with the route we took or which service station we used because let’s face it, nobody cares but I think what is well worth a mention, was the beautiful Town of Lancaster. Approximately three miles shy of Morecambe we drove through this majestic looking place. It could easily be mistaken by its grandeur for York or even some parts of London. Magnificent Georgian Buildings towered over us with stunning architecture catching my eye at every glance with plenty of pubs, restaurants and bars to sample. Something I would most definitely consider if Pompey are to play Morecambe again next season.
A couple of miles down a one way road we arrived at our seaside destination. This was far more like what I had expected. Fish and chip shops on every street, boarded up windows, caravan holiday parks and row upon row of B&B’s. My best summary of the place would be “a run down version of Blackpool” and yes, I am aware that Blackpool is a little run down itself, need I say more?
The wind ripped through Morecambe bay off the Irish Sea and was truly chilling to the bone so we swiftly made our way to one of the many local chippy’s for a sit down supper where I sampled the local cuisine, a gorgeous bit of cod and chips. No gravy on my chips of course, I’m a Southern lad and that wouldn’t be proper!
We then headed to the pub, conveniently located less than a minutes’ walk from the Globe Arena. A cluster of Pompey fans propped up the bar and the usual chants of “Blue Army” went up from time to time. It seemed almost a forgone conclusion amongst most, that this game was only to be won by one team although the mention of them taking a 3-0 lead at Fratton earlier on in the season did give some a cautious reminder that the hosts were a capable side on their day.
A couple of pints later and a quick snap of the main stand at this 5 year old stadium and we were in, just in time for kick off.
A little shy of 500 blues fans had packed themselves in to the side of this nice new stand, I stood and looked up feeling proud that we had taken such a backing.
The rest of the stadium though left a lot to be desired. To our right was an empty terrace, just a few rows deep draped in Pompey flags. Opposite was a very small terraced stand with around 40 occupants and down to the left was the hard-core of Morecambe’s fan’s where the occasional bit of noise came from, this was the goal Pompey kicked towards in the first half.
The wind was proving tough for both sides, Morecambe’s passes out to the flanks and over the top were being helped out for goal kicks with the powerful bluster from behind them. Pompey’s clearances, goal kicks and long balls were being almost completely cancelled out. We were dying to see that style of play we have become used to seeing this season, possession football, short sharp passes and intricate one-twos. Unfortunately we saw very little of this.
Kal Naismith was given a rare start in a blue shirt on the left hand side, favoured over Kyle Bennett but looked very un-assured. His first touch, distribution and decision making was poor. He held on to the ball for far too long on many occasions and looked lost. He did however go on to create the Pompey goal so I guess all is forgiven with him.
Surprisingly, Michael Doyle had a stinker too. Easily his worst performance for Pompey. A man who usually cuts a cool, demanding figure in the centre, he mis-placed many of his passes and just couldn’t grab the game by the scruff of the neck.
McNulty harried and toiled but to no real effect, his best football comes when the ball is on the deck and is being moved around on the edge of the box but the midfield rarely gave him anything to pick up on.
Ben Close is a name that is being banded about as a real bright, young talent with a big future ahead of him, but believe me, this was a night he will be keen to forget, the less said about his performance the better.
Morecambe rarely threatened from anywhere other than outside the box. An enormous kick from keeper Roache bounced inside the 18 yard box, thudded into the hard ground and almost found its way over the head of Ryan Fulton who had to hurriedly shuffle back and push the ball away from his goal and gather up the loose ball.
New loan signing Michael Smith started a little shaky, an early foul and a hand ball from some mis-control, followed by a couple of loose passes made me wonder what all the fuss was about, but all of a sudden he snapped into life.
A poor pass from McNulty to the left flank had Smith stretching to keep the ball in but with a beautiful touch he span his man and began a daring run down the touchline, he then cut in and with some clever footwork beat two men and curled a shot towards the far post.
Only a last gasp deflected tackle out for a corner prevented him from opening his account. He also got on the end of a ball inside the penalty area where he turned marvellously only to miss-kick his effort harmlessly into the grateful keepers arms from around 6 yards out.
Then came Pompey’s big moment, Kal Naismith burst through the midfield right of centre and after looking as though he had left it too late, rolled in Gareth Evans to his right, inside the penalty area who slotted the ball in at the near post.
Not long after, Evans rolled in a delicious ball to the right of the 18 yard box for Smith who struck one toward the far, top corner. It looked to be flying in from where we were as it beat the despairing keeper but it continued to curl away and finished just wide of the upright.
That was about if for the first half and most Pompey fans were in agreement that it was far from the usual quality we have seen this season but we had done enough to be in front and at 1-0 up with the advantage of the wind and certainty we would play much better, this game would be wrapped up just as soon as we could bury the second.
But things did not go to plan. Pompey played far worse than they had in the 1st half and in truth created nothing in the entire 45 minutes. Cook brought on McGurk, Roberts and Bennett to try and liven his side up and put the game to bed but it was to no avail.
Morecambe had shown very little to suggest they would get back into it, but in the last 10 minutes they started to throw men forward. Pompey were unable to retain possession and see the game out and the visiting fans began to fear the worst.
Morecambe started to roll the ball around with relative success to frustrate the Blues but in the dying seconds it was a long ball from mid-way inside the Morecambe half that hung nicely in the air for a Shrimps player to flick on into the box then fire across the face that left the Pompey fans with their hearts in their mouths. A first time shot was unleashed towards the near post and in and a terrific diving save from Ryan Fulton parried the ball out for a corner. It seemed that would be enough to take away all three points.
Morecambe threw everyone into the box, including the keeper Barry Roche, and it was he who leapt the highest on the edge of the 6 yard box in front of Fulton who desperately tried to punch clear and headed the ball into the far corner. With no blue shirt stood on either post the ball bounced harmlessly in to send the small grouping of fans behind the goal into raptures. A bundle of players and fans alike headed in to the corner to celebrate and Pompey had yet again conceded in the last few seconds on the road.
And that was it, the kick off brought the immediate whistle and the Pompey fans slumped home for what was now an even longer journey back.
A 1-1 draw was probably the right result, testing conditions played a big role but sadly Pompey just didn’t turn up and give Morecambe enough of a fight to deserve all three points.
Back to the drawing board for Paul Cook and his men who have a mammoth task of finishing in the top 3 now. We live in hope. Keep the faith, PUP.
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