Date: 28th February 2017 at 9:54pm
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Morecambe -occupying the Lucky Thirteenth spot in League Two – visited Fratton Park on Tuesday night to take on fourth place Portsmouth, who they beat 2-0 at the Globe Arena last August, right at the beginning of the season. This was the eighth meeting between the teams overall and they had enjoyed a perfectly even record so far with two wins and three draws each. In recent times, both clubs have flirted with ownership by one Joseph Cala but the less said about this part of Morecambe`s parallel reality at the moment, probably the better. Both teams went into the game on the back of wins last Saturday, when the Shrimps beat Grimsby at home and Pompey won impressively at Carlisle United by three goals to nil to reduce the gap between them to just three points, albeit that United have played one game less.

Carl Baker – substituted at Brunton Park on Saturday – was the player that former Shrimps` boss Sammy McIlroy stated he intended to build a team around before he was spirited away by Stockport County, then a better-known club than Morecambe were. Spells at Coventry and the Milton Keynes team followed but Carl is still a player to be reckoned with and started tonight`s team on the field again to renew his acquaintance with former Captain Jim Bentley in the away team`s dugout.

Perhaps predictably, Portsmouth started off on the front foot and it was Baker who had the first good chance of the game, smashing in a fierce shot which forced ex-team mate Barry Roche into an excellent save to push the ball over the bar with only three minutes played. Gary Roberts was the next Pompey player to try his luck but the Morecambe defence kept him out with good headers and then blocks before Alex Whitmore made a superb tackle on Eoin Doyle after seven minutes and Roche used his legs to keep out the resultant shot from Roberts. Just four minutes later though, Christian Burgess made a tremendous clearance off the Portsmouth line from a Paul Mullin header but the referee belatedly blew for a foul on goalkeeper David Forde so the attempt wouldn`t have counted. As the Lancashire visitors weathered the storm, Lee Molyneux wasted a free kick after thirteen minutes by blazing the ball over the home team`s bar. Two minutes later, the Shrimps` big Irish goalkeeper was called into action once more to deny Gareth Evans` left-footed shot from the centre of the box with a brilliantly improvised save with his right leg. Pompey had the next chance as well but Captain Doyle headed Baker`s cross just over the bar after twenty minutes. The pressure continued and just two minutes later, Kyle Bennett had a long range shot which swerved all over the place before narrowly missing the Shrimps` goal. As the Hampshire team continued to press, Morecambe hit them on the break after 32 minutes and Mullin cleverly played-in Aaron Wildig to take on Forde who responded with a tremendous save at the expense of a corner. It continued to be All Hands To The Pump for Morecambe but they had the last chance of the half when Rhys Turner headed Michael Rose`s cross straight at the Portsmouth goalkeeper.

The second half continued with Pompey`s apparently favourite tactic – a Roberts` cross onto Eoin Doyle`s head – constantly countered by the Morecambe defence. Meanwhile, the visitors were finding more space and time to play their own game and Mullin probably should have played Wildig in again after 53 minutes but opted to shoot high and wide himself instead. Playing on the break again, Mullin had yet another chance with just over an hour on the clock from the right hand side of the penalty area but narrowly missed the left hand post. Kallum Naismith was sent on as a substitute by Paul Cook after 63 minutes and his first contribution was to take a touch to control the ball and then dispatch it all of twenty-five yards past a despairing Roche with a fantastic strike into the bottom corner of the Morecambe net. The goal encouraged Pompey to take the initiative once more, with Naismith and Roberts in particular proving to be repeatedly a handful for the visitors` defence. Morecambe are nothing if not resilient these days though and they equalised after another quick counter-attack when Kevin Ellison fed Lee Molyneux to the left of the Pompey penalty area who instantly smashed a left-footed shot to the right of Forde from his point of view into the bottom corner of the net after 83 minutes. The referee added-on a whole six minutes extra time at the end of the game and the home team could have wrapped-up all three points half way through this when Ryan Edwards hacked the ball away from the Shrimps` goal-line. But the game ended all-square again and – all things considered – it was probably a fair result. Pompey had most of the play but lacked creativity to go with their possession. Morecambe played cleverly on the break and probably deserved the point if only for their ability to vary their play. Hats off to the seventy-one intrepid fans who made the 600-mile round trip to the South Coast tonight. And hats off too to the team and their Manager.

Portsmouth: 1 David Forde; 26 Gareth Evans; 6 Christian Burgess; 5 Matt Clarke; 3 Enda Stevens; 24 Amine Linganzi (4 Danny Rose 79 mins); 8 Michael Doyle (C); 7 Carl Baker (19 Conor Chaplin 55 mins); 11 Gary Roberts (Y); 23 Kyle Bennett (22 Kallum Naismith 63 mins); 17 Eoin Doyle.

Subs not used: 13 Liam O`Brien; 16 Jack Whatmough; 18 Jamal Lowe; 20 Noel Hunt.

Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 2 Liam Wakefield (3 Aaron McGowan 72 mins); 5 Ryan Edwards; 16 Alex Whitmore; 17 Andy Fleming (8 Peter Murphy 79 mins); 10 Lee Molyneux; 24 Michael Rose(C) (Y); 11 Kevin Ellison; 15 Aaron Wildig; 7 Paul Mullin; 18 Rhys Turner (14 Luke Conlan 55 mins).

Subs not used: 12 Danijel Nizic; 21 Antony Evans; 27 Luke Jordan; 15 Michael Duckworth.

Ref: Steve Martin