Date: 13th August 2016 at 7:24pm
Written by:

My, how the mighty have fallen. The last time Morecambe played Blackpool was a mere four years ago, when Thomas Ince and other worthies were part of a team managed by the inimitable Ian Holloway and whose last game had been against West Ham in a Play-Off Final at Wembley which – if they had won it – would have provided a quick return to the Premiership for them. But they didn`t win. They also lost to the Shrimps who deservedly knocked them out of the League Cup on their own patch: a real shock given the disparity in their relative status at the time. On Saturday – following two more relegations and widespread unrest amongst the Tangerines` supporters largely aimed at the Oyston family who own their club – Blackpool arrived at the Globe Arena as nothing more than another humble League Two also-ran.

On the field, there were interesting sub-plots to the Bigger Picture. Tom Barkhuizen for example, probably felt he had a point to prove, having been released by the Seasiders at the beginning of last season. And among the ranks of the visiting players was Jack the Lad Redshaw; small of stature but with the heart of a lion who Blackpool poached from the Shrimps at the beginning of last season. Because of injury, though, Jack has not figured in new manager Gary Bowyer`s plans so far and has yet to play this season.

Both teams started the game after excellent performances against higher-ranked opposition during the week in the EFL Cup. Blackpool finally overcame Bolton Wanderers at Bloomfield Road 4-2 but the Shrimps did even better at Championship side Rotherham United where they sensationally won 4-5. In the League however, Blackpool arrived with maximum points, having beaten much-fancied Exeter City 2-0 last Saturday at home whilst the Shrimps were beaten by the same score by newly-promoted Grimsby Town at Blundell Park.

Blackpool – playing in Sky Blue shirts – were the better team for nearly all of the first half. Ex-Carlisle United player Brad Potts tested Barry Roche in the home goal twice in quick succession within two minutes; Bright Osayi-Samuel was a handful even if he overdid things and kept the ball sometimes when he should have passed it and Kyle Vassell looked handy at times as well. The visitors played the more accurate, quicker game and worked the ball from defence though midfield up to the front as the Shrimps fell back and played on the back foot for at least the first half hour. When they attacked, it tended to be kick and rush aimed at Cole Stockton, leading the line in classic English Centre Forward style but rarely receiving the ball as Liverpool loanee Jack Dunn ran about ineffectively around him. But having said that, Sam Slocombe was nearly deceived by a long-range shot from Michael Rose`s free kick after just three minutes and was perhaps lucky to push the ball against the bar.

As the visiting support made most of the noise and some moron among their ranks threw an orange flare onto the pitch after eight minutes, the Tangerines continued to probe the Morecambe defence. Unlike what might have happened last season, however, the Shrimps` noticeably taller new defenders kept their shape and rarely looked as if they were going to go to pieces as was so often the case last term. However, because Blackpool had most of the play and almost all the pressure, a goal seemed inevitable. It duly arrived after 22 minutes when the impressive Potts gathered a pass from Andy Taylor, spun in the penalty area and hit a super shot past Roche into the Morecambe net on the turn.

Slowly but surely, however, the visitors either took their collective feet off the gas or the home side started to grow in confidence as the game grew older. With Barkhuizen prompting intelligently from midfield throughout, the Shrimps started to fashion a series of half chances and had the majority of the play for the final ten or so minutes. Full Back Taylor had been booked after just three minutes for a crude challenge to let his former team-mate Barkhuizen know he was there and after 38 minutes, he made another pretty agricultural lunge at the same player which left the Morecambe Number Nine needing treatment on the pitch. A less lenient referee than Geoff Eltringham would have sent him off at this point. But Taylor was lucky just to receive a long lecture from the man in the middle (and his Manager very sensibly substituted him at half time). In injury time at the end of the first half, however, that man Barkhuizen was found within the outer right edge of the penalty area with an excellent pass and feinted to go one way only to immediately turn the other and in doing so to draw a foul from Jim McAlister. Jack Dunn made scoring from the spot – for the second game in a row – look easy. And so the teams went in at half time equal at one each; a score which probably slightly flattered Morecambe.

The second half largely followed a similar pattern a lot of the time with Blackpool looking the more cultured team but Morecambe showing a commendable Never Say Die attitude which must have pleased Jim Bentley on the touchline. Having said that, panic by Alex Whitmore after 50 minutes could have restored the Tangerines` lead when he made a wild punt towards his own goal which only just cleared the crossbar and landed on the top of the net with his goalkeeper stranded. Blackpool had another excellent chance from a central free kick about thirty yards out after 55 minutes which only just missed and the impressive Liam Wakefield brilliantly stopped a long run from the Seasiders` Mark Cullen after 67 minutes with a tremendous tackle. By this time, the hosts were increasingly playing like an away team on the break and the game was decided after 75 minutes when official Man of the Match Tom Barkhuizen played a sublime pass from the Morecambe right which bisected the Blackpool defence to find Michael Rose who – for reasons probably know only to the Shrimps` own new captain – had abandoned his position at the back and popped up to score his first goal for the club. After this, Blackpool`s play became disjointed and their heads seemed to go down: Roche wasn`t troubled again. And so the second meeting between these Lancashire neighbours ended the same as the first one did – with a 2-1 victory to Morecambe.

Jim Bentley was understandably delighted after the game – as well he might be. This was a team that was only too obviously playing for him. At times, Jack Dunn looked like a slightly heavier version of Michael Owen and will obviously score more goals for the club as long as he stays. Stockton tried hard and with more support, he could well be a success too. Today however, Tom Barkhuizen showed without any doubt that Blackpool`s loss is very much Morecambe`s gain. With just two games played, the Shrimps are fifteenth in League Two. The Tangerines – equal on points – are five places higher on goal difference.

Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 2 Liam Wakefield (Y); 4 Alex Kenyon; 5 Ryan Edwards; 24 Michael Rose C) (Y)(; 10 Lee Molyneux 14 Luke Conlan (11 Kevin Ellison 64 minutes); 16 Alex Whitmore; 9 Tom Barkhuizen (7 Paul Mullin 85 minutes); 20 Jack Dunn (17 Andy Fleming 88 minutes); 23 Cole Stockton.

Subs not used: 12 Dan Nizic; 18 Rhys Turner, 3 Aaron McGowan.

Blackpool: 1 Sam Slocombe; 2 Kelvin Mellor; 3 Andy Taylor (Y) (23 Colin Daniel 45 mins); 4 Jim McAlister; 5 Clark Robertson (Y); 7 Kyle Vassell; 8 Brad Potts; 15 Tom Aldred; 21 Bright Osayi-Samuel (9 Mark Cullen 72 mins); 22 Danny Pugh (C); 26 Michael Cain (17 Mark Yeates 77 mins).

Subs not used: 6 Will Aimson; 12 Kyle Letheren; 16 Eddie Nolan; 14 John Herron.
Ref: Geoff Eltringham