Date: 16th August 2016 at 9:57pm
Written by:

Mighty Portsmouth were the second of two teams who have been elite members of the Premiership in recent times to visit the Globe Arena during the last five days. Unlike the first one – neighbours Blackpool who were beaten 2-1 on Saturday – Pompey are overwhelming favourites for promotion back to where they came from this season. And so they should be – with an average support 1000% higher than tonight`s hosts, there would be something very badly wrong somewhere if they weren`t. The Shrimps, on the other hand, are favourites to be relegated not only among the Bookies but also among the Usual Suspects in their own supporters` ranks who seem to think that someone else could do a better job then Jim Bentley with the shoestring budget he always has to work with. The gulf between the potential clubs could be summed-up in just one player in the Pompey Ranks: Carl Baker. Big Jim`s predecessor Sammy McIlroy was on record as saying he wanted to build the Shrimps team he took into the League almost a decade ago around this exceptional talent who he signed from Southport at the time. But it wasn`t to be: the pressure to sell has always been an imperative at Morecambe FC.

Pompey`s form so far has hardly set the world on fire, despite their massive resources and fanbase. They have drawn both their previous League games and were knocked out of the EFL Cup last week by one of Baker`s former teams – Coventry. So tonight, long-suffering supporters and Manager Paul Cook alike would be looking to make a statement for the rest of the season. And to start with, overtaking Morecambe – two places in the table and a point ahead before the match – would be the first hill to climb for the Hampshire club.

And it was Carl Baker himself who created the first good chance of the game after eight minutes when he turned his marker inside-out and slung over a dangerous cross which came to nothing. Just two minutes later though, Morecambe won a corner and when the ball wasn`t cleared, Shrimps` Centre-Half Ryan Edwards booted it goalwards – when his first attempt on goal was blocked, he made no mistake when the rebound fell to him and he lashed it past David Forde in the visitors` goal to put the underdogs one-nil in front. The Bookmakers` favourites immediately started to press for an equaliser and the first half became one of attrition by the visitors with Morecambe playing quickly and cleverly on the break. Baker had an appeal for a penalty turned-down after twenty minutes but just a minute later impressive opponent Tom Barkhuizen opened his account for the season with a spectacular shot from a long way out which eluded Forde and bulged the Pompey net right in the corner to put the hosts two goals to the good. It could have been even better after 36 minutes for Morecambe when Barkhuizen cleverly lobbed the visiting goalkeeper only to see his attempt hit the side netting.

So the Lancashire club went into the changing rooms at half time two goals in front and yet again confounding the so-called `experts` who gave them no chance not only before the game but actually before the season even started.

It was one-way traffic during the second half however. The visitors – encouraged by their really admirable 546 fans (who will have travelled nearly six hundred miles even if they have taken the quickest route between the two towns by the time they get home again later tomorrow) had all the play and nearly all the chances. But Barry Roche in the home goal was not to be beaten tonight and the defenders around him are clearly more resilient than those he was surrounded by last season. The huge Irishman did well to deny both Baker and Gary Roberts before pulling off a breathtaking stop from substitute Curtis Main`s point-blank header after 71 minutes. He also made a brilliant save from a Gary Roberts free-kick as he dived to his left to stop the ball nestling in the top corner of his net with just eight minutes left. But huff and puff as they might, Portsmouth could not knock Morecambe`s house down and Barry Roche emerged from the game with a clean sheet despite all their efforts, including a claim for a penalty in Robert`s favour during injury time for which Enda Stevens was booked when he disputed it. The Shrimps` second win in a row saw them rise to a dizzying 6th position in the League; the visitors plummeted to where most pundits expected their opponents to be by now: twentieth.

So Jim Bentley went to bed a very happy man later on. God alone knows when the Hampshire fans in Morecambe tonight will get to bed but I`m sure we all wish them a safe journey home?

Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 2 Liam Wakefield ; 5 Ryan Edwards; 24 Michael Rose (C); 14 Luke Conlan 16 Alex Whitmore; 17 Andy Fleming (Y); 11 Kevin Ellison 9 Tom Barkhuizen (4 Alex Kenyon 87 mins); 20 Jack Dunn (10 Lee Molyneux (Y) 60 mins); 23 Cole Stockton (Y) (7 Paul Mullin 75 mins).

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

Portsmouth: I David Forde; 25 Drew Talbot; 15 Adam Barton; 6 Christian Burgess; 3 Enda Stevens (Y); 4 Danny Rose (20 Noel Hunt 85 mins); 8 Michael Doyle (C) (Y); 11 Gary Roberts; 7 Carl Baker; 23 Kyle Bennett (14 Curtis Main 64 mins); 9 Michael Smith (10 Milan Lalkovic 64 mins).

Subs not used: 2 Davies; 13 O`Brien; 21 Buxton; 24 Linghanzi.
Ref: Nigel Miller