Shrimps Escape Davy Jones` Locker...
Saturday 8th April 2017 1500hrs
Attendance: 1548 (536 from Hartlepool)
Morecambe Old Boy Dave Jones brought his Hartlepool United side to the Globe Arena on Saturday to see if he could extend the Shrimps` already record string of defeats - seven in a row - to eight. Earlier in the week, his very long-suffering opposite number Jim Bentley said for the first time that his mission at a club whose ownership is unknown and who pay him and the rest of the staff effectively whenever they feel like doing so is untenable without major structural changes beyond the end of this season. With things looking increasingly grim for the Lancashire club off the field despite the bright blue skies overhead by the side of Morecambe Bay today, the chances of the Shrimps belatedly getting their season back on track on it were not helped by an injury to stalwart goalkeeper Barry Roche, who may be unavailable for quite some time with a torn cartilage in his left wrist. One of Jim Bentley`s biggest frustrations this season has been his inability to attract a solid target man to lead the attack in the way that Cole Stockton - now returned to Tranmere - did earlier in the season. But his objectively greatest loss has been that of Tom Barkhuizen, who deservedly won Championship Player of the Month at Preston this week. How Morecambe fans must have wondered how Tom might have linked-up with other former Shrimps strikers Lewis Alessandra and Padraig Amond in the opposition ranks today: all these talented forwards have moved on from the Globe largely for financial reasons in recent times.
Having said all that, Hartlepool actually found themselves in an even more precarious position than their hosts prior to kick-off. They were five points worse off than the Shrimps and just one place above the relegation positions and improving Newport County, having lost all of their last three games.
The visitors looked the better side right from kick-off, looking bright and inventive as they pressed forward at every opportunity against a team clearly lacking in self-belief after their torrid experiences during March. Captain Nicky Featherstone had the first decent effort for Pools, shooting narrowly wide after nine minutes before Nathan Thomas warmed Danijel Nizic`s hands with a left-footed effort six minutes later. As United racked-up the corner kicks, Morecambe failed to manufacture even a half-chance worthy of the name and Scott Harrison came close again for the visitors when he controlled the ball on his chest and sent a sharp volley just wide of the post with nineteen minutes on the clock. Amond headed into the side netting from a corner a few moments later and Rhys Oates headed over from another one after half an hour. And so it went on. It seemed to be just a matter of time before Hartlepool scored and when they did, it just had to be a combination of Alessandra and Amond who came back to haunt their former manager, Lewis passing the ball for Padraig to beat Nizic all ends up with a powerful shot from twelve yards after 39 minutes. The goal belatedly shook Morecambe into life and Kevin Ellison sent a header just too high just before the break and Paul Mullin actually forced a save from Joe Fryer during injury time at the end of the half. But when the final whistle blew after 47 minutes, it was an oh-so-familiar story as far as Morecambe have been concerned recently: they were poor yet again and went in deservedly in arrears for the eighth game in a row.
It was a different matter in the second half after the Manager admitted to `losing his head` with his players during the break with the Shrimps suddenly on top and doing all the pressing with the same line-up which had been so toothless and disjointed during the first period. After winning a succession of corners, they equalised after 59 minutes when Mullin followed up his own effort to head the ball in from close range as the Pools defence was at sixes and sevens. Having conceded, United started to visibly crumble and their panic increased when Jim Bentley sent on double substitutes Aaron Wildig and Lee Molyneux with just over an hour played. Wildig indeed could have won the contest for the Shrimps after eighty minutes when the substitutes combined for the number fifteen to produce a superb volley which was brilliantly saved by Fryer. But at the end of the game, it was a point shared probably justly given Pools` dominance in the first half and Morecambe`s much improved display during the second.
The result thankfully ends the Shrimps` horrendous sequence of losses and actually pushes them up into nineteenth position, eight points clear of the relegation zone with five games left to play. With Newport winning again - this time away at Exeter - Hartlepool sit increasingly uncomfortably in twenty-second position just three points ahead of the Exiles.
Morecambe: 12 Danijel Nizic; 19 Michael Duckworth; 16 Alex Whitmore; 5 Ryan Edwards; 3 Aaron McGowan; 24 Michael Rose (C); 17 Andy Fleming; 21 Antony Evans (15 Aaron Wildig 66 mins); 18 Rhys Turner (10 Lee Molyneux 66 mins); 11 Kevin Ellison; 7 Paul Mullin (Y).
Subs not used: 20 Nial Maher; 2 Liam Wakefield; 6 Dean Winnard; 8 Peter Murphy; 27 Luke Jordan.
Hartlepool United: 42 Joe Fryer; 4 Nicky Featherstone (C); 7 Nathan Thomas; 8 Brad Walker; 9 Padraig Amond; 11 Rhys Oates (17 Nicky Deverdics 94 mins); 14 Michael Woods; 15 Lewis Alessandra (38 Devante Rodney 81 mins); 26 Scott Harrison; 33 Liam Donnelly; 35 Kenton Richardson.
Subs not used: 31 Ben Dudzinski; 2 Carl Magnay; 6 Matthew Bates; 18 Lewis Hawkins; 28 Louis Rooney.
Ref: Andy Haines.