Heartbreak at Oakwell
Tuesday 8th August 2017 19.45hrs
Attendance: ? lots from Morecambe
Morecambe travelled across the Pennines to the White Rose County tonight to face Barnsley in the newly-relabelled Carabao and formerly League Cup. At Oakwell, manager Paul Heckingbottom (known to local fans as `Heckey`) was looking to restart his team`s season on a more positive note than they achieved in Bristol last Saturday. At Ashton Gate, the Tykes - despite the inclusion in the team for the first time of familiar former Blackpool and Carlisle striker Brad Potts - conceded three goals in a fifteen minute period during the first half and finally lost 3-1 to Bristol City in their first game of the new Championship campaign. This defeat means that Barnsley have lost their opening fixture now for the fifth season in a row and the manager must already be concerned that his team - next to bottom of the table with admittedly only one match completed - could already be facing an uphill struggle this term. The teams have only met once before in any competition and on that occasion, the Shrimps ran out 0-2 winners at Oakwell six years ago in the League Cup under whatever other guise it was known at the time.
For Jim Bentley`s men, the season could not have started more brightly. They came from behind to overcome a very physical Cheltenham side last Saturday at home to pick up all three points in their opening League Two fixture 2-1 with returning club legend Garry Thompson scoring both of the goals. At times, a team with a sensible blend of experience and younger heads played some excellent and intelligent football and hopes must have been high that they could pull off another upset in Yorkshire tonight, albeit against a supposedly far superior outfit.
Jim Bentley put out a markedly different team to the one which performed against Cheltenham last Saturday with no less than five changes in his starting eleven. The new formation got off to the worst possible start with an unmarked Tom Bradshaw collecting the ball in the Shrimps` penalty area with just ninety seconds played after Ike Ugbo and George Moncur combined well in the Tykes' midfield. Barnsley`s number nine made no mistake, placing the ball deftly past Danijel Nizic`s right hand into the back of the net to put the home team one-nil up. Shortly afterwards, as the rain continued to pour from the leaden Yorkshire skies, Adam Hammill placed a free kick just over the Morecambe crossbar and the visitors struggled to clear a corner within the first six minutes or so. The hosts had an excellent chance to increase their lead after twelve minutes but Nizic pulled off a tremendous save on his left hand side to keep Bradshaw`s volley from Hammill`s cross out. The visitors from Lancashire had to wait all of eighteen minutes for their first attempt on goal: Adam Campbell intercepted a pass on the edge of the Barnsley penalty area and set-up Andy Fleming to shoot narrowly over the bar. Morecambe put a little more pressure on the home side after this but Ugbo was soon racing down the wing, beating Sam Lavelle a little too easily and taking a shot which was probably deflected past Nizic by the unfortunate Mitchell Lund to double the Tykes` lead after 23 minutes: to Lund`s relief, no doubt, the goal was eventually awarded to the Barnsley player. Just a couple of minutes later, Bradshaw was denied by Nizic once more, who pushed his left-footed effort away for a corner. Despite the reverses, the Shrimps continued to try and take the game to their supposedly more illustrious opponents and played some good stuff going forward and Aaron McGowan warmed Adam Davies` hands after about half an hour with a shot which the goalkeeper did well to palm away from the danger area. Down the other end, though, the duel between Nizic and Bradshaw continued after 41 minutes when the big Australian brilliantly thwarted the Tykes` forward once more by turning his powerful header from Andy Yiadom`s cross away from the top corner of the goal. But still the visitors from Lancashire wouldn`t lie down and Lavelle scored his first goal for the club on his full debut with a volley from a corner kick right on the stroke of half time.
The second half thus started with only one goal between the two teams. Morecambe started badly again though and this time, Nizic was at fault when he made a weak attempt to deny nemesis Bradshaw`s header and one of the smallest players on the field put the hosts two goals to the good again. This was with just twenty-five seconds on the clock as opposed to the ninety it took for Barnsley to score in the first half. But just two minutes later, the Shrimps were back in the match again when referee Darren Ward awarded a penalty to them after Vadaine Oliver appeared to be fouled during a corner kick to the visitors. Captain Michael Rose coolly placed the ball left-footed into the bottom right hand corner past Davies to reduce the arrears once more and came close to equalising after 54 minutes when his excellent free kick only just cleared the Barnsley bar. The match remained competitive as the rain still fell but Bradshaw should have completed his hat-trick after an hour: instead he completely miscued his effort when well placed to score. The visitors had a couple of shouts for further penalties and substitute Garry Thompson provoked the ire of the Oakwell faithful when his clumsy, high two-footed lunge after 76 minutes received only a yellow card. But with 81 minutes played, Yiadom was also booked for a foul on Lund; Thommo slung the ball over and Oliver managed to guide the ball past Davies with his head to make things all-square on the night. Having dragged themselves back into the match, Morecambe commendably continued to press for a winner and had the better chances during the earliest of the five minutes which the referee added-on at the end of normal time. But substitute Ryan Hedges broke Shrimps` hearts in the fourth minute of injury time with a fantastic curling shot into the top corner which was worthy of winning any game: Nizic had no chance.
So Barnsley finally progressed in the rain and erased Morecambe`s one hundred percent record against them, taking the headline I was hoping to use with it: "Heckey Thumped"...
Morecambe returned to Lancashire empty-handed but having put on a battling performance that their manager, players and fans can be proud of.
Barnsley: 1 Adam Davies; 24 Matty Pearson; 5 Angus MacDonald (C); 16 Ethan Pinnock; 17 Andy Yiadom; 20 Brad Potts (27 Alex Mowatt 88 mins); 10 George Moncur; 4 Joe Williams (34 Ryan Hedges 88 mins); 7 Adam Hammill; 19 Ike Ugbo (23 Stefan Payne 80 mins); 9 Tom Bradshaw.
Substitutes not used: 13 Nick Townsend; 2 Jason McCarthy; 18 Adam Jackson; 14 Stevie Mallan.
Morecambe: 12 Danijel Nizic; 4 Alex Kenyon; 16 Sam Lavelle (Y); 17 Mitchell Lund (11 Kevin Ellison 50 mins); 3 Patrick Brough; 24 Michael Rose (C); 8 Andy Fleming; 2 Aaron McGowan; 10 Adam Campbell (Y) (7 Garry Thompson (Y) 69 mins); 9 Vadaine Oliver; 18 Rhys Turner (19 Reece Deakin 74 mins).
Substitutes not used: 1 Barry Roche; 15 Aaron Wildig; Tyler Brownsword.