Globetrotter Roche saves Shrimps to deny Pompey

Morecambe goalkeeper Barry Roche heads home the  Shrimps' equaliser at the Globe Arena deep into Stoppage-time Picture: Joe Pepler
Morecambe goalkeeper Barry Roche heads home the Shrimps' equaliser at the Globe Arena deep into Stoppage-time Picture: Joe Pepler
Bradley Dack opened the scoring for Blackburn Rovers in the 38th minute Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey suffer heavy defeat at Blackburn

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Unlikely hero Barry Roche broke Pompey’s hearts to steal a point at the death for Morecambe last night.

Entering the fourth minute of time added on at the Globe Arena, a magnificent save from Ryan Fulton prevented substitute Lee Molyneux netting a dramatic equaliser for the hosts.

But from the resulting corner, Shrimps keeper Roche charged upfield to lend his suppport to the attack.

And his decision paid off in the most sensational of fashions as he got his head to the ball to ensure a frustrating journey back south for Paul Cook’s Blues.

Up until that crazy moment, Gareth Evans had once again demonstrated his Pompey worth, as he appeared to have fired his side to a timely victory.

The midfielder struck home after 40 minutes, following excellent work from Kal Naismith, to spark thoughts of the promotion-chasing Blues climbing up to fourth spot in the League Two standings.

In a game often hindered by the windswpt conditions, the visitors also struck the bar through a Ben Close corner, while Adam Webster had a shot cleared off the line.

But despite fielding deadline-day recruit Michael Smith up front alongside Marc McNulty in a 4-4-2 formation, victory was never assured – particularly as the game entered a nervy finale.

Worringly, for the final 15 minutes Cook’s men couldn’t retain possession as the hosts finished strongly.

And the end result was a painful one, as up popped Roche to grab an equaliser with virtually the last touch of the ball.

Cook named Swindon loanee Smith in his starting XI – replacing Adam McGurk – as he made four changes to the team which performed so admirably against Bournemouth in the FA Cup fifth round.

Yet the real surprise was Naismith’s inclusion for his first appearance since November.

It also represented a third start for the club, reflecting his struggle to break into the side.

Naismith slotted into the left-hand side of midfield in place of Kyle Bennett, while Evans returned to the side at the expense of Gary Roberts.

The final change was Webster replacing Christian Burgess to partner Matt Clarke at the heart of the Pompey defence.

All of those players who made way occupied the substitutes’ bench, although there was no room in the squad for recent recruit Kieron Freeman.

The full-back, who arrived from Sheffield United on loan last week, could not be accommodated, while Alex Bass was again the back-up keeper.

Morecambe threatened in the opening seconds, when Shaun Miller won a free-kick 20 yards from the visitors’ goal.

Kevin Ellison stepped up to take the deadball, only to fire his shot comfortably over the bar without troubling Fulton.

On five minutes, lovely skill from McNulty saw him get the better of Shaun Beeley on the left flank – but his dangerous low cross was cut out by Andy Parrish.

Then Evans so nearly slipped in McNulty for a clear shot, only for the ball to take a slight deflection off the legs of Parrish before being cleared.

At the other end, Miller found space to drive in a cross from the left which was miskicked by Webster, yet Fulton was swift to react to gather with Ellison lurking.

In the 15th minute, Enda Stevens whipped in a free-kick from the left which was gathered by Smith with his back to goal.

Allowed space to turn, the striker swivelled and delivered a shot which lacked sufficient power and Roche gathered comfortably.

The wind sweeping across the ground was beginning to have an impact and there was a scare for the Blues when Roche fired a booming kick out of his hands.

Carried by the elements, it had Fulton backtracking and forced him to palm the ball out through fear of catching it and falling into his own net.

Ellison then had to clear off the line in the 28th minute following Naismith’s corner from the right.

The winger delivered the ball to the far post, where Webster steered a left-foot shot which appeared to be heading for the net before the intervention of the Shrimps veteran.

Clarke became the first player to be booked when he misjudged the bounce of the ball near the halfway line and collided with Jamie Devitt as the forward attempted to speed past.

On 37 minutes, Devitt drove in a fierce free-kick from the left but Fulton showed excellent handling to gather.

Smith then demonstrated what he can bring to the side when he somehow kept the ball in play down the left and embarked on a run which culminated in a curling shot that was deflected off Tom Barkhuizen for a corner.

Next McNulty was given a glimpse of goal when slipped in down the right channel by Close, only for his angled shot to flash over the bar.

The deadlock was broken, however, in the 40th minute through excellent work by Naismith.

The winger collected a loose ball and surged through the middle before feeding Evans superbly, whose first-time right-foot shot from the angle found the net.

Pompey were now dominant and when Close won possession, he fed Evans, who in turn put in Smith down the right.

The striker fired an angled shot which beat Roche, but also whistled past the far post when many were ready to celebrate a goal.

The second half began evenly, but on 51 minutes Evans slipped in McNulty and his low cross from the left was acrobatically cleared by Parrish under his own bar.

Close took the resulting corner from the left and, assisted by the wind, it swung in and rattled the crossbar before being scrambled away.

The visitors were still searching for that crucial second goal but, despite looking comfortable, they were not putting Roche under sufficient pressure.

There was a scare for Cook’s side on 70 minutes when Luke Conlan whipped in a low cross from the left which flashed across goal amid some desperate lunges to connect.

The Blues boss made a double substitution on 72 minutes, when Naismith and Smith replaced by Bennett and Roberts, with the side reverting to a 4-2-3-1 in the process.

Yet it was a nervy finale from the visitors as they struggled to retain possession during a lively finish from the Shrimps.

Molyneux saw his shot saved by Fulton – but, from the corner, there was Roche to provide the unlikely leveller as the game finished 1-1.