Morecambe 2 Pompey 0: Jordan Cross' match report

Pompey's demons deepened after another Morecambe nightmare.

Wednesday, 17th August 2016, 9:00 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 8:26 pm
Morecambe goalkeeper Barry Roche rushes off his line to deny Carl Baker Picture: Joe Pepler

The ghosts of the Globe Arena returned to haunt the Blues last night as an indifferent start to the season foundered dramatically following a 2-0 defeat.

And it was that man Barry Roche who was again the tormentor of Paul Cook’s side.

Of course, it was the keeper who stunned us all back in February with his 93rd-minute leveller in the 1-1 draw.

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That arrived in the middle of a four-game winless run for Pompey, and was a blow Cook admitted his men struggled to recover from.

This time it was the 34-year-old’s second-half super show at the other end which drove the Blues to distraction, after a string of saves frustrated attempts of a comeback from the visitors.

But no amount of stops from the Irishman can shroud the attacking deficiencies and lack of potency which is becoming a significant concern.

One goal in three league outings to date is a damning statistic and told it’s own tale to why things didn’t happen.

Gallows humour arrived in the chants of ‘we’re gonna have a shot’ in the second half from the travelling Fratton faithful.

And with lone striker Michael Smith struggling in attack and no place for Conor Chaplin on the bench, their frustration was evident.

A slight calf knock and the need for an extra midfielder on the bench were forwarded as the reasons for his absence.

Cook wasn’t hiding from the early-season angst which had built up by the end of the night.

In the build-up to the game, he said it was one that would define their start to the new season.

Unfortunately now, it’s not one seen in a positive light.

Just about the only good news on the night arrived at the start of the evening, via the sight of Enda Stevens taking his place in the starting XI after recovering from a groin injury.

It was slightly harsh on transfer-listed Kal Naismith to find himself out of the squad, after doing well in a makeshift left-back role at Crewe.

Adam Barton and Kyle Bennett, who impressed when replacing Milan Lalkovic on Saturday, also came in for the Slovakian and the injured Jack Whatmough.

And like at the weekend, it was Pompey who started encouragingly, with Gary Roberts flashing Drew Talbot’s cross past the upright with his head after four minutes.

The need for Smith to have a positive game was evident for so many reasons.

Some decent early link-up play was followed with a cross-shot which fizzed across the face of the Morecambe goal.

But there was that familiar sight of a ball being fired across the face of goal in front of him moments later, as he jostled with Ryan Edwards from Carl Baker’s centre.

It was Edwards who then took centre stage with the opener for the hosts after 10 minutes.

The Blues twice failed to clear their lines from a corner, and it was Barton’s poor clearance which was seized upon by the defender, who fired past the helpless David Forde.

The goal knocked Pompey out of their stride, and it just appeared they were finding their feet again when they fell further behind.

It was the Blues who looked to threaten with a decent appeal for a penalty, after Baker went to ground in the box under the attentions of Alex Whitmore.

But after referee Nigel Miller waved play on, seconds later the ball was flashed past Forde in laudable fashion from Tom Barkhuizen as the visitors still stewed on the decision.

There appeared to be little threat as the attacking midfielder came forward, but the space presented to him provided the invitation to take a hit from 30 yards.

And he feasted upon the gift with a sumptuous drive into the top-left corner of the net beyond Forde.

The call from Cook was for calm as Pompey looked set to combust and frustrations boiled to the surface.

But there was a feeling the Blues desperately needed a goal back before the break.

A couple of Bennett potshots looked encouraging, but the reality was it was Morecambe who looked likely to score a third on the counter-attack.

Barkhuizen was having a field day, and the former Blackpool player looked nailed on for a second as he picked up Bennett’s loose pass and drifted past Christian Burgess.

The confidence of his dinked finish equalled his run but, thankfully, his accuracy was marginally off beam as his effort drifted just wide of the post.

The sound of keyboards being angrily pounded into furious social media posts was almost audible from the Globe Arena at the interval.

It wasn’t enough to prompt any Pompey changes, however, after a nightmare first 45 minutes.

Seeing the Blues’ first-half dominance of possession and shots amount to a two-goal deficit and not a single shot on goal was irking, though.

That was finally remedied by Baker’s 20-yard thump seven minutes after the restart which Roche was equal to.

From there the pattern of Pompey pressure without penetration continued.

Corners floated across the face the goal, balls popped around the box, and Roberts found his 20-yarder lacking the pace to cause trouble.

Then when the visitors looked for all the world to have worked a leveller – that man Roche arrived to floor Blues fans’ hopes again.

First it was a near point-blank save to deny substitute Curtis Main a certain headed goal from five yards which had everyone flummoxed.

Then Baker, Burgess and Roberts were all repelled as the man who sickened Pompey with his late leveller in February taunted them again.

The end result was a first clean sheet for the home side in 26 games on another night to forget on the Lancashire coast.

There was also that familiar feeling of bleakness for the 546 Pompey fans as they travelled back from the Globe Arena.