Rochdale answer the Ten Thousand Pound Question.
As the nation’s eyes were focused on Denmark and what the England national team might get up to, Morecambe fans were less concerned with Southgate and more interested in what was going-on just off Westgate in the town. Morecambe continued their Centenary Campaign at the Mazuma Stadium tonight on the back of an excellent win at Grimsby in the League Cup last Saturday. At the same time, tonight’s opponents in the EFL Trophy – League One Rochdale – were winning at Championship Huddersfield in the League Cup by the only goal of the game – an excellent result for Brian Barry-Murphy’s team.
For many people, the tEFLon; Tin-Pot Trophy or however you want to describe it is definitely a Mickey Mouse competition. But the fact of the matter is that there was a ten thousand pound bonus awaiting any winner of this fixture tonight – so that in itself surely made the match worth competing in. Whatever the pros and cons of the Trophy, tonight’s game also gave both sides a chance to acquire more match fitness prior to Saturday’s openers in the EFL League season – and it afforded the Managers perhaps their last chance to decide what their best opening eleven will be then.
With Aaron Wildig still unavailable due to illness, Derek Adams named a team notably different to the one which won at Blundell Park last weekend. On an evening which was windy throughout and occasionally very wet as well, both sets of players took the knee before kick-off.
After it, only one team was going to win during the first half. Rochdale’s blend of youth and experience were on the back foot for most of the forty-five minutes and relied exclusively on the Long Ball game. Morecambe, on the other hand, played some nice patterns and contributed some intelligent, effective moments to the match. Jordan Slew missed with a shot to the right of Jay Lynch’s goal after six minutes. Two minutes later, Ben Pringle took advantage of a poor Dale clearance but shot wildly over the target when well placed. John O’Sullivan then also missed but by a smaller margin after ten minutes. With the tall Liam McAlinden making his presence felt up-front, the hosts took a deserved lead after twenty-one minutes. From a corner, returning Captain Sam Lavelle – who looked taller and more powerful than ever – scored with a towering header. Just five minutes later, though, Rochdale gave a sign of things to come when Kwando Baah was found with a long ball from the back and hit Halstead’s right-hand post with a well-placed shot which bounced harmlessly wide. Slew had a lot of joy on the Morecambe left all night but with almost half an hour played, he beat one defender only to be brought down by a second one as he bore-down on the visitors’ penalty area. From the resulting free-kick, Adam Phillips blasted the ball way over the bar from a promising position. Shortly afterwards, Pringle was similarly wasteful, shooting wide when well-placed in front of goal. Thirty-four minutes were on the clock when two of Rochdale’s youngsters combined to fashion a good chance: Baah cleverly back-heeled the ball to the impressive Ethan Brierley to force a save from Halstead at the cost of a corner. There were a couple more half-chances but the first period ended in a Monsoon with Morecambe looking good for all three points.
The second half began in similar weather but Rochdale’s approach totally changed. They started to play the ball through midfield instead of lumping it forward and the adjustment to their tactics immediately improved the match as a contest. Having said that, the Shrimps had the first proper chance following the re-start when they attacked down their left flank and worked the ball to Phillips, whose shot was brilliantly blocked by Dale’s defence. Shortly afterwards, following a crude challenge on the impressive Rochdale Captain – Oliver Rathbone – for which Lavelle was rightly booked, the man who had been fouled took the free-kick himself and forced an excellent save from Halstead. This was after 54 minutes. Just three minutes later, the Dale Captain was at it again, running effectively through the Shrimps’ defence down the centre of the field and unleashing a shot which went just wide of the home team’s goal. Sixty-seven minutes had been played when substitute Harry Davis headed a corner kick just over the bar. He repeated the process from another corner just five minutes later. Freddie Pryce, newly-arrived on the pitch – went on a tremendous run in the eighty-second minute down the Morecambe left almost the length of the field but lost his composure at the end and shot tamely when he should have laid it off to a better-placed fellow substitute Carlos Mendes-Gomes. Shortly after this, the match started to turn on its head. Fabio Tavares was first to react to a Rochdale free-kick with a diagonal run into the Shrimps’ penalty area and sent a tremendous low shot to the right of Halstead to equalise. It soon got worse. Ex-Morecambe junior Alex Newby bundled home a cross from Baah in the third minute of injury time and despite further chances – Lynch saved brilliantly from a corner and Ryan Cooney narrowly missed with a low volley right at the death – Rochdale won.
Overall, they probably just about deserved it for a far more committed performance in the second half. So they take three points; Morecambe take none: a familiar story in this competition. However, the real business begins on Saturday when the Shrimps visit Cheltenham hoping to pick-up at least one point in their new League campaign.
Morecambe: 12 Mark Halstead; 5 Sam Lavelle (C) (Y); 4 Nathaniel Knight-Percival (6 Harry Davis 45’); 7 Jordan Slew; 14 Alex Kenyon; 15 Luke Conlan; 18 Ben Pringle; 19 Liam McAlinden; 20 Adam Phillips (11 Carlos Mendes-Gomes 61’); 16 John O’Sullivan (Y) (23 Freddie Price 67’); 21 Ryan Cooney.
Subs not used: 1 Jake Turner; 2 Kelvin Mellor; 3 Stephen Hendrie; 9 Cole Stockton.
Rochdale: 12 Jay Lynch; 2 Ryan McLaughlin (13 Jimmy Keohane 45’); 4 James McNulty; 8 Aaron Morley; 14 Oliver Rathbone (C) 7 Stephen Dooley 64’); 17 Fabio Tavares; 18 Lewis Bradley; 19 Yeboah Amankwah (10 Alex Newby 72’); 22 Kwadwo Baah; 24 Ethan Brierley; 32 Joe Dunne.
Subs not used: 31 Bradley Wade; 6 Eoghan O’Connell; 23 Harrison Hopper.