Just. As in just won, as progress to whatever convoluted system awaits in the next round of the Checkatrade, Checkatrade dot com trophy awaits. Maja’s clinical finish deep into injury time sealed the win in front of 2,300 or so hardy souls, over 1,500 of them of the Red and White persuasion. A win’s a win for all that, but with so many changes it was akin to a visit to the dentist – not for an extraction, mebbe just for one of those cleaning sessions where it doesn’t really hurt, but you could think of a dozen better ways to spend ninety minutes.
Or are we just getting too fussy?
Having checked into the luxury that is Travelodge Morecambe, we were quickly acquainted with Glynn, who’d spied us walking past, in the Eric Bartholomew Spoons and spent a pleasant hour trying to work out which changes would be made to the team. A quick bite to eat in the nearby Palatine, then it was time for the bus down the prom and inland to the Hurley Flyer and to supply tickets to Mr Carr of Lancaster, late of the Tut ‘n Shive in Bishop. If there were any Morecambe fans about, they were noticeable by their absence, as the place was packed with Red and Whites.
We had one end and half of one side of the Globe Arena, and made our presence felt as the Lads lined up in our nice pale blue strip:
Bainbridge Loovens Ozturk Oviedo
Power Hackett O’Nien Hunter
I thought I understood the rules about what constitutes a first team player in this competition. I was very obviously wrong, but hey-ho, Jack knows best. We kicked away from the packed away end (and side) and quickly fell into a three-at-the-back pattern which frustrated the home side, while, despite the patient promptings of Power, the home defence frustrated everything we threw forward. If you’ve been to reserve (U-23/U-21) games, you’d have recognised the patient style of control, look up, pass and move. All of which is very well, but doesn’t make for much in the way of intuitive, off-the-cuff, football. Morecambe managed the first strike of the evening, but it was scuffed wide of the mark, then they followed it with a header from a corner which O’Nien got in the way of – that’s his job when defending, so well done Lucky Luke. Once we got hold of things, the Local Lads combined, with Hunter setting Diamond away through the middle with a clever ball, but just as we were readying ourselves to celebrate, the shot drifted wide of the goal. A nice move which nearly paid off.
For all the patient, tappy-lappy stuff mentioned earlier, the exuberance of youth was the most promising thing about the game, with Hackett, Diamond, and Hunter running around like mad things (as you’d expect) to keep the home defence on their toes. Hunter drew a decent save from the home keeper with a well-hit shot from distance before it so nearly went horribly wrong at the other end, with Ruiter well beaten and the shot hitting his left-hand post. The outside, mind, so it wasn’t that close, and we cleared to eventually set Maja away, but their keeper was quickly down at Josh’s feet to smother the chance. A Sunday morning centre-forward would have had the keeper’s head off, as they way (God bless, Pop) but that wasn’t the nature of this game. Two added minutes brought no breakthrough, and we had to be content with being level at the break.
No changes for the start of the second half, and if the first half was a bit lacking in quality, then this was a step down as we failed to string any pretty stuff together and Morecambe did likewise
Diamond made the first break, running on to Oviedo’s cheeky pass but, after seemingly doing the hard part and leaving the defence in his wake, he shot straight at the keeper. Look, compared to the last couple of seasons with SAFC, it was Brazil, and I’m not complaining as all we needed to do was avoid defeat and some ridiculous scoreline in the other group game, and a bunch of young’uns got to play. But it wasn’t very pretty, and there was a sharp intake of breath when Ruiter went for a simple low ball and it cannoned off his chest, evoking flashbacks of last season’s goalkeeping nonsense. Thankfully, he pulled himself together and the stats will show a clean sheet. Which is the important bit.
We brought on Brandon Taylor for Hunter on the hour, then Lee Connelly for Diamond five minutes later, both of whom were bags of energy, and when Maja did work himself the yard or so he needs to score, his shot hit O’Nien and went wide. Typical!
As the game approached the ninety, we were trying to work out what a penalty shoot-out and the potential extra point would mean in terms of progression, but it very nearly went wrong as the home side got in a good effort, bringing out the best in Ruiter. As the fourth official held up the board to indicate a minimum of three added minutes, Oviedo picked out Maja and he moved in from the right and picked his spot. Straight across the keeper and inside the far post, girrrup! A goal of a quality above most of the rest of the game, but a goal nonetheless, and one that gave the visiting fans the chance to release the pent-up energy that they/we take across the country.
Neil replaced Hackett for the last minute or two, and when the whistle went we were a happy bunch. It might have been uninspiring, but it was an eighth consecutive win, and you can’t argue with that. Off we went to the Exchange, to exchange football chat with a Man City supporter on a ground-ticking evening, who was doubly impressed that I had Dennis Tueart’s phone number. A pleasant half-hour’s old-school football chat about who’d played for both side was a good way to end the day.
Man of the Match? Probably Hackett, as his youthful exuberance and energy, coupled with some well thought out passing, lifted a little bit above the rest.
Now to see what form the next round will take. Tell me ma, me ma, I won’t be home for tea….