May 06, 2016

Bring Me Sunshine - Morecambe (a)

Bring Me Sunshine


Match report by OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT 

at the Globe Arena


Morecambe 2 Pools 5 (League 2) Saturday April 9th 2015



I asked my mate if he fancied a run down to Morecambe. 
Is that wise?
No it's Morecambe.

What he meant was "Would it not be better to travel down on one Mr Coxall's free charabanc rides and thus save around twenty five quid on fuel and keep the mileage down on the car?"

I conceded that this indeed was 'wise' and a nice 'little earner' (apologies to Eric for this).

It had been giddy yonks since I had been on an away day coach to see Pools. I seem to recall the last time was with Bee Line when we travelled to Maine Road when Pools played Man City in the cup. (Actually, come to think of it, it was Charlton away when everyone was dressed up as Smurfs.)

In the past it was a regular event  for us to take the charabanc, travelling around this sceptred isle* to watch Pools, but after a while it became a bit of a chore. Long journeys back from down south - invariably after a defeat. Numerous comfort stops planned and unplanned for those with weak bladders. Overpriced service stations, smelly on-board toilets (God help you if you were sat next to the loo in a long, or even a short journey). Some of the coaches that we travelled on were not the most salubrious modes of transport by any means, many of which I doubted even had an MOT certificate, whilst others would not have been out of place in a transport museum.

On occasion you could end up being sat beside, or surrounded by people, mainly pre-pubescents,  who nowadays, to be politically correct, would be termed as having learning disorders. In my day they were just called knobs.
I recall vividly a fraught trip to and from 'Kiddy'  being a bit of a nightmare. On the way down it started to tank down rain. The driver switched on the wipers and I think the radio came on or perhaps the air con but the wipers certainly did not. This added another 40 minutes to the journey as the bus could only be driven during breaks in the intermittent showers, and had to pull up when it commenced raining again. 

After the match the wiper situation was still not resolved. Thankfully, until repairs were affected, we were allowed to take sanctuary in Kidderminster's supporters' club which did seem to be a good idea at the time. 

An hour or so later with wipers wiping we set off for home. A group of women who were sat fore and aft of us, who had been generally quiet on the outward journey, no doubt fortified by a few Babychams that they had had earlier in the supporters' club, kicked in and began chanting and and singing (and I use the word singing very loosely), various Pools songs. I've got my head down trying to read the newspaper when one of these wailing banshees in the seat in front grabs the paper and tells me to "sing up you miserable so-and -so or words not to that effect.

Fortunately after half an hour or so even they got fed up with the sound of their own voices. Next thing, I notice the bus comes off the motorway and is heading into Leeds. Surely not another driver's break - we had one had one about 40 miles back. It turned out that the coach was nearly out of fuel. The first two petrol stations refused to take the driver's credit card and, after what seemed to be a grand tour of Leeds by night (Is there such a thing?),  the driver managed to get filled up at a rather dodgy looking petrol station down a side street. I have no doubt that for the rest of the journey we were running on red diesel. I recall our getting home very late at night and The Bride, who used to go to away games with me, said that as far as she was concerned that would be her last journey on a coach. 

A few months later I fancied going to see 'Pools play at Orient. but I did not relish driving down to London. After much persuasion, cajoling and assuring the Bride that the Kidderminster trip was just a one off, she reluctantly agreed to make the trip down to the capital. What could possibly go wrong? 

We waited eagerly outside the Mill House for our horseless carriage to arrive. A little Hoppa-style bus (remember them?) pulled up  which we totally ignored until the driver popped his head out through the air assisted double doors and asked us if we were going to the match and on we got, thinking that this 24-seat round-the-town, round-the-houses mode of transport was just a feeder bus.
Wrong.

We trundled and rattled along at a sedate pace and eventually pulled up in a lay-by on the A1 near Leeming Bar. It was here that our driver informed us that we had to wait for the relief driver to turn up in order for us to continue the journey. After what seemed to be an age, the said driver eventually arrived ...in a car ...not a coach. He apologised for the delay and told us that there had been 'a cock up in the booking office' on a mega scale  and that they needed two drivers to take us to London as originally they thought that the coach had been booked to go to Leicester and not to Leyton Orient, and as such had charged accordingly and provided what they thought was suitable transport for the jaunt to the Midlands. We had to decide if we wanted to turn back or continue the journey to London on the current mode of transport. Unanimously we all agreed to head south. 

The journey wasn't  half as bad as I feared; in fact it was a bit of a laugh - that was, until we were heading home and one of our party vomited, and the copious amount of spew flowed up and down the wooden floorboards like the waves of incoming/outgoing tide.  Even though the offending sludge was cleared at a not-so-nearby service station,  the pungent smell of it would not go away and every so often the driver would have to open the air-assisted double doors to let some fresh air in.

Needless to say, the Bride has never been on a coach since and from thereon we always took the car for away days.

"like the Titanic's first three days at sea it was indeed a pleasant and uneventful journey"
If you had a full car it was not as expensive as getting the coach, plus you could set off later and get home earlier. On the downside, being the driver I cannot have a pint. ...,So to get back to the match report it was with some trepidation that I waited outside the Mill House for Mr. Coxall's coach to arrive.

By and by seven fairly vintage though clean coaches pulled up, all numbered, and we all sat in our pre-booked numbered seats. All very well organised. However one lad insisted on getting on a coach that he was not supposed to be on, just to be with his mates. There is always one.

Just after our departure our stewardess/hostess informed us that there was a toilet on board, that only number ones were permitted however, and that gentleman should take aim carefully and not wet the toilet seat or compartment in general. One wag shouted up that that very much depended on the driver - sudden braking or swerving could have disastrous consequences. As for the ladies who needed 'to go', they would have to stay dry or bring in a wet wipe (not to be flushed down the loo) and under no circumstances were number twos allowed. I was beginning to think that I was on a Ryanair flight.

The journey to the North West takes us via the A66 and through spectacular scenery on the edge of the Lake District, which is a welcome change from the usual away trips down the A1/M1.

A few miles out of Kirkby Stephen we were descending a twisty hill, with quite a large ravine on one side that would not have been out of place on an Alpine road. The driver was taking his time going down his gears and using his brakes accordingly. 

Next thing a gadgee shouts down from the back of the coach asking, nay demanding that the driver turn the air conditioning on as it is too hot. (Take your jumper off, mate ...I thought) Talk about picking your moment. So I'm watching the driver fiddle about with the air con button, every now and then momentarily taking his eyes off the road to carry out the job in hand. In the meantime I am wondering how long it will take the emergency services and the mountain rescue teams to reach us and retrieve our mangled bodies from the gorge below once the accident has been reported.

I reckon if that gadgee was on a plane that was about make an emergency landing because the undercarriage had failed to deploy, and one of the engines was on fire, that he would be pressing the page button for the cabin crew to complain that enjoyment of the in-flight film was being spoiled due to the shouting and screaming of the surrounding passengers.


The Andy Capp of Morecambe
Other than one of our coaches conking out on the M6, like the Titanic's first three days at sea it was indeed a pleasant and uneventful journey.  We alighted just before mid-day and although there was a pub less than 30 yards from the ground, my mate and myself decided to have a wander around the sea front, more so for nostalgic reasons, as he used to spend his holidays in Morecambe in his youth. 

As the sun was shining we had a wander up the prom to the Eric Morecambe statue (Morecambe's equivalent to the Andy Capp statue on the Headland) where there was a steady stream of people having their photos took next to it. 
Morecambe itself is not a bad spot. Like most seaside towns a tad run down and seen better days. The beauty about it is the long promenade and the stunning views of the mountains over towards the Lake district. Compare and contrast to Seaton Carew with stunning views of the Nuclear Power station and though slightly obscured by the offshore wind farm you can catch a glimpse on a clear day of the steelworks and cooling towers over in Middlesbrough in the Team Valley.

Match report is now only a couple of paragraphs away.

On our way back to the ground we called into a sea-front drinking establishment for a couple of 'cheeky ones' whilst taking in the match on the big screen. We watched Andy Carroll score a hat trick against Arsenal. Carroll to me is a poor man's Scott Fenwick but don't laugh. Fitness and injuries aside I would certainly consider naming  him in the forthcoming England squad for the Euros as he does offers a different option, even just coming off the bench. However I am sure Hodgson will play it safe and not upset the suits at the FA.
The Globe Arena is a newish tidy affair. I was more than surprised to learn that their ground capacity claims to be 6,476, a thousand less than Pools'. I cannot believe that figure is correct as the Vic looks massive in comparison. 
After Accrington Stanley, Morecambe have the lowest gates in our division, averaging around 1,400, and if you account for away fans contributing to that figure there would be less than 1,200 home supporters turning up at the Globe each week.

Against Pools, Morecambe enjoyed, for them, a bumper crowd of 2,005, comprising of 720 Poolies, nearly 35% of the total attendance. In truth the stadium capacity is three times bigger than it needs to be. But fair play to Morecambe in sustaining a Football League team in the first place on such low attendances. They must have some very generous sponsors or lottery winners behind them.

Due to a 'cock up' on the ticketing front we found ourselves in the seats. However a quick word with a friendly steward resulted in us being allowed through a gate and into the away with the proviso that we could not return to the seats. Deal done and we joined the massed ranks of the Pools fans  behind the goal.

The atmosphere the Poolie fans created reminded me of  the good old days under Neale Cooper/ Danny Wilson/ Mike Newell and Chris Turner (first stint). Hopefully a portent of things to come next season. Apart from a ten minute spell after the home team pulled a goal back we never stopped singing.

Not sure what to expect before kick off as Paynter and Bates, two of Pools most consistent but slower players, were out injured. This meant Jones and Woods were back in the side and James would play up front.

From the off Pools tore into Morecambe at a ferocious pace and Nathan Thomas signalled his early intent with a rasping shot bringing a brilliant save from keeper Roche, but the loose ball fell to Michael Woods who blasted home, his first proper goal of the season (the other being a deflection at York). 

We  still had not finished cheering Woodsy's goal when Thomas was at it again,  skinning the Morecambe full back - not for the first time that afternoon, and letting fly. The ball took a slight deflection off a defender's knee/thigh/upper leg (give me a break I was nearly 100 yards away) and into the back of the net it went. The game was only six minutes old and Morecambe were taking in water fast.

The Pools fans were delirious and the noise was incredible from the away end, so much so that they brought the police around to stand at the front terracing. Not so much a case of looking for troublemakers, but as a precaution should the residents in the nearby housing estate complain about the racket that the Pools fans were making.

Pools' pace was relentless and to give Morecambe their due they tried their best to play football, knocking it out to the wings and the baldy lad Ellison was making his usual nuisance of himself.

From a a throw-in Morecambe scored an unexpected goal. Their forward was not closed down and Carson will feel disappointed that he was beaten at the near post. This goal gave Morecambe a lift, particularly as it took the sting out of Pools tails, and they pressed forward and on a couple of occasions could have sneaked another goal and gone in at half time on level terms.

It was later revealed that Craig Hignett gave his troops a real going over at the interval and they came out much as they did in the first half - in top gear. and tore back into Morecambe, and it wasn't too long before Nathan Thomas scored a contender for goal of the season, taking on three defenders before curling the ball into the bottom right hand corner ...as he was facing it, or the the left hand corner as we on the terracing were looking at it. Either way it did not matter,  it was three one to the away side.

Probably in order to slow the pace of the game down and steady the ship, Laurent came on for Gray, and shortly afterwards, in the 70th minute, Walker came on for Woods, and Oates for Nathan Thomas. The latter, who left the field to rapturous applause and the away end singing 'Nathan Thomas he is one of our own' needless to say took his time leaving the field of play.

Morecambe to their credit continued to attack but from a break Brad Walker ran into the box and was brought down by keeper Roche and referee Boyeson produced a straight red giving the Irishman his marching orders for the second time in a month.

Brad Walker, to give him his due, wanted to take the penalty but Luke James was pleading with him for the ball he was clinging onto. The situation was quickly resolved as the Poolies behind the goal started chanting 'Luke Luke Luke' and instructions came from the bench that the Peterborough player should take the spot kick, and Walker relinquished the ball.

The penalty was held up for what seemed an eternity as Morecambe did not have a substitute goalkeeper on the bench, and it took an age for Kenyon,  their goalscorer, to don the keeper's gloves. All academic as it turned out, as James slotted home, much to the delight of the crowd and himself, who in turn ended up getting booked for his celebrations as it was his first goal in a year and he was delighted to score in front of the Poolie hordes as much as we were delighted for him.

Morecambe kept pressing forward and Featherstone suffered his only blot on the match by getting caught in possession and Morecambe scored as a result. 

A few minutes later Luke James came flying down the right wing, cut in and put in a low cross which Oates tapped into the back of the net. Five-two.  Job done.

A few minutes before full time  the ever improving Jake Carroll had to leave the field with a head injury leaving both teams with ten men. 

Summary
Pools played  most of the match at an electrifying pace. Would this have been the case if Billy Paynter had been in the side? I'm a big fan of his, but I think not.
Hopefully this will be the way Pools play next season, but if we cannot secure Luke James on loan next season Hignett will have to look elsewhere for someone who is prepared to run at defenders as well as closing them down as he does.
The remainder of the current season will see fringe players being given the opportunity to show Craig Hignett if they are good enough to perform at a first team level and earn a contract. I for one would like to see Connor Smith given a run out to see if he can cut the mustard.

Man of the match went to Nathan Thomas who terrorised the Morecambe defence, albeit at times he should have made a simple pass instead of show-boating,  ultimately losing the ball on a couple of occasions. However at present his confidence is sky high so he is game for anything.
My man of the match  however went to Nicky Featherstone,' and I am his biggest critic. I always feel he slows the game down. Admittedly he was responsible for Morecambe's second, but that aside he was superb all round. Lately he is making runs into the penalty box, an area which previously he has been unfamiliar with. He does need to have the confidence to have a shot at goal instead of trying to find someone else to do that job. If he does score one he might get a taste for it. 

With a fellow midfielder in the side with him in the mould of a Mark Tinkler we could see a very different player altogether.

The end to a perfect day. Not quite. On the coach I made a few phone calls and met up with some pals and had an excellent meal and a few pints in the new Raj Indian restaurant just outside Sedgefield. Now it was the end to a perfect day!

*yet more Shakespeare

[Funnily enough, two contributors submitted reports of this match and both had a very similar title and a picture of the statue. With a lot of match reports to get in this month, and having used another of his reports elsewhere, Alreet was the one who sadly missed out - Ed.]