Blackpool 3-5 Morecambe: Mark Howard returns from injury lay-off in reserve side's cup defeat

Mark Howard featured for the first time since March
Mark Howard featured for the first time since March
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Mark Howard returned from a seven month lay-off to feature for Blackpool’s reserve side as a youthful line-up tasted defeat in their Central League Cup opener.

READ MORE: Blackpool v Morecambe as it happened

The 33-year-old was kept busy during his 45-minute cameo against Morecambe, making a string of impressive stops.

It was Howard’s first action since the experienced goalkeeper ruptured his Achilles in the 3-0 defeat at Burton Albion in March, an injury that led to him undergoing surgery.

Howard, who captained the side, couldn’t have done much to stop the away side from scoring three first-half goals in Pool’s opening Central League Cup group stage game, which was played at Squires Gate’s Brian Addison Stadium.

Morecambe added two further goals in the second half, as they claimed the three points despite Ewan Bange, Emil Jaaskelainen and Nathan Shaw getting amongst the goals for the Seasiders.

Howard was called into action after just three minutes, getting down to his right to tip a low shot around the post.

It came after Morecambe’s Kyle Hawley had bustled his way past Pool’s backline, only to come unstuck after going one-on-one against Howard.

The Seasiders slowly grew into the game thanks to some smart link-up play from Ewan Bange, which saw Nathan Shaw flash a dangerous ball across the face of goal.

Pool worked the ball back to Rob Apter on the edge of the box who manoeuvred some space for himself before flashing a shot just wide of goal.

On 15 minutes, Howard made a stunning save to keep his side on level terms, flying across goal to tip a goalbound shot - which was destined for the top corner - over the bar.

The visitors were made to pay for that miss just three minutes later when Blackpool took the lead.

It came after the Morecambe goalkeeper spilled Apter’s shot straight into the path of Ewan Bange, who tapped home into the empty net for his third goal in two reserve games.

Pool went close to a second shortly afterwards, Emil Jaaskelainen shooting narrowly wide with his father Jussi watching on from the sidelines.

The young Seasiders were pegged back on 24 minutes when Howard was beaten by a header.

Mendes Gomes was the man to get the goal, directing a header downwards into the turf and nestling in the top corner.

Pool were given a let-off as Morecambe went in search of a second, the visitor’s winger blazing over the Pool bar when well positioned down the left.

But he made amends a couple of minutes later, firing Morecambe in front at the second attempt.

He had initially been denied by the legs of Howard after Pool’s static backline had failed to react to a dangerous cross flashing across their 18-yard box.

The home side, led by first-team coach Ian Dawes, were fortunate to find themselves just the one goal behind when Morecambe’s number seven produced an air-shot just six yards out from goal.

The backline continued to look nervy, Howard once again called into action to make a flying save to deny Gomes who had broken clean through on goal.

The two sides continued to exchange chances in what was an end-to-end affair, Apter seeing his powerful effort tipped over the bar.

Blackpool got their equaliser just two minutes before the break when Jaaskelainen did well to take Will McGladdery’s long ball down, before prodding home beyond the onrushing goalkeeper.

But Pool were level for barely 60 seconds, Hawley restoring their lead by chipping the ball over Howard and into the back of the net via the inside of the post.

Pool were punished for being far too open at the back once again, which was their undoing for the entirety of the opening half.

The defence was again left watching on as Pool found themselves falling 4-2 behind with the first action of the second half.

Hawley grabbed his second of the game for the visitors as he was left free to fire a first-time volley past the new keeper Monks, after Howard was replaced at the break.

With Blackpool making a number of changes at the start of the second period, that affected the flow of the game which was stop-start from this point onwards.

Morecambe were always in control and eventually added a fifth just after the hour-mark, Gomes demonstrating his strength before firing a low shot past Monks to add his second of the game.

Shaw came within inches of pulling a goal back for Blackpool with 20 minutes remaining, clipping the outside of the post with a low drive.

The impressive midfielder did eventually add his name to the scoresheet, drilling home from 10 yards to make it 5-3 after the visitors had failed to clear their lines from a corner.

It was nothing more than a mere consolation though, as Morecambe kept hold of the ball well in the closing stages to see out the rest of the game, although Bange did see a close-range effort saved by the keeper at the death.

TEAMS

Blackpool: Howard (Monks), Sinclair (Goumon), Winstanley, McGladdery, Shaw, Adarkwa, Kanga (Beaumont), Apter (Wilson), Liptrop, Bange, Jaaskelainen