Morecambe 1-1 Blackpool: CJ Hamilton rescues the Seasiders a draw in final pre-season friendly ahead of Bristol City opener

Blackpool recovered from a goal down to play out a draw with League One newcomers Morecambe in their final pre-season friendly of the summer.

Saturday, 31st July 2021, 4:52 pm
Updated Saturday, 31st July 2021, 4:54 pm

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Morecambe v Blackpool RECAP

Blackpool recovered from a goal down to play out a draw with League One newcomers Morecambe in their final pre-season friendly of the summer.

Wes McDonald had given the home side a surprise lead in the first-half, the goal coming very much against the run of play.

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CJ Hamilton rescued the Seasiders a draw after they had fallen behind in the first half

While Neil Critchley’s men were in control of the majority of the game, they were lacking a cutting edge in the final third.

That all changed in the second-half when CJ Hamilton got them back on level terms, forcing the ball home from close range after Keshi Anderson had rattled the woodwork.

Pool pushed ahead in the final stages for a late winner, but Morecambe held firm to deny the Seasiders a win ahead of their league opener at Bristol City next weekend.

It means the men in tangerine finish a disrupted pre-season campaign with two wins, two defeats and a draw.

The Seasiders were boosted by the return of Stuart Moore, Marvin Ekpiteta, Kevin Stewart, Keshi Anderson and Josh Bowler to their 21-man squad.

The quarter had been missing for Tuesday night’s slender 1-0 defeat to Burnley, Ekpiteta and Anderson absent as a result of slight knocks.

New recruit Tyreece John-Jules, meanwhile, was named on the substitute’s bench fresh from completing his loan move from Arsenal.

Leicester City defender Mitch Clark, who had been on trial with the Seasiders and featured in the games against Carlisle United and Burnley, wasn’t involved.

Daniel Gretarsson (shoulder), Matty Virtue (ACL) and Gary Madine (groin) remain sidelined by injury.

Elsewhere, Teddy Howe and Joe Nuttall continue to be left out, while Bez Lubala remains unavailable due to a ‘club matter’. Jordan Thorniley and Kenny Dougall are also absent.

Morecambe, who are gearing up for their campaign in League One, named former Seasiders Kyle Letheren and Kelvin Mellor in their squad.

The Seasiders, cheered on by a vocal away following, almost made the perfect start, with an early sight of goal within the first 60 seconds.

CJ Hamilton, playing up front alongside Jerry Yates, was picked out in space by Demetri Mitchell, but the forward man was crowded out and his eventual shot was well blocked.

Hamilton continued to offer Pool’s main attacking threat early, using his electric pace to skip past his parker before pulling the ball back into the path of Keshi Anderson, only for Ryan Delaneyto nip in and intercept.

Mitchell, Pool’s standout performer in pre-season, then stung the palms of the Morecambe keeper after cutting in from the right flank and unleashing a powerful effort.

The visitors won the ball back high up the pitch on a fairly regular basis early on, forcing Morecambe into some mistakes.

The Seasiders struggled to take advantage though, too often their final ball letting them down in the final down - much to the frustration of head coach Neil Critchley, who turned around in disgust after one particular move broke down.

Critchley’s frustration became even more apparent a few moments later when the Shrimps took the lead against the run of play with their first effort of the afternoon.

It was a very well worked goal, to their credit, as Wes McDonald fired a first-time effort past Chris Maxwell and high into the roof of the net from Arthur Gnahoua’s right-wing pullback.

Despite the setback, Pool continued to play their game, Mitchell letting fly from range for a second time of the afternoon, only to miss the target on this occasion.

Anderson continued to get on the ball in some threatening positions in the final third, but too often his final ball and his decision-making would let him down, or he’d over-complicate things and try to unnecessarily beat his man.

“Cross the ball”, Critchley bellowed from the touchline on the half-hour mark as Hamilton and Anderson combined once again, this time on the left flank, only to dilly-dally over the ball and lose all momentum.

Anderson did much better to pick out Mitchell with a delightful through-ball after skipping past a couple of challenges in the middle of the park, but the ball hit Mitchell’s thigh before he could run onto it, bringing an abrupt end to Blackpool’s attack.

Jerry Yates, who was living off scraps in the early stages, fired well over after being picked out by a clever penetrative pass from Richard Keogh.

Despite controlling much of the play, Pool were susceptible to the counter attack.

The Seasiders were given another warning sign via this method when Adam Phillips beat James Husband to a searching ball down the right, before using his strength to cut inside the defender and unleashing a powerful, rising shot which flew just over Maxwell’s bar.

The half ended with Yates combining well with Reece James - playing in midfield - whose shot bounced into the turf and bobbled into the grateful hands of Letheren.

Critchley made just one change at the interval, replacing James Husband with Marvin Ekpiteta - the defender returning after a week’s absence.

The Seasiders were dealt a major blow barely 10 minutes into the second-half when Mitchell was forced off the pitch with a knock.

The winger cried out in anger as he hobbled off the pitch, Josh Bowler the man to replace him.

The former Everton man made an instant impact, playing a key role in Blackpool’s equaliser just before the hour mark.

The winger picked out Anderson with a clever through-ball, Anderson rocking the underside of the crossbar with a powerful drive on his weaker left foot.

The ball appeared to cross the line, but Hamilton made sure by forcing the ball home after a mini scramble a few yards out from goal.

Garbutt went close to a second with a 30-yard free-kick, with Letheren did well to tip over the bar, before Bowler forced a smart save out of sub keeper Andre Da Silva Mendes.

Pool made their customary changes midway through the second-half, Oliver Casey, Kevin Stewart, Sonny Carey, Shayne Lavery and Tyreece John-Jules all coming off the bench.

Like Bowler, Lavery made an instant impact off the bench, showing hunger and desire to win the ball back and force Morecambe’s backline into mistakes.

At the other end, Maxwell, who had been a spectator for most of the second half, got down well to his left to save Aaron Wildig’s downward header.

Lavery’s bright display almost brought a goal with 14 minutes left on the clock, the Northern Irishman forcing a smart save out of Da Silva Mendes.

Pool still had to be alert at the back, the Shrimps threatening again when Wildig met a deep cross with a goalbound header which flew into the body of Callum Connolly. The hosts appealed for handball, but a corner was the best they got for their efforts.

Critchley’s men continued to bang at the door in search of a late winner, Grant Ward going close with a rasping drive on his left foot.

The Seasiders were almost punished in the final minute of normal time when they were given a late scare.

Jonah Ayunga was allowed to go through one-on-one with Maxwell after Pool had been dispossessed of the ball near their own goal. Thankfully Maxwell came off his line quickly to make a vital stop.

It resulted in some late pressure from the home side, but Pool managed to hold on and play out the remaining seconds without conceding.

Attention now switches to next weekend’s league opener at Ashton Gate, which spells Blackpool’s return to the Championship after a six-year absence.

TEAMS

Morecambe: Letheren, Cooney, O’Connor, Delaney, Gibson, Diagouraga, McAlmont, Wildig, Gnahoua, McDonald, Phillips

Subs: Da Silva Mendes, Mensah, Mellor, Lavelle, Ayunga, McLoughlin, Andresson, Price, Jones, McPake, Stockton

Blackpool: Maxwell, Connolly, Keogh, Husband, Garbutt, James, Ward, Mitchell, Anderson, Hamilton, Yates

Subs: Grimshaw, Moore, Casey, Ekpiteta, Stewart, Antwi, Carey, Bowler, Lavery, John-Jules

Referee: Andy Haines

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