Bentley backs Turner to fill Barkhuizen's boots
Morecambe boss Jim Bentley has challenged Rhys Turner to fill the space created by Tom Barkhuizen's departure.
Turner, who joined the Shrimps on a two-year contract over the summer, has endured a frustrating first few months at the Globe Arena.
He only made one start in the opening three months, coming in their 4-1 Checkatrade Trophy loss to Bury at the end of August.
His other 10 league and cup appearances came off the bench before being brought into the starting XI at Crewe Alexandra on November 22.
The former Stockport County and Oldham Athletic youngster repaid Bentley’s faith with a goal at Gresty Road before starring in the victory over Plymouth Argyle four days later.
He should have scored from close range, only to hit the bar, while his pace and ability in the air proved a constant headache for the Argyle backline.
“We’ve lost Tom, who has been a massive player for us, but Rhys has stepped up to the plate,” Bentley said of the 21-year-old.
“He’s got the capabilities to be a good player for us but he’s had a lot of injuries over the last couple of years.
“Because of that we’ve been getting him up to speed but we still hadn’t seen what we wanted from him yet.
“The penny seems to have dropped though and he’s doing a lot better; he’s been working in the gym, getting physically stronger and looking all the better for it.
“He’s also an adaptable player who can play out wide or straight down the middle.
“We think he has strengths over Tom Barkhuizen; he can go past a player, he’s outstanding in the air and I thought he was great against Plymouth.”
Another player with a point to prove against Argyle was Aaron Wildig who, like Turner, starred.
The midfielder produced a man-of-the-match display which could have brought two goals.
Instead, he was denied by a fine save from Argyle keeper Luke McCormick and headed another effort against the bar.
Cole Stockton and Kevin Ellison also had opportunities to make the Shrimps’ win a more emphatic one but two goals proved enough via Michael Rose’s first-half penalty and Peter Murphy’s header on the hour.
Particularly pleasing for the Morecambe coaching staff was the way they scored from a set piece – especially after Barry Roche’s error had gifted Plymouth an equaliser.
“Aaron is coming back from a lot of time out – but I don’t know what he has to do to score,” Bentley said.
“If he keeps doing that then he will score goals but Cole also led the line well and Kevin could have scored in the second half.
“Murph got the winner and it was good to see us score from a corner but, I have to say, defensively we were outstanding.
“Barry held his hands up for the mistake but he was still aware enough to make that late save from their free kick.
“I thought we caused Plymouth plenty of problems in the first half, which was how the penalty came about.
“It was a great day for us, a great win and there were plenty of positives.”