Third top of the table Sale travelled to Stanley Park in a must win game for them but arrived to find a well drilled and exceptionally determined Blackpool, ready to make amends for their 3-0 loss away from home earlier in the season.
Having played Sale for the past three seasons, the Tangerine’s knew what to expect and took no chances in getting off to a strong start. Quick and accurate passing worked well between the central midfield of Pasqualino and K. Morrow, down the flanks of Boniface and L. Morrow and into the paths of strikers Morgan and Mortimer.
It was five whole minutes before Sale had the ball in Blackpool’s half, but an excellent defensive display from Gettins, Latimer, Abbott and Woodman dispelled any myth that Sale might take the lead. Tackling from Chadwick gave the midfield a brake and a quick run down the right flank saw L. Morrow square the ball to Motimer who casually dispatched the ball onto the backboard to take a well deserved lead.
However, Blackpool were let off the hook minutes before half time when a central defensive blunder left a sole Sale striker to accelerate past a commited keeper only to shoot well wide.
The second half saw much of the same. Both teams, in parts, playing some of their best hockey of the season. Again, Motimer coming close to opening up the gap. Sale voices were becoming raised and their hockey suffered, Blackpool having chances from the top of the D that were not capitalised on.
In a second wind, Sale had a flurry of penalty corners which brought out the best of goal keeper Kilshaw. Minutes later, and from another short corner, Sale broke the defence down and levelled the scores to 1-1.
The match finished a draw, the first of the season for Blackpool. Next week they travel to similarly placed Blackburn, for another closely contested game.
© Joe Boniface 22/2/04