They say good things happen to those who wait. Perhaps the All Blacks might disagree, but generally there’s a ring of truth. And Saturday was that day for this reporter.
OK it’s a long story and I need to start at the beginning. I’ve now been playing hockey for 25 years or more (which is a scary thought in itself) and started out my career in the old inside-right position, back in the days of 2-3-5 formations and bully-offs to start a game. I continued to play up front off and on and scored many a goal flinging myself towards balls on grass pitches the length and breadth of Yorkshire.
I continued to play at Bristol University, and was even top scorer in 1990-1 when playing for the 4th team with 29 goals. I was promoted to the 3rd team in the following season and even had occasional appearances for the 2nd’s. And you need to understand what a powerful club the UBMHC were, as the 1st’s won the UAU (equivalent of BUSA) competition that year beating Loughborough on the way. Our exploits in the uni bar also made headlines in the student paper “horribly male and intimidating”, but that’s another story.
I then went to live and work in Glasgow and joined Hillhead’s 2nd team, still as a striker, so more goals were scored, and I can even claim to have scored at least one goal in the Scottish National League after a few appearances for the 1st team (OK it was only Division 4 but it still sounds quite impressive).
I then joined the sleeping giant that was Blackpool HC in 1997. At that point there was a surplus of strikers with Andy Mortimer and the late great Daz Hamer in their prime and Dave Morgan snapping at their heels. So inevitably with the club struggling for even 11 players on a weekly basis, I was placed in all manner of positions, although mainly in left and right midfield at first. There was certainly no sight of a goal with us regularly being beaten and relegated in the first year and struggling in Division 6 for another two years.
The club’s fortunes started to pick up in 2000. Some say it was the start of Andy Gerrard’s reign as captain, others say it was the recruitment of the Morrow brothers to the struggling midfield, but I reckon it was when I was pushed back to defence to partner Rob Abbott and form a defensive wall. Three successive promotions followed, including being crowned Division 5 Champions in 2001/02, up to the heights of Division 3, which is where the 1st team still remain.
Of course during that time I never had a sniff at goal, and instead saw others come and go from the 1st team whilst getting their name on the scorers’ chart. The likes of Mike Sharp, Dom Chadwick, Warren Edmondson, Alex Diver, T Smith, Warren Van Rensburg, Paul Wareing and Gareth Gettings all scored for the 1st’s. I mean even Joe Boniface scored a solitary goal in 2003 and who can forget him taking off his shirt and whirling around his head!
The body clock kept ticking and I start to drop down to the 2nd team, with occasional appearances for the 1st’s when they’re short, but still playing in defence. However last year I managed to cross the halfway line for the first time in years, and there seems to be more time and space in the lower divisions. I narrowly missed out on what would have been a dramatic sliding goal against Bury GSOB last year, but otherwise I have had 10 barren years.
And so finally we get to Saturday’s events ——————————(the actual match report starts here)
It looked promising when Southport arrived with only 10 players, mixing a blend of youth and experience, whilst Blackpool had the maximum 4 subs.
The game started in a relaxed way with Blackpool passing and moving with ease, but coming up against a stiff Southport defence. An early counter-attack saw a ball unlikely strike a Blackpool defender in the D to give a short corner away, from which Southport scored from a rebound after an initial Rainbow stop.
As all Blackpool sides are experienced at conceding early goals, there was no panic. In fact just minutes later a short corner was won, and Simon Allen struck home with accuracy from the top of the D, for his first goal for the club having only joined this season.
Blackpool then took control for the rest of the half and could have scored a second when another short corner was stopped by a foot on the goal-line. Simon Allen stepped up to take the resultant penalty flick, but the Southport keeper pulled off a great save.
Southport had their moments, especially when counter attacking with their youthful winners, but half-time came with the score still at 1-1. The Blackpool side were encouraged to stay calm and keep their composure and the goals would come. Ryan Lynch came on at the start of the 2nd half and immediately started to cause problems for Southport, linking well with Donnelly up front. Paul Atherton scored the second goal striking well after coming in from his left wing.
Now we come to the all important third goal, which made the win secure. It started at the back, from a Blackpool defence of Rayner, Bancroft, Bould and Allen who refused to yield another goal. Latimer found space and ran over the half-way line (a rare occurrence in the last few years), passed to Wicker on the right who responded with a little 1-2 as Latimer was still on a run. Another quick pass to Donnelly followed, who then proceeded to beat a defender and enter the D from the right, and got a shot off towards goal. A save was made but it rebounded back, right into the path of Latimer who had continued his run much to his amazement. Spotting a rare opportunity he wasted no time in pushing the ball with force towards the far corner of the goal in a dive reminiscent of his younger days playing on grass. Somehow it was pinpoint accurate and the keeper couldn’t reach it. Latimer then ran back to the half-way line high-fiving his team mates and calling out in an embarrassing manner how it had taken 10 years for him to score a goal for the club. There was then an agonising moment when the umpires conferred and it looked like the goal could be denied, but local umpire Steve Bradbury stuck to the original decision, which is just as well as there would have been hell to pay otherwise!
The rest of the game passed in a blur for this reporter, although Paul Atherton scored a second, and Blackpool played some good hockey, making full use of all the subs, which is creating a stronger squad week by week. The final score was 4-1 and the squad is now full of confidence again, following captain Rayner’s return from a temporary absence last week, and are looking forward to another fruitful season.
The day was capped off by England beating Australia in the Rugby World Cup quarter finals and then New Zealand being dumped by France. We look forward to England beating France in the semi-final next week.
© Peter Latimer 12/10/07