‘Twas the month before Christmas and the fog had descended across the Fylde coast making it an eerie encounter between local rivals Blackpool and Lytham St Annes.
Blackpool were excited to be back at their spiritual home of Stanley Park with a brand new pitch. Admittedly it was covered in sand rather than the glorious water-based pitch of five years ago, but it played true without the bobbles of recent years and the hope was that it would once again return to be a fortress for Blackpool’s home games.
A fantastic crowd turned out for this first match on the virgin turf, helped by the fact that the 2nd team had a blank weekend, but also buzzing with the excitement of a local derby, so much so that even the Gazette sent down a photographer to catch the action. Richard Blacow, a Blackpool first teamer last year who was sold to Lytham to pay for the pitch, was also present having injured himself by training too hard for Lytham’s 1st team, and must have had mixed feelings knowing both sets of players well.
Despite Lytham enjoying a 10pt cushion over Blackpool in the league, Blackpool started the stronger, determinedly chasing the ball and executing some fine passing moves. The first goal was created after 15 minutes by striker David Wright and finished by an easy tap in for winger James Slater.
Lytham retaliated and several of their attacks caused problems in the Blackpool defence of Boniface-Latimer-Brookes with short corners conceded, however none were converted. Blackpool’s second goal came from a swiftly taken Joe Boniface defensive clearance and converted by good work from David Wright. Blackpool rotated its full 15 man squad but could not increase the lead and at half-time it remained 2-0.
Young defender Craig Brookes, who has been highly impressive in recent weeks, took a break at half-time as his ankle was causing some pain. Captain Rob Abbott shuffled his players by switching Rob Pasqualino into the right back position, preferring to keep the natural right back Dan Woodman in the new holding midfield role that was working so well.
Disaster struck Blackpool just after the break as the last defender Rob Pasqualino lost his footing on the newly laid sand just as a long ball was sent to a Lytham striker, leaving an easy goal to be converted.
Things got even worse for Blackpool as minutes later David Wright was yellow carded, presumably for arguing with an umpire as is his usual style, following a green card warning in the first half. Last year a similar dismissal cost Blackpool two points against Brooklands and ultimately relegation from Division 3. This time another goal was conceded as defensively Blackpool were caught short by another Lytham long ball. Keeper Nick Rainbow blamed Pasqualino again and anarchy erupted in the Blackpool ranks. Captain Rob Abbott restored calm by substituting Pasqualino and bringing back on Brookes for the safer 1st half defensive set up.
Blackpool were determined not to settle for a draw and began to get back into the game. Once back to 11 men they pushed on and had wave upon wave of attacks on the Lytham goal. There were numerous fine saves from the Lytham keeper, fluffed shots in front of open goals and even rebounds from the posts. Once again the home side’s short corner routine was not good enough with endless opportunities wasted.
Finally the whistle blew for a 2-2 draw. It was a great match and Blackpool were happy that they had gained their first point in six weeks, but really felt that they deserved a full three. Both teams retired back to Blackpool Cricket Club and enjoyed the culinary delights on offer away from the cold and fog.