Lytham 3 Runcorn 2 – on no, sorry that was on the pitch next door – ours was an end of season stalemate where neither side needed to win

Blackpool Men’s 1s 1-1 Northop Hall Men’s 2s

by Peter Latimer

A surreal day, turning up for a 4pm start instead of the usual 2pm (or even occasional earlier push) due to needing the umpiring couple of Allen & Wright to return from the 2nd’s game in Bolton.

Then chatting to the visiting Runcorn players even though we were playing Northop. Due to Lytham playing on our home ground on the dual astro pitches at Stanley Park. Runcorn seemed confident they would beat the struggling Lytham side, oblivious to the fact that they’d picked up 4 pts on their travels to difficult opponents the previous weekend.

With their push half an hour before ours, and with three goals in the first 10 minutes or so, our attention was somewhat distracted from our own game, but then we were already mathematically safe from relegation (what a difference to last season’s battle to the last game and beyond to the league AGM!!!)

Once again we were without our normal captain as he was attending the Calcutta Cup and generally getting bevvied up with his other mates – he claims when it was booked he thought it was the end of March, but just shows what a rugby fan he is, as the Six Nations always finishes before our hockey season does – pah just as well we were already safe otherwise we’d have been giving him a hell of a hard time for leaving us in the lurch.

But Dave Morgan once again took over as stand-in captain, so just like times gone past, although the make-up of the team is quite different to even 2 years ago. Dec O’Hara and Sam Goudie have stepped up from 2nd team and juniors, there’s new players in Atish Mistry, Simon Thomas and Mike Thom, added to the old guard of Kilshaw, Latimer, Whitley and Wright.

All in all a fresh combination of youth and experience and in a relaxed frame of mind ready for a good dame of hockey. We started well and were all over a Northop team who look weaker than normal (perhaps due to a 4pm start clashing with both Hockey World Cup finals day and the 6 Nations clashes of Ireland v Wales and Scotland v England.

An early penalty stroke was awarded which Morgan confidently stepped up to take, with the rest of the team gathering round Wright’s call for a love-in. The umpire didn’t give Morgan the normal “ready steady go” and so he fumbled his flick giving the Northop keeper an easy save.

No matter Blackpool continued to batter Northop’s defences and despite several chances going begging, it was still early in the half when Sam Goudie dribbled past several defenders and nipped the ball into the D for Simon Thomas to strike the first goal.

Now at this point Blackpool started to relax thinking the job was over and it would remain as easy as it had started. But it was not to be, with Northop finally starting to play some hockey and testing Blackpool’s defence.

With a defensive lapse, one of their counter attacks yielded two players in the D against one defender and they managed to get the ball passed to the unmarked player who duly scored.

1-1 at half-time, and I’ve forgotten to mention captain Morgan’s dire near-miss to the left of an open goal, but to his credit he did own up to being rubbish in his team talk, but otherwise urging us to make the most of the match and grab hold of the win.

More of the same in the second half with chances going begging. Mike Thom had a great chance when rushing into the D following a quick cross from the right, only to launch the ball over the goal. Morgan’s luck didn’t change and even short corners were in short supply.

Blackpool’s defence were in control in open play, playing high up the field, in effect helping out the midfield, but Northop did manage to win several short corners of their own. With them already showing off their drag flick in the first half, they could easily have scored again if it wasn’t for keeper Graeme Kilshaw parrying with his hand, perhaps not quite as dramatically as last week but important just the same.

Matt Atherton did well when coming on as substitute up front but the final touches just weren’t coming off, so ultimately Blackpool had to settle for a single point. Against a side higher than them in the table this might seem a good result, but there were 3pts for the taking and if this side want to go on a promotion run next year this is the sort of game they have to win.

To add to surrealism, changing room talk got on to the shared experiences of playing against Winnington Park’s Mike Dodd (cf previous match reports) and the merits of converting Div 3 & 4 to regional (to which I disagree). Back to the Cricket Club and some funny looking characters celebrating a wedding forcing us upstairs to a room being renovated, and the small TV showing some provincial rugby league rather than the end of the more important national match up with England & Scotland. I must remember to ask Rob what the score was ….

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