Newly promoted Blackpool 2XI, started off a new campaign in Division 8 with an away trip to Division 9 winners Bury Old Boys. With two draws in the previous season both teams where desperate to secure a win and it seemed that Blackpool were the more determined side going 1 – 0 up early in the game with Chris Hocking opening his account for the season. Blackpool once again fell victim to Bury star striker Fiddler allowing him two soft goals at the near post to allow Bury to take a 2 – 1 lead. Fiddler went on to get a hat-trick against a much better Blackpool side. The game finished 3 – 3 with a further two goals coming from Simon ‘The Hunter’ Thomas and myself.
Division 8 was yet to show what it had to offer and I was determined that each game was approached one at a time with nothing but 3 points the focus each week. Pre-match preparation was to play a key role in the season, making sure players were organized and focused, not only individually but also as a team.
Our first home game saw a visit from Glaxo and I could not have been more pleased with a 5 – 1 lead at the half way stage coming away with a 5 – 3 win. The following week was a trip to Liverpool to play Mossley Hill which Blackpool did not turn up for at all as we found ourselves under immense pressure going 1 – 0 down early in the 1st half. Fortunately for Blackpool, on form Martin Hayes got his season goal tally off to a start with two fantastic strikes to give Blackpool the lead at half time. Mossley Hill soon reversed that lead in their favour with Blackpool struggling to keep up with the quick pace of the Liverpool side. A late passing move from Hayes and Hocking allowed Wright to slot home for a deserved point.
On the 16th October a young Northern side visited the Park, and everyone in the Blackpool squad apart from Kilshaw, Taylor and the Atherton brothers managed to score in a 15 – 1 thrashing. Northern later pulled out of the league taking with them our three points and the 15 goal tally.
The toughest game of the season was yet to follow this thrashing with a trip to the lakes to play Keswick. Vice Captain Simon Thomas stepped in to take charge in my absence and what proved to be a long journey with a long uninspiring wait watching the 1st XI triumph over their division 4 counterparts ended with a 2 – 1 defeat.
We quickly bounced back with a 5 – 1 win away to Preston with Midfield duo Paco and Morti both finding themselves on the score sheet. Unfortunately this win was overshadowed by a disappointing 2 – 2 draw at home to Bolton with the home side throwing away a 2 – 0 lead at half time. The only highlight of the day being a goal from 3rd XI captain Alex Diver in his first appearance for the 2nd XI in the season.
On the last Saturday before the Christmas break, Blackpool hosted rivals Bury to Stanley Park with once again both teams desperate to beat each out after playing out 3 draws in the last 3 games. Blackpool found themselves behind early again and despite a disallowed goal from Nathan Woodman and David Wright’s 3rd of the season, Bury came out on top 2 – 1 winners.
As the Christmas break came, a mid table position did not reflect the hockey that Blackpool were displaying, and a lack in concentration in several games ended in Blackpool dropping valuable points that could prove to be vital come the end of the season.
The first half of the season ended in only 2 wins, 3 draws and 2 defeats out of 7. Disappointing on paper by all means.
The New Year saw a fresh start for Blackpool with a visit to bottom of the league Southport coming away with a hard fought 3 – 1 win. Jay Currey, Martin Hayes and Chris Hocking all getting on the score sheet.
With every team in the league now played apart from Carlisle, Blackpool were now able to go to every game knowing what to expect from each opposition. This would prove to be pivotal with a tricky away trip to Glaxo and a home visit from Keswick and Mossley Hill in the coming weeks, both of whom we struggled against early in the season.
Determination and persistence payed off with a 2 – 1 win at Glaxo, a 3 – 2 win against Keswick and a fantastic performance against Mossley Hill to beat them 4 – 0. Goals from Wright, Allen, Woodman, Hayes and Paul Atherton all vital in these games.
With only 5 games left, three of which were at home, promotion was definitely a possibility following the previous 4 wins. I will be honest and say that I was more worried about bottom of the league Southport, and mid table Bolton than that of our local rivals, Preston and 3rd placed Carlisle who we had yet to play.
Preston came first and once again Blackpool fell behind 1 – 0 before converting 4 through Wright, Allen, Hocking and Thomas to give a 4 – 1 lead. We conceded two more goals but managed to hold on to finish the game 4 – 3.
Next up was Bolton who are always a hard team to travel too, and I was proud of my team that day, walking off the pitch with a very comfortable 5 – 1 win. This for me was the turning point in the promotion battle. I now knew this squad had the determination and the self belief that they could get promoted.
Southport and Carlisle left to play and with Southport visiting Blackpool after a win over Carlisle the week before, I certainly was left asking questions of their captain after walking away with a 5 – 0 win. Allen, Wright, Thomas and Mortimer all netting.
Southport’s win over Carlisle had set things up nicely for us in the penultimate weekend of the season. A draw was all that would be needed to take Blackpool to Division 7. In usual fashion Carlisle scored first but a penalty stroke and corner from myself put us 2 – 1 in front with time running out for Carlisle. Despite this they managed to pull one back giving us a nervous last 10 minutes to play out. Carlisle piled on the pressure and managed to win numerous short corners in the last five minutes but Kilshaw excelled himself to give Blackpool the draw they needed to secure 2nd position in the Division and promotion to Division 7.
I was pleased to be able to give a few up and coming stars of the club a run out for the 2XI on the final weekend in Carlisle. Namely the Payne brothers, Olly Smith, Adam George and Chris Pickles all playing major roles in the defence and midfield in a superb 6 – 2 win.
As captain of Blackpool 2nd XI I am ecstatic with the team gaining consecutive promotions from Division 9. This in my opinion will prove vital due to the 1st XI being promoted in the same season to Division 3. This is important as the gap between standards will not have changed and will only improve at both levels. This in the long run will make the move between teams within the club easier for players benefiting the club as a whole.
I was pleased to see many players from the club, not only in the final weekend, but throughout the season go between teams to provide support and stability when required. Particular mention must go towards Rob Abbott, Dave Morgan and Alex Diver for there patience and management of a difficult situation that arose in the 1st half of the season. I would also like to thank my temporary vice captain Simon Thomas for all his hard work and contributions throughout the season.
I understand that there was a big change in team management this season within the 2nd XI and I pay tribute to the attitude that all players have shown in respect to my decisions during selection both on and off the pitch.
I would like to extend thanks to Morti and Paco for all the invaluable knowledge and experience that they provided to me and the team on many occasions. Much of this season report could not have been compiled without the help of Phil Taylor, who has written nearly all the match reports this season despite his University work load.
Finally I would like to finish off where I started at last years AGM, by correcting myself in saying, Mid-table, you’re having a laugh…