Strikers… Who needs them?

On a strange day of multiple venue changes, illegal driving manoeuvres, missing umpires and forgotten shirts, Blackpool managed to get their topsy-turvy season back on track with a 6-1 win away at Mossley Hill.

An early phone call from the Mossley skipper to Nick Rainbow letting him know the pitch was frozen put the pre-match preparations in jeopardy. A few quick texts later with a new postcode and start time, and a bit of hope everyone would get see the message, the team set off to Merseyside. Luckily everyone saw it and a full complement of players arrived at the new venue, Liverpool Hope University. However the sports centre staff were puzzled to see the Mossley and Blackpool colours and it soon became clear a booking error had taken place. With the temperature well above zero, the decision was taken to return to the original venue of St. Edwards College in the hope the pitch had now thawed out and the match could go ahead.

What should have been a rather simple fifteen minute journey across town, turned into a deleted episode of Wacky Races as the attempted convoy soon became separated. Dave Latimer showed faith in his trusty sat-nav, whilst the rest of the cars surrendered to Rob Abbott’s navigational skills. The only logic behind this being he set off the most bullish, so we presumed he knew where he was going. Plus he has the flashiest car so maybe it would magically get us there. There were two problems to this theory; one, Rob seems to enjoy changing lanes for no apparent benefit apart from to shake off anyone trying to tail him. Coupled with the lights which seemed destined to change every time the lead car had passed through them, this only assisted in breaking up the fleet. And two, he didn’t really know where he was going, demonstrated by his refusal to use the fly-over which, as shown by Dave Lat, was clearly the more efficient route. Still, Rob’s direction was no excuse for other members of the team (who shall remain nameless for legal reasons) clearly ignoring the fundamental rules of the road, and driving the wrong way down a dual carriageway.

Eventually, after a re-group and a few iffy red light runs, the team found their way to St Edwards. It was immediately clear that the pitch had never been frozen, and the Mossley skipper had been fed some poor information. No harm done, and if anything provided some entertainment across the streets of Liverpool. The new problem facing the fixture was the lack of umpires. One was assured to be on his way, but without a second, the game could not go ahead. Selflessly a Mossley player volunteered to officiate the game (thank you!), and the whistle was blown to signal two minutes until push back.

As the teams made their last minute preparations, it quickly dawned on Rob Dingle his match shirt was still in the car. Informing original substitute Mitchell Blakemore he will need to take his place in the starting line up, Dingle ran back to his car to get his top. Upon his return Blackpool were already a goal down. From the pushback Mossley pressed high into the Blackpool half. A quickly taken sideline ball caused chaos in the Blackpool defence, but it took a wicked deflection of the returning Pete Latimer’s foot from a speculative shot to beat Rainbow in goal. 30 seconds in and Blackpool were already up against it especially with a lack of recognised ‘goal scorers’. Steve Whitley had volunteered to play alongside Chris Hocking in the forward line (and as Blackpool’s second all time scorer he was really the only choice), with the prolific Morgan and Swaine still sidelined with injury and illness respectively. Blackpool also welcomed back Dan Woodman into the side who recently became a father for the second time last week with the birth of daughter Jess!

From the outset, the game was physical with both sides happy to put in some heavy challenges and combined with the slippiness of the pitch, neither team really took a firm grip on the game in the opening exchanges. Blackpool threatened on the counter with the pace of Jacob Currey and James Slater, but lacked the instinctive finishing so often provided from their forwards. Whitley used his skill to great effect, but played naturally deeper, and struggled to find a shooting opportunity. Hocking on the other hand was just struggling to stand up. Dingle forgetting to bring his shirt from his car is one thing, but forgetting your astroturf shoes to a game is a whole different problem!

Blackpool began to string a few passes together and started to emerge as the better side. Blakemore broke up play in the midfield and after some good work by the Blackpool forwards, the first penalty corner of the game was awarded to the visitors. The new look set play team capitalised on the opportunity, with Slater being on hand to provide the finishing touch, and putting Blackpool level after 7 minutes.

After his earlier shirt indiscretion, Dingle came on to replace Woodman at right back, with a disapproving shake of the head from captain Rainbow. The impact was almost immediate as the substitute quickly took a free hit from just inside the Mossley half and drove towards the D. After beating the first defender, Hocking was on hand for a quick one-two and with a deft touch to beat the last defender, Dingle had only the keeper to beat. Taking another touch to draw the keeper out, Dingle calmly dragged the ball back out of the keepers reach, and pushed it gently under his outstretched leg, to roll the ball over the goal line giving Blackpool a deserved lead.

Blackpool came close to doubling the lead on several occasions in the first half, but couldn’t find a way past the Mossley keeper. Firstly Whitley managed to find space and squeezed a snap shot off, but the goal keeper was up to it. The rebound fell to Hocking who was in turn denied by the keeper, and Mossley cleared their lines. Blakemore also threatened but his powerful strike whistled wide of the post, and Currey ran out of steam after a mazy run taking on at least four Mossley defenders. The only negative of the first half again was the unfortunate Pete Latimer, who was forced to the sidelines as his hamstring began to play up, probably a result of the recurring knee injury he’s suffered from this season.

The second half produced some of Blackpool’s best hockey of the season, with a sharpness to their passing and movement that has been missing in recent weeks. Again it was Currey and Slater providing the main threat with their pace, as Blackpool kept an excellent shape going forward and in defence. Simon Thomas continued his good season in front of goal as he poached on a rebound from Hocking’s initial shot to put Blackpool 3-1 ahead. Thomas and Hocking were again involved in Blackpool’s fourth that is definitely a contender for goal of the season. A number of quick passes allowed Blackpool to burst into the Mossley half, as Hocking found himself in a bit of space. His perfectly weighted pass found Thomas on a bursting run towards the baseline, whose first touch was sublime to keep the ball in play, and also beat the first defender. He jinked his was along the line before finding Whitley who was on hand to score his 100th competitive goal for Blackpool.

Dingle’s good day continued as he doubled his tally after Woodman had powered forward and linked up well with Slater and Currey. Dingle collected Currey’s through ball and fired home his shot on the turn just inside the right hand post. The rout was completed by Blakemore on the hour mark as his shot this time went the correct side of the post, leaving the keeper with no chance of a save.

A comfortable 6-1 winning margin for the visiting Blackpool side, made all the more impressive by their lack of recognised forwards has pushed them back up a place to 4th in the league, but still 6 points off second placed Lancaster Uni. With three winnable games before the Christmas break, Blackpool will be looking to build on this performance, and hopefully reduce the growing injury list!

© the inimitable Rob Dingle 25/11/12

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