Chester Mens 2nd 2 v 3 Blackpool Mens 1st

Blackpool move up to third in North West Division 2 after stumbling over the finish line to take the points away at Chester seconds. With Chester rooted to the bottom of the table, many would have considered the result a formality before the match. The home sides tactics seem to reflect this as they adopted a half-court press from the opening whistle, inviting the Blackpool defence forward. This took Blackpool by surprise, especially from a team playing on their own patch, and it took the opening ten minutes before the visitors came into the game. Steve Whitley broke the deadlock from a penalty corner after being first to react to a rebound from the Chester goalkeeper. This seemed to kick-start Blackpool as they entered a golden patch where their passing and tempo vastly improved. A neat bit of play out of defence allowed Sam Bury to play a cross into the area which was pushed perfectly into the path of Dave Morgan who slotted it home for a two goal lead. The roaming Chris Hocking made it three as he was presented with the simplest of finishes after Whitley stole the ball from a Chester free hit, and found his team-mate in front of goal with the keeper out of sight.

With the game looking as though it was heading towards the forecasted route, Blackpool took their foot off the gas. Some sloppy tackling down the left flank from a long-corner allowed a Chester player to waltz into the area and pick out a striker, perfectly positioned to lift it into the net. After half time, Blackpool looked more like the side looking to avoid relegation as their play went from sloppy to shocking. Multiple interceptions and miss-placed passes, all without any pressure from the Chester front-line who were sticking to their defensive tactics offered multiple opportunities to the home side. Blackpool clung on, and despite multiple substitutions, Chester continued to look threatening, clearly looking more at home on the slow, tacky pitch and showing how they managed to take points of league leaders South Cheshire earlier in the season. The pressure eventually told, and a deserved second goal came Chester’s way as Blackpool again failed to clear the ball out of defence.

The reality of throwing away a three goal advantage seemed to shake up Blackpool as they rediscovered their composure, forcing a series of penalty corners. After two good saves and Ian Swaine coming within inches of putting the game to bed, Blackpool were left with 10 minutes to hold on to their small advantage. Chester won a series of penalty corners themselves, but again these came to nothing. Blackpool, somewhat unconvincingly, ground the clock down for the final few minutes, and breathed a huge sigh of relief at the sound of the final whistle. A win set up by fifteen minutes of good hockey, and nearly thrown away with the best part of an hour of terrible play. But you know what they say, it’s the sign of a good team when you can play poorly and still win.

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