Blackpool Men’s first team opened up a five point lead at the top of North West Division 2 with a 3-1 win away at City of Manchester.
With both South Cheshire and Colwyn Bay’s matches postponed due to the weather, Blackpool looked to heap the pressure on their promotion rivals with a win against familiar foes City of Manchester. The home side had aspirations of their own as they looked to leapfrog Bowdon and Colwyn Bay into third place, in hunt of a promotion spot.
With a lot riding on this historically competitive fixture, City of Manchester started the brighter, forcing Nick Rainbow in the Blackpool goal into a series of early saves. The home sides technically correct midfield dominated possession, but failed to find a way past the solid Blackpool defence led by Dec O’Hara and Dan Woodman. Blackpool began to play their way back into the game, relying heavily on counter-attacking plays to catch the ambitious City defence on the break. Steve Whitley weaved his way past several defenders, but Dave Morgan’s shot was brilliantly saved by the City goalkeeper who had spent the previous fifteen minutes as a spectator only. City continued to push at the Blackpool defence winning a series of penalty corners, but failed to convert any chances. Blackpool again threated on the break with Sam Bury trying his luck with an ambitious reverse stick effort that nearly found its way in at the near post. In an out-of-character moment in the half, Blackpool pushed high into the Manchester half, with Rob Dingle and Ian Swaine combining to force an error out of the City defence. Swaine linked up with Whitley and Dave Morgan, with the latter providing the tidy finish to give Blackpool the (possibly undeserved) lead. The breakthrough seemed to settle the visitors down, as Blackpool closed out the remainder of the first period with minimal trouble to go into the break with a slender advantage.
The game appeared to turn on its head for the opening moments of the second half as Blackpool looked the more likely team to score again. Josh Boyne and Simon Thomas linked up well in a flowing attack that allowed Swaine a crack with a reverse stick effort that was comfortably saved by the City goalkeeper. Again Blackpool were grateful to Captain Rainbow who produced the unquestioned ‘Save of the Season’ with a finger-tip effort away to his left to deny a rebound from a penalty corner. The save brought a wave of applause from the home side who were certainly impressed by the Blackpool goalkeepers performance. However there was little Man-of-the-Match Rainbow could do minutes later as City equalised from a penalty corner when their striker was in the perfect position to volley home a loose ball.
As Blackpool returned to the their full complement of players, they regained the momentum found earlier in the half. Whitley, determined to prove a point after his yellow card, battled hard in midfield and was justifiably rewarded with a well worked goal. Dingle’s long ball to Morgan down the right flank was deflected perfectly into the path of Boyne who picked out a well-weighted pass into the City area. Despite the initial shot being saved, Whitley was on hand to make sure the move didn’t go to waste with a neat finish to restore Blackpool’s lead. City pushed as many forward from the back as they could afford in search of an equaliser, but this played perfectly into Blackpool’s hands. Thomas mopped up at the back to pick out Morgan lurking on the half way line. From that point onwards Morgan and Swaine combined in a move reminiscent of Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke in their prime as some slick passing turned the City defence inside out to leave Morgan with a simple tap in to bag his second of the game and wrap up the points for Blackpool.
Blackpool’s attentions now turn to the Lancashire Trophy Semi-Final next Sunday away to Rochdale with no league fixture next Saturday