Leyland and Chorley Men’s 1sts 5 – 4 Blackpool Men’s 2nds

The 2nd team was back to strength with the return of several key players, including Alex Diver jetting in straight from the airport after a cricketing week in Tobago. A tough match was guaranteed at the league leaders Leyland & Chorley’s home ground of Buckshaw Village, and it was a full blooded affair with goals, controversies, injuries and acts of God.

Both sides started positively attacking at both ends. However it was Blackpool who surprised Leyland by scoring the first goal. From a sideline ball it was hit into Martin Hayes within the D, who turned and twisted to get a shot off in the direction of the goal, and then Ollie Tomlinson got a deflection to leave the keeper with no chance and a wicked goal. There were appeals that it should be disallowed but the umpires let it stand much to the annoyance of the many Leyland supporters on the sidelines who made their frustration vocal.

Minutes later a defensive hit out by Andy Mortimer passed through the whole midfield and looked to be there for the Leyland central defender to mop up, but he didn’t count on Jordan Payne running in and dinked the ball around the defender and also the on rushing keeper into an empty net.

Leyland looked stunned to be two goals behind to the bottom club, and duly went on the rampage, pushing men up through the middle. Blackpool initially stood firm and defended in groups. However eventually the pressure took its toll and they managed two goals themselves, the equaliser scored from a short corner on the verge of half-time.

The second half started just as the heavens opened with a flurry of hard white hailstones swirling in the wind into the faces of the Blackpool players. Leyland played an aerial and the ball was lost in the hailstorm, but play continued up until Leyland won a short corner, and just as the Blackpool defence were putting on their face masks (which eased the pain of the hail) the umpires decided to suspend play.

There was then a farce as after a couple of minutes the hailstorm had passed so both sets of players came out on to the pitch freshly made white, but the umpires were in no hurry or perhaps had worries about safety, despite the hail already melting away, so the players had to wait around several more minutes in the cold temperatures. From the restart Graeme Kilshaw made an impressive diving save, pushing the ball up and over the safety fence behind the goal.

Leyland increased the pressure and through a lack of concentration in the Blackpool defence were gifted an easy goal when a striker was left unmarked at the top of the D. Blackpool then had to suffer two experienced players limp off with injuries, Pete Latimer pulling his hamstring and Jack Boniface tweaking his groin (although I’m sure there’s a better medical description). However unlike in previous weeks the team had two subs and were able to reshuffle.

Leyland managed to score again and their two goal lead seems unassailable with Blackpool struggling to create real chances. However the fighting spirit of the team didn’t let up, and with two youngsters on each wing in Ollie Tomlinson and Harrison Stott, they caused the older more experienced Leyland players problems. An attack down the left wing led to Jordan Payne dribbling to the byeline and whilst the Leyland defence seemed to stop, either because they thought the ball had gone out or waiting for a whistle for an infringement, Payne got a pass away to Martin Hayes in the middle of the D, and he had to escape from the on-rushing keeper before swivelling and getting a hard shot off on goal, which couldn’t be stopped even by a diving defender.

Again there was a lot of appealing for the goal not to be awarded, but as the umpires seemed to say, they didn’t see anything so play had to carry on. Leyland were starting to look worried, and Blackpool were hassling them increasing the pressure, but it was Leyland who attacked down the centre and after a scramble in the D found a player who could drive the ball home to open up the two goal lead again at 5-3.

Yet again Blackpool countered, and a move was created by Harrison Stott dribbling down the centre, then passing to Payne on the left wing who cut inside and drove the ball across the D where Hayes dived to deflect the ball into the goal without any chance of a save being made, and gain his second goal of the match and earned him a Man of the Match performance.

At 5-4 Leyland were relieved at the final whistle, meaning they had finally achieved promotion, whilst another hard fought loss for Blackpool makes relegation an almost certainty but a win is around the corner so their final three opponents better watch out!

(c) Peter Latimer 22/2/15

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