An under-strength Blackpool side returned from Wales empty handed after going down 4-2 to league leaders Colwyn Bay.
A combination of unavailability, injuries and no umpire meant Blackpool had to call upon Sam Robinson and Jack Boniface from the seconds to bolster their side against a fellow promoted side who’d won all five games so far this season. The home side started brightly, as Blackpool struggled to find their feet with numerous players playing in unfamiliar positions.
After defending a brace of penalty corners the visitors began to come into the game, and looked to hit Colwyn on the break, and nearly took the lead as Dave Morgan’s attempt from the left hand side of the area clipped the outside of the post. Cheered on by a sizeable home crowd, Colwyn continued to press and eventually took the lead when a powerful strike from the top of the area left Nick Rainbow with no chance in the Blackpool goal. Colwyn doubled their lead after 25 minutes, when their penalty corner broke down, but the follow up strike took the tiniest of deflections in front of Rainbow. Blackpool really should have gone in only one down at the break, but a breakaway chance wasn’t converting in the closing minutes of the half, to leave the visitors facing an uphill battle to come away with anything.
A tactical switch in the second period seemed to give Blackpool much more opportunity on the ball as they edged the opening 15 minutes of the second half, but without creating any clear opportunities. As Blackpool pushed higher up the pitch in search of a goal, this left the defence exposed to the counter attack, which proved the catalyst in Colwyn’s crucial third goal. Steve Whitley and his opposing number were jostling for the ball heading towards the Blackpool area when the ball broke loose. As Rainbow charged out to clear, one of the Colwyn midfielders burst through the crowd of players, just as Rainbow got his kicker to the ball. After an almighty clash leaving both players flat on the pitch, a penalty stroke was given much to Blackpool’s amazement. The Colwyn player was helped off the pitch with an injured shoulder, whilst Rainbow replaced his helmet of the egg-shaped lump on his forehead. Whitley explained the decision to the rest of the side, and the umpire believed that the Colwyn player was pushed into Rainbow, and thus the reason for the penalty stroke. Unhappy, but with little they could do about it, Blackpool found themselves three goals down when the contentious flick found the net.
Blackpool threw caution to the wind and pushed even more players higher up the pitch. This appeared to have an immediate effect as Colwyn struggled to get the ball out of their own half. Rob Dingle’s strong ball down the right hand side was deflected across goal by Morgan to find Simon Thomas in the area. Thomas calmly sent the ball towards the far corner to give Blackpool a glimmer of hope. Two minutes later that glimmer had turned into a real possibility as Ian Swaine’s run again picked out Morgan who this time was the provider for Jordan Payne. Sweeping the ball first time, Payne picked out the same corner that Thomas had only moments earlier, and the game had sprung into life with only five minutes remaining on the clock.
Colwyn came close to putting the game to bed less than a minute later as a defensive mix-up left Rainbow in a one-on-one situation with the Colwyn striker, but a good glove save kept his side in it. With less than two minutes on the clock, Blackpool won a series of penalty corners, but were unable to turn the ball goal bound. With only 60 seconds remaining, Colwyn finally put the game to bed after a neat finish from the left hand side snuck in at Rainbow’s near post to leave the final score 4-2 to Colwyn.
Blackpool will take heart in fighting back, but will leave wondering “what if” with a couple of missed opportunities and a pivotal umpiring decision.
After a superb tea, and scouting out evening locations for the return visit to the Welsh coast later in the season, Blackpool set back on the gruelling two hour return journey empty handed. Fingers crossed for the Colwyn Bay player who injured his shoulder; let’s hope it’s nothing serious and you’re back playing soon.