Blackpool Men’s firsts had to come from behind to take all three points in a hard fought match against Wigan firsts.
Despite a significant boost to the squad from last week’s bare eleven, Blackpool started off just as slowly as the visitors had all the play in the opening ten minutes. Wigan’s high pressing game was well drilled and kept the ball mainly in the Blackpool half. Nick Rainbow made a couple of tidy saves to keep his side level as they edged their way into the match. Dave Morgan and Steve Whitley hassled the Wigan defence, but struggled to carve out a clear opportunity. Ian Swaine’s reverse stick effort went well wide, but the home side were beginning to turn the tide and looked the more likely to break the deadlock. The opening goal came around the twenty minute mark when Whitley stole the ball from the Wigan defence and found Rob Dingle lurking in the right hand side of the area. Dingle’s first time ball found Morgan who slotted home under pressure from both a defender and the goalkeeper to give Blackpool the lead. Five minutes later, Dingle and Morgan combined again to double the advantage. Swaine’s cross-field ball found Dingle in space on the right and his cross to the back post was turned in by the predatory Morgan for his second. Blackpool continued to get joy down the right flanks as Jay Currey opened up the visitors defence twice, but the final ball couldn’t find the stick of an attacking player for the finishing touch. In almost a carbon copy of the second goal, Dingle again found space and slapped the ball towards the back post, only for it to evade everyone and skim the outside of the upright. With these opportunities missed, Wigan capitalised pulling one back five minutes before the break.
The second half was a repeat of the first with Wigan flying out the blocks, and carving out all the opportunities. Blackpool were again thankful to Rainbow in goal and some solid defensive work from Dec O’Hara in protecting their single-goal advantage. Eventually the pressure told and Wigan converted a penalty corner to deservedly bring themselves level. Things went from bad to worse for the home side as Wigan pounced on a rocking Blackpool side with a quick counter attack down the right hand side. The slick passing combination opened Blackpool up again, and Wigan took the lead for the first time in the match with a neat finish at the back post. Sensing the match was slipping away, cheered on by a vocal home support Blackpool regrouped with Jordan Payne leading the attack. His attacking instinct provided the catalyst for Blackpool’s resurgence as they ramped up the pressure on the Wigan defence. Blackpool’s first penalty corner of the match brought about two good saves from the goalkeeper, but Payne picked up the ball and drove back in the area. Before he could pull the trigger on his shot, he was clattered into and a penalty stroke awarded. Having failed to find the back of the net for the entirety of last season, Dingle made it two in two weeks from the spot as he brought his side level. Payne nearly produced a bit of magic when his trickery beat his opposing defender followed by an audacious attempt at lobbing the goalkeeper, however the shot landed on the crossbar denying what would have been a memorable solo goal. With less than ten minutes to go, Payne finally got his name deservedly on the team sheet for his man of the match performance as he was first to react to Dingle’s rebounded shot. Wigan returned to their pressing game knowing they needed to find something at the death to take any points home. Blackpool wore down the clock, but crazily gave the ball away in the final minute allowing Wigan to force a penalty corner. Rainbow saved well to his left, but a deflected block at a dangerous height forced another corner, this time on the full time whistle. As the entire Wigan side surrounded the area, Blackpool’s defence held firm for a huge three points that at this very early stage of the season, sees them go top of North Division 1.