In North West Division 1, Blackpool Men’s firsts continued the unpredictable theme of season with a well-earned three points against top of the table Urmston, winning 3-1 at Stanley Park.
Despite welcoming back a host of players into the side that beat Southport the previous Sunday, Blackpool still only mustered up twelve available players against an in-form side that, after the defeat to Blackpool on the opening day of the season, had progressed up to the top of the division.
Blackpool started brightly and created a number of chances through Jay Currey and Steve Whitley, but were unable to force the visiting goalkeeper into a save. Urmston, playing with three high forwards looked to stretch the Blackpool defence on the counter, looked threatening but lacked the accuracy on the final ball to create any clear opportunities. It was from a set-piece that the deadlock was finally broken after fifteen minutes. Dave Morgan linked up with Dan Woodman at Blackpool’s first penalty corner, with Morgan slamming the ball home under the diving keeper. Five minutes later Urmston were level through a penalty corner of their own. Despite Rob Dingle’s initial tackle, the ball bobbled over a series of sticks, and with Nick Rainbow already committed to the first shot, he had to painfully watch the ball trickle in to the corner of the goal. Blackpool still looked the more threatening on the ball, with Simon Thomas driving down the left flank their main outlet, but Urmston’s defence held firm. It was through an unlikely source that Blackpool re-took the lead shortly before half time. Despite playing at full back, Rob Dingle managed to find himself the highest Blackpool man up the pitch and when Whitley won the ball back on the counter, he fed Dingle at the top of the Urmston area. Dingle turned his marker and slightly scuffed his shot, but it was well directed into the bottom corner to give him his first open play goal in nearly four years.
Blackpool fully expected the visitors to push hard in the second half for an equaliser, but Blackpool’s system continued to nullify Urmston’s attacking threat. Blackpool came close to a third when Whitley, who by this stage seemed to be involved in every move, was unable to find a final touch in front of goal. Morgan also came close, but the ball to him was just too far behind his run and Urmston clung on. Simon Thomas broke through, only to be brought to ground by the advancing goalkeeper outside the Urmston area. Initially a penalty stroke was awarded, but after a long discussion, both umpires agreed to downgrade to penalty corner, however in the process an Urmston player was sent to the side lines for dissent. Blackpool again came within a whisker of scoring, but the ball was cleared off the line and it looked as though the hockey gods were shining of Urmston. However, Blackpool weren’t to be denied as Whitley capped off a fine game with a brilliant solo goal. He weaved his way down the left baseline and beating a series of defenders in the process, before neatly cutting back inside and deftly finishing on the angle for his first goal of the season. Simon Thomas thought he’d made it four only for Sam Bury to apologise to the umpire for a significant deflection off his foot that the official hadn’t spotted, and the goal was overruled.
Blackpool held on comfortably and moved up to sixth in the table. Urmston having played a game more than everyone else still top the division by two points, however the next 7 teams are separated by only five points.