Lymm are a fine example of a hockey club. Having only started out as recently as 2005 [http://www.lymmhockey.com/our_history_69.html], they already boast of 3 mens & 3 ladies teams, and each of these teams seems to dominate their divisions with promotions and championships. [http://www.lymmhockey.com/a_71.html] So many in fact that the North West League now hosts its AGM at Lymm’s clubhouse, not because they are at the epicentre of the north west region but because they know they’re guaranteed to hand over a trophy to at least one Lymm team!
The Men’s 1st team in particular has gone on a mightily impressive run through the divisions from 9 to 4 in successive years, being champions in each season apart from 07/08. Their record read as Played 135 Won 125 Drawn 7 Lost 3 For 771 Against 121. Just 3 losses in 6 years and well over 100 games – formidable! Twice to City of Manchester 3rd team (in 07/08 and 09/10) and Alderley Edge 4th team (also in 07/08 hence no championship that year).
And so we come to Blackpool, whose club is also thriving, with the Mens going from just one league team in 2005 to having three now, in Divs 3, 7 and 9, and having merged with the local Ladies club with 3 teams so in some ways quite similar to Lymm.
Last year in Division 4, Blackpool and Lymm beat all-comers and were clearly the two best teams in the division. They both had won 7 out of 7 when they met at Stanley Park in mid November for a match of epic proportions when Blackpool took the lead three times in the first half only for Lymm to peg them back each time. Then after a disallowed goal for Blackpool in the second half, Lymm took advantage with three goals for a 6-3 victory. [http://www.fixtureslive.com/api_page.asp?apistartcode=PMDMATCHREPORT:796588:843] Blackpool were gutted but determined to make amends in the return match the following February. Alas, after a promising first half where Blackpool were the stronger team they went into the break a goal down, and then the second half was a disaster for Blackpool as Lymm went on the rampage and showed who were the rightful champions that season with a 5-1 victory. [http://www.fixtureslive.com/api_page.asp?apistartcode=PMDMATCHREPORT:796655:843]
Blackpool were naturally disappointed to lose twice to Lymm, but had secured promotion back to Division 3 which they’d left three years earlier. They hadn’t lose to another team all season, and in fact went on a mighty cup run ending in a famous victory the day after the Lymm defeat to secure the Lancashire Trophy. So 10/11 was the best season in Blackpool’s history, but yet their squad has strengthened for 11/12 and went into the game against Lymm with 6 wins out of 6 and 50 goals scored, but Lymm themselves had also 6 wins and only conceded 5 goals. Blackpool were confident in their abilities yet very respectful about how dangerous Lymm could be.
Both teams turned up for the match almost an hour before the allotted start time, no one was going to take the psychological advantage. The tension built minute by minute, each side had at least two group huddles (yet no pathetic team shrieking that some sides seem to enjoy), the respective captains inspired their troops, and battle was ready to begin.
Blackpool had the push with Lymm facing the lowering sun in the first half, only to give the ball away cheaply, gave away a foul in the D and a short corner awarded. The initial strike was saved by keeper Nick Rainbow only for the follow-up shot to unluckily come off post-man Dan Woodman’s stick into his body with a penalty flick the only possible result. A minute into the game and Blackpool were staring down a barrel. But no, the Lymm penalty flick taker, and it may well have been their top scorer Andrew Hunt, somehow missed flicking wide to the left of the posts.
Relief for Blackpool, but Lymm weren’t going to let go of the pressure. They attacked in waves, with going interplay and some skillful dribbling. Blackpool’s defenders didn’t help themselves by giving the ball away too easily and were constantly on the back foot. There came a succession of penalty corners for Lymm but their routines didn’t seem to work for them, or were easily saved by Blackpool’s captain in goal Nick Rainbow.
Blackpool learnt from their mistakes, and became more patient, passing the ball to each other, and finding the gaps. This led to the skills of the midfield coming into play, with Steve Whitley on the left, Kieran Harris top of the diamond with Dan Woodman behind him, and Mariano de la Lastra on the right. Each of these players is very comfortable on the ball and can dribble through most players, and as soon as they realised they had to be more careful against Lymm’s experienced players things came right. It was de la Lastra who dribbled in from the right hand side, looking for an opportunity to shoot once in the D, but Lymm’s defenders shadowed him. He kept possession moving along the top of the D, front stick, reverse stick, to and fro. The defenders couldn’t take the ball off him but neither could he take a strike or pass to another player. He eventually found himself pirouetting on the left of the D, and unleashing a reverse stick shot which nutmegged* the keeper into the goal. Blackpool go 1-0 up with an incredible solo goal. [* for our Spanish friend, to nutmeg is when the ball goes through an opponent’s legs http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nutmeg_%28football%29]
Blackpool were determined to stay focussed and not let Lymm equalise, remembering their first game against them a year earlier. Substitutions were made for fresh legs with Ben Mortimer in the centre of defence and James Slater back on the right wing that he calls his home. Mortimer brought some extra impetus with runs from defence, along with Adam George at left back. James Slater brought width to the team and his trademark crosses caused Lymm problems and brought twin strikers Dave Morgan and Ian Swaine into play. Dave Morgan instigated an attack with a long ball up to Swaine at the edge of the D, but his initial strike was straight at the keeper and was saved but brought James Slater into play and instead of shooting he slipped the ball left into the path of Steve Whitley who dispatched it into the roof of the net with the keeper completely stranded.
The game was now much more open with attacks from both sides but Blackpool able to keep possession more easily and counter attacking with relish with both Morgan and Swaine looking dangerous. Swaine had more chances but nothing came of them and Blackpool had to be content with a 2-0 lead at half-time.
With Blackpool aware of how easily their lead could disappear they started the second half as they’d ended the first. More pressure on Lymm and it wasn’t long before a penalty corner was conceded. The classic Woodman-Morgan combination was brought into play with Dave Morgan finishing off in style to give Blackpool a three goal lead.
Lymm were visibly frustrated and the umpires had to bring out the green card on at least three occasions to stop them arguing over decisions, but they never gave up. In fact they started to gain the upper hand with some forceful attacking, just as defensive stalwart Rob Abbott was substituted (who knows whether it was coincidental or not) and Blackpool’s defence found themselves under severe pressure. One run through the middle cut through the defence and the strike was lucky to go in between Rainbow’s legs for a Lymm goal.
There then was a series of penalty corners for Lymm and only some magnificent saves from Nick Rainbow, earning him a Man of the Match award from the opposition, kept any more goals from being conceded, which would have really cranked up the tension for the Blackpool team on the back foot.
From this spell of pressure, Blackpool were able to exploit the gaps in midfield and counter attack with great purpose, from both wings with George and Whitely in the left and Dingle and Slater on the right. From one of these, Rob Dingle and Kieran Harris played the ball to one another down the right wing, and just as Harris fed Dingle the ball in the D expecting a shot, Dingle returned it to Harris who flicked it into the bottom left corner of the goal with Lymm’s defence nowhere to be seen. A fourth goal for Blackpool and the three goal lead restored.
Ian Swaine had several one on one chances with Lymm’s goalkeeper but squandered each one, and this may be the reason why Lymm has such a tight defense normally. The game ended 4-1 and the Blackpool team were jubilant as they had dreamed of this win for so long. High fives and hugging were the order of the day.
However, there will be a return match at Stanley Park still to come in February and there will be no doubt that Lymm will be fired up for revenge just as Blackpool were desperate for this win. Not only that, but despite being top of Division 3, it is still just on goal difference with Keswick still also unbeaten. Next week’s match against Morecambe will also be tough, as they have lost just once this season, and so Division 3 is ultra-competitive at the top with any of 5 sides still fighting it out for promotion, so this Lymm victory is 3 points on a long road, which may only end on 17th March at Stanley Park when Keswick come to visit.
Apologies for the excessive stats and history, but I am an actuary!
© Peter Latimer 6/11/11