New Year… New Blackpool?
Blackpool Men’s First Team opened up a 2 point lead at the top of North West Division 2 with a 2-0 win over promotion rivals Bowdon Men’s 3rds at Stanley Park, and in doing so kept their first clean sheet of the season.
With Bowdon burning off their Christmas Dinners a week earlier against South Cheshire, Blackpool expected a tough start to 2015, especially considering the tricky fixtures looming.
However Blackpool showed no signs of rustiness as they dominated the opening ten minutes, converting this pressure into an early goal by Ian Swaine. Sam Bury’s run down the left flank broke through the visitor’s defence, and after jinking into the area he found Dave Morgan patrolling on the back line. His instinctive pass back to Swaine allowed the strike to finish well past the wrong-footed goalkeeper. Blackpool could easily have gone two up as Morgan’s predatory flick after a penalty corner scramble ended up in the back of the Bowdon net, only to be ruled about due to the whistle going only moments earlier, for an infringement against Blackpool. Both Morgan and Steve Whitley could have doubled Blackpool’s lead, but both were denied by the in-form Bowdon goalkeeper. Bowdon pressed on the counter and were unlucky not to pull level after the Blackpool defence repeatedly failed to clear their lines. The home side were indebted to Nick Rainbow who made a series of fine saves and players from a host of various positions helped out with last-ditch goal-line clearances. Blackpool weathered the storm, and began to regain their grip on the game. A golden chance minutes before halftime went begging as Josh Payne lost his footing at the vital moment and ended up flat on his back with the ball, somewhat embarrassingly, creeping over the line for a free hit.
A change of ends meant a significant change in conditions as Blackpool lost the wind advantage they enjoyed earlier in the game. This didn’t appear to affect the flow of the game as Blackpool continued to look the more threatening, but time and time again were denied by the Bowdon keeper. His collection of saves from Jay Currey, Dec O’Hara, Morgan, Payne and Whitley made for an impressive highlight reel as it became apparent it would take something special to get past him for a second time. Perhaps it was this train of thought that distracted Swaine as he broke free from Morgan’s perfectly executed volley, only to miss-control his first touch, causing him to lash his shot over the bar. Similar to the pattern of play in the first half, Bowdon once again came back into the match, testing the Blackpool defence on both flanks. Despite playing in an unfamiliar defensive berth, Simon Thomas was more than up to the challenge as he thwarted several attacks on his way to brilliant man of the match performance. Blackpool finally found some breathing space when Josh Payne made amends for his earlier mishap when he nonchalantly checked back inside in the Bowdon area and flicked the ball past the sliding goalkeeper to find the corner of the net with less than five minutes to play.
Blackpool held out to keep Captain Rainbow’s Clean Sheet 2015 New Year’s Resolution intact, but this will no doubt be tested again as the league-leaders travel to City of Manchester in another crunch fixture.