With Steve Whitley still recovering from his broken thumb, Simon Thomas falling down snowy mountains and Josh Boyne topping up his tan in Tobago, Blackpool called up Jordan Payne and debutant Sam Robinson in a new look midfield. Although the opening passage was scrappy from the visitors, they managed to find themselves two goals up in the opening quarter of an hour. Rob Dingle drove down the back line and picked out Dave Morgan near the penalty spot who turned the ball home to open the scoring after ten minutes and to bring up his 300th goal for Blackpool first team in all competitions. Morgan then combined with Dan Woodman at a penalty corner to double the lead, as a repeat of the 7-0 mauling at Stanley Park was looking a distinct possibility.
However, this Knutsford team was much improved from the one that visited Blackpool back in October, and continued to threaten the Blackpool goal. A well disguised drag flick at a penalty corner left Nick Rainbow wrong-footed as the game continued as an even contest. Blackpool were awarded a penalty stroke after Ian Swaine was denied a clear goal scoring opportunity, however after a long consultation between both umpires this was overturned, leaving several of the Blackpool players scratching their heads.
With a slender lead at half time, Blackpool looked to come out strong as they had done in previous weeks, but Knutsford had other ideas. A sloppy clearance immediately after the restart allowed the home side to press high, and they slipped between the Blackpool defence to find a well-deserved equaliser. The game swung heavily in Knutsford’s favour when they were awarded a penalty stoke of their own just moments later, which was converted (somewhat unconvincingly) to give them a 3-2 lead with half an hour still to play.
Blackpool shuffled their resources around with Jay Currey proving a thorn in the Knutsford player-maker’s side with his pest-like qualities. Currey’s efforts were rewarded when he helped break down play to set up Blackpool’s third. After a scramble, Morgan was on hand to complete his hat trick with a neat finish to bring the game back level. Blackpool had their tails up, and pushed for another to regain the lead. Ian Swaine’s fierce shot smashed into the right hand apex, rebounding into the path of Jordan Payne. Payne drew in the first defender and slipped back inside to Morgan who slapped the ball home to bring up his, and Blackpool’s fourth. Morgan thought he’d given Blackpool some breathing space as he managed to find the net for a fifth time after he and Currey combined to steal the ball off the Knutsford defence and beat the advancing keeper. However, after another long discussion, both umpires agreed an earlier foul had been committed and disallowed the goal. With only five minutes to go, Blackpool looked to consolidate, as the home side threw all they had forward. After a number of free hits in dangerous positions, Blackpool eventually crumbled as the Knutsford striker timed his run to perfection and produced a deft finish past Rainbow, with only three minutes remaining.
Both sides sensed a victory was in their grasp and continued to push forward, knowing they could always be caught on the counter. Blackpool held their nerve and countered down the right hand side, eventually winning a penalty corner with only seconds remaining. In keep with the rest of his performance, Man-of-the-Match Morgan stepped up and hammered the ball home in the bottom corner with the last touch of the game to earn a famous victory.
Credit must go to Knutsford for their part in an excellent game of hockey which they will no doubt feel unlucky not to have come away with anything. Blackpool, on the other hand, march on towards promotion and it is now theirs to throw away with just four games remaining.
Report by Rob Dingle