St Helens WFC returned from the windswept Fylde Coast with a precious 1-0 victory for their Over 65s squad in a tight 3rd Round WFA Cup game against an accomplished and strong Blackpool Senior Seasiders team.
Our squad for this occasion was Dave Barrow in Goal, with Citeh Geoff, Keith B, Snakehips Tony, Tom 'Stretch' Parr, Speedo Mick, Les Meldrew and Mike A.
Blackpool were represented by: Steve Hyde (in goal) John Henshaw, Alan Cole, Dave Waterston, Tom Jaques, Ian Jones, Tony Lee's, Frank Flynn and Fred Waller.
The game was at AFC Fylde's impressive facilities in Kirkham, as apparently there is nowhere available for our worthy opponents in their home town (city?). But we played in a cage which meant any temptations to find row Z to get a breather were doomed to failure. Another reason for why this was an excellent results for our white shirted heros.
The shortness of the pitch meant there was little space and chances were few and far between. Blackpool may have had more of the play but the blocking and shielding by Geoff, Les and Tom meant keeper Dave had little to do. Up front Tony and Mick kept the Blackpool defenders busy and even got off a couple of half chances.
The blocking and shielding did have the side effect of drawing the attention of a referee who was far less laissez-faire than St H are used to. No criticism of him is intended, but we had to learn that even thinking about a nibble from behind or anything slightly quicker than an amble would get you in his book. After his second name take the St Helens Bench took a tactical decision to rest Les, with Mike A proving a resolute replacement at the back.
It was by now obvious that this was going to be a tight game but our brave lads were even further up against it when Speedo was unfortunate enough to be sin-binned under the ref's totting procedures. But with careful game management Whites kept Blackpool quiet until the half ended.
Half time, regroup and encouragement for all from Andy Capp, Lord Rainford and Donal. Tom was deputed to push up and keep Blackpool's main play maker, Captain John Henshaw, quiet (good tactical spot by the coaching staff) and Les came back on for Tony.
The second half followed the pattern of the first but with St Helens now much more careful not to infringe more. When Speedo's sin-bin period ended he and Tom played an effective partnership up front and started to work Blackpool's keeper Ian (an England Over 65's international) more.
The game started to open up more as players tired and both sides went after the winner. Blackpool forced Dave into a good save down to his left on one of the few occasions the tangerines broke through, then in a last tactical switch, Keith came on for Mike A to hold the line at the back.
'It only takes a minute' ?? Well, yes. With about 3 minutes left the Speedo/Stretch partnership gave Tom half a chance; and a well taken shot beat his international opponent at his near post and went in the net on the far side.
And that was it. Tom had a couple of half chances to put the game beyond reach but the St Helens Whites played calmly and cannily, keeping the ball out wide and their opponents at arm's length, until the referee finally blew the final whistle. Cue much celebration, hugging, thanks to our hospitable and friendly opponents, a fair and approachable referee and big grins all round. Marvelous scenes, marvelous scenes.
This was a real team performance. Everyone played a part and made an important contribution to a great day for St Helens WFC.
(*) Tavares. (I was a bit worried before the game it might be 'Its Over' by the Funk Masters, but no…..!!).