AN under strength second placed Garstang 1st played fourth placed Blackpool on Saturday in a crucial game for the three teams clear of the pack behind top placed Lytham.
Garstang needed to win to help them put last week’s defeat behind them and they started brightly enough, but very soon reverted to their old habit of winning the ball well only to lose it immediately the hard work had been done.
Blackpool rapidly proved to be a young quick team with the same passing and recycling game as Garstang. After four minutes Garstang stopped playing for an offence just outside the D and Blackpool swept in to score when the umpire failed to blow. Fortunately his colleague had seen and corrected the decision.
After eight minutes Garstang won a penalty corner. Fran Summers was physically blocked by a diving defender on the ground when presented with an open goal. Garstang were somewhat surprised to be awarded a penalty corner rather than a flick.
Both teams were determinedly marking close to their opponents and this led to a scrappy game with too many unpunished stick fouls by both sides. The Garstang midfield of Lyndsey Hayes, Jude Chapman, Josie Rice, Debbie Huyton and Jen Moss were working extremely hard but both sets of halves were cancelling one another out and failing to dominate the game.
Following a penalty corner to Blackpool Becky Goldsmith stormed back up the pitch and won a corner that Garstang failed to convert. Garstang seemed fixated in driving up the right wing and it was only after 23 minutes that a lovely passing move involving Fran Summers, Lily Helme and others drove into the D from the left centre and again somehow missed an open goal.
Lily was whizzing round at great pace but a solid defence kept thwarting her at the last minute. Tempers and language were flaring, as the teams went hard toe to toe at one another. Garstang Capt Lindsay Norton asked the umpire to calm a Blackpool player and things cooled, as no one was keen to volunteer for the guardroom.
Blackpool came back hard and following a penalty corner forced a fine bit of juggling by the Garstang ‘keeper Sarah Skelton. Blackpool put the pressure on and the Garstang back line defence of Skelton, Donna Richardson, Lindsay Norton and Sarah Muir held firm several times to hold the line.
After 30 minutes Debbie Huyton came on to replace Becky Goldsmith on the right wing as Nicky Oddie was back with the team from long-term injury and in Debbie’s accustomed place in defence. Debbie seemed to love the freedom and after 32 minutes scored a scrambled goal much to her delight and the relief of the Garstang supporters. 1–0 Garstang at half time.
After the break Garstang started brightly but soon it was Blackpool who had Garstang on the ropes for several minutes. Skelton again made some superb saves and the firm of Norton, Richardson and Muir cleared the ball time and again just as Blackpool seemed to be about to score.
Like two boxers slugging hard the teams suddenly tired, the game opened up, and this freed Fran Summers to start the first of many superb attacking runs on the Blackpool defence. Fran became a constant threat to Blackpool and soon intercepted a pass and made no mistake in a one on one with the Keeper - 2–0 Garstang. After 15 minutes Skelton made another superb save and the Blackpool ‘keeper made an excellent pad save from a strong shot by Fran. Garstang at last started to dominate the midfield, despite some good breaks by Blackpool. The clock inexorably ticked down to time leaving Garstang as 2–0 winners.
This was a tight match between two similar teams with the balance being just tipped in Garstang’s favour by a superb defensive performance by Sarah Skelton and her acolytes. The midfield and forwards worked really hard and kept on trying despite little rest given the paucity of substitutes with several players being absent for this game
Garstang are always looking for new players. If you would like to go along call head coach Dave Gee on 07774 792824 or visit the website at garstangladieshockeyclub.com